I arrive before 7 descending via the zigzag my brain thrumming with activity things to do, I hear the traffic circling the North link, already resounding through the park, I feel that familiar deep nostalgia for the silence of a year ago. I am here to make some recordings, to listen and notice, to spend time. it takes me an hour before I even begin to get there, I meet a female mallard on the white stripe wall, she is not budging, the males are making circles on the water back at the yellow bridges, 5 or seven or nine of them. I have been in and out of the bushes spending moments listening for the sound of something elusive, I hear birds and traffic and the waxing and waning of runners’ footsteps. I begin making videos so I have a visual record of the spot to locate the sound, why to pin it all down?…. specificity counts for something… I hear the dialogue in my head louder than anything outside. It takes an hour. It takes an hour for any real connection to jolt me out of my headspin.
It’s the sudden scent of laurel by the island that awakens me and then another bottom note of burning and I remember that newly blackened patch of heath I had seen as I passed by the upper pond with the mallard drakes. Here, now, I see an elongated smear of wet white on the ground, could it be the trail of a dropped ice cream cone? Hardly this early on fresh spring morning. I remember Greta, and how she squirted out a white stream as she took off from the water right in front of me earlier in the week, and not once but on two occasions she blasted out an astonishing projectile of milky matter, here now I hear the squirting sound, imagined in the interim, as it was certainly felt then, and twice. So she was here this morning. And now I remember seeing the herons in the Island cypresses first one, and then another smaller as they took off across the ponds that dusky evening last month, even now I am recalling times before, memories of moments that would have just slipped by, had I not been awakened by the heady scent of spring laurel in the sunshine. A dog, one of a pair of cocker-spaniels, comes bounding over and places a ball at my feet, I look down and see her shadow is lined up perfectly with that white smear, I kick the ball across the grass and she chases off after it. It’s hard to leave the laurel, this spot marked by egret guano at the sluice gate.
I begin to walk home and I hear my name. L is waving from the top of the grassy knoll, familiar red gloves swishing backwards and forwards in front of her face, I see the binoculars at her neck and wave back, she’s found some bluebells already, we end up spending time on the bridges, catching up skirting, circumnavigating, and finally landing gently on subjects that are on both our minds. Busyness. We admire the clarity of the water and the dancing reflections, the cool morning air on our faces.