The jogger ran against the wind. I walked towards him, leaning on my stick. We would greet as our paths crossed. I always wave a salute to the odd car and passer-by. I caught sight of the runner’s expression. It was totally absorbed. He seemed to grimace with pain.
The strong wind, from the south west, gusted into his uphill path and as he ran he faced the afternoon sun. He called a happy ‘good afternoon’ to me.
His grimace,clearly, was of my imagining. He was, in fact, smiling as he ran, against and into the elements, like a swimmer diving into a great green wave – at one with the sea and the sky, and with himself.
The hedges on either side, laid generations since by the traditional method of slashing saplings of hawthorn and other shrubs almost through and bending them sideways, had been trimmed and the ditches cleared, revealing the occasional beer can and cigarette packet. The bases of the hedges, from which the decades of new shoots had grown and matured, were as nearly as thick as thighs. Very old.
I walked on. In the ditches were young cuckoo pint, green weeds which would become the spicy umbels of Queen Anne’s lace in June, while the summer’s dog roses and elder flower sprouted in the roadside tangle, where the May blossom will appear before we expect it.
I walked down to the brook where I sat on the wall of its bridge.The remains of a television set rested on the bank. The golden moss in the branches of a row of willows glowed in afternoon sun. To the north the sky was dark with cloud.
As I thought of the runner I remembered the days when I used to swim in Highgate Pond – the sense of total physical and spiritual harmony that produced. Especially I recalled early September mornings, when, alone, I floated beneath overhanging chestnut trees, the morning mist opaque over the water as the sun glowed through.
On one occasion I got cramp and had to head, cautiously, for the shore.
Many years ago I uprooted a batch of cowslips from my garden and planted them there. I wonder if they still come up.