and push aside
those dark walls that
have denied your freedom"
It's the beginning of a poem I wrote about the age of 11; touched by death and finding no complication in expressing and sharing what was both deeply felt but simultaneously simple. I see this capacity in the children I now teach who naturally and effortlessly connect and share. Now and again I've thought of that poem, either prompted by circumstance or just curious to re-find the words of the lost verses that followed. Though incomplete, the essence nevertheless remains for me and takes me back to a time when feelings were not so lost in translation.
Round about the same time I was dancing as a raven down the aisle of Worcester cathedral. It was the 1980s and I was taking part in a children's opera called Noye's Fludde. I felt completely alive in my body, connected, so attuned to the wings of this dark bird. Hers was a dance of a flight that had no return, where the ending was unknown; but she flew with such lightness and with hope, however impossible it seemed to find a home for herself and her companions in the Ark. I loved that dance. I loved its liminal thread of both life's promise and possibility and at the same time prescient death.
Quite why and how dance slipped out of my life I cannot now exactly say, but it is a loss that moved with me as I stepped further away from those moments of joy.
My capacity to do 'well' gathered apace but so too a deeper decay set seed and flourished. To a degree I was anaesthetised from the choices I was making: the clothes I wore seemed well-fitting and there was approbation for my direction. I progressively cloaked my truth.
One day so very many years later it began to rain and instead of running in, I stayed out and started dancing with my children in the garden allowing our bodies to become completely wet. We played music, opened the windows and felt the wetness seep through our clothes and into our skin. With bare feet, the grass wrapped like wet blankets through our toes and the soil spread around the outside edges of the arches of our feet. We smiled, we laughed, we delighted in the outpouring, it felt warm, it was fun to be the other way round, together.
"It rained today, and from far away
I remembered all the windows in my house were open.
At first it settled with the dust
a fine mist intermingling and absorbing,
but as the rain grew more intense
there was a beating that could not be neglected,
though I was out.
Rivulets first began to run
washing without force my stairs
and finding passageways to gather
but in time, with no abating
a torrent was in flow
when I finally returned,
aching and wasting,
it carried me away
and I landed on another shore
like a newly polished stone.
I tried to find my house again
but it was far and I did not know the way
but if I had
I would have found the doors and windows firmly shut
and no promise of rain."
(c) copyright Lewis Noble, Sowter Falls
I left my home and walked alone towards an ancient track high on a ridge where a watershed lies of two great rivers. Here the water that falls can only move in opposite directions finding and joining either the flow of the Thames or the Avon. It's a fertile place too and the soil in these parts has been described as "the glory of the county...deep, sound, friable, yet capable of tenacity; and adapted to every plant that can be trusted to it" (Arthur Young). It felt good to be rooted in my feet, feeling the cushion of the earth while looking out across a wide view west and contemplating the way ahead.