by Dawn Jutton
Breath mingling with morning mist we drift through weather pitted and unknown memorials, outlived by their faded plastic tributes. Unconcerned with decoding Stafford’s past, the dog drives us on through silver guiding gates, his excitement tapped out in a random rhythm on the thin ice. White stalks of spent rushes pierce the skyline and point to a trail of labouring wings and frantic calls slicing the frozen air. The black geese, gathered on green-grassed mounds, survey potential bankside building sites and warily track our progress through their solitude.
Under exposed thin white skin -
The sun rises above the muted distant tower of St. Mary’s, persistent in its effort to bring pink life to the grey sky. An icy breeze mocks still water into movement towards the oblivious River Sow that’s rushing to an unknown rendevous. The riverbank is punctuated by pairs of geese and ducks, trading safety in numbers for precarious parenting amongst the protective green swords: hidden new life marked only by lone sorties for fresh supplies. We leave the disappearing and unpredictable depths of the watery path to tip toe across tufts of resilient grasses avoiding ankle deep pockets of mud, a much easier feat for the dog than us.
Watery red carpet
Stillness threaded through soft noise-
From where we stand the tonal stripes of the grasses appear to form a natural flag flying in the light breeze, tentatively signaling Summer. Encouraging ripples of sunlight dance joyfully on the water’s surface whilst thin long reeds tirelessly sway below to the unheard tune of the flow. White swans drift upstream, their sun-lined wings spread in confident celebration of their beauty and a warning to keep our distance. Ahead of us soporific cattle swish flies from their grass filled bellies and form a guard across the path, the leader fixing her dark brown gaze on my attempt to communicate my lack of fear and danger. The engagement ends when I feel the pull of a lead at full stretch as the dog fearfully attempts to make himself invisible and skulk past.
Lily leaf red scales
Fingers sift burnt dry petals-
We follow the egret on its’ stalk in protest of change. Unaware of their undecided future the grasses contentedly rustle alongside us, and the river races itself to the other side of the bridge. Across the pond, a shy heron sits motionless on an anglers’ platform before launching its prehistoric form in awkward flight away from us as we approach. From the pillar box hide that is not hidden, but sits like an uncomfortable hard grey lump on soft skin, we watch the thin silver ribbon on the blue haze of the horizon carry unconcerned travellers past this place of precarious peace and watery graves that we are desperate to protect.
Worn sandstone sentries
Guardians of marsh and life-