AIR DANCER by Sam Clark
I hatched on a high ledge above a window at Quenby Hall. Sheltered from the wind I faced the morning sun. My parents had arrived a month before, riding the jetstream on fine black wings northwards from the South African tablelands, over deserts and inland seas, up the boot of Italy, to this place, where insects rise from soft green pastures fed by gentle rain. The nest they built from a muddy riverbank sheltered me as I grew fat on the gnats, hoverflies, midges and craneflies they stuffed into my hungry mouth. At night my siblings kept me warm and snug and when we grew too big, we popped out to sit on the ledge, stretching our growing wings and feeling the movements of air, watching our parents swoop and dive and soar and turn and come to bring us tasty morsels; a fat-bodied moth caught out at dusk, a blowsy butterfly too slow! Too slow! And as I grew the sun warmed my back, the rain filled my thirsty throat, and my true home, the air, lifted and swelled and gusted about me, until one day I stepped out into it ? a high diver. I plunged. And rose.
I join my kin in a soaring dance, shouting our joy, delighting in our quickness, scything the air. We scoop water as we skim the puddles. Beneath us rolls a sea of green. Each blade of grass, each green leaf is a humble miracle, quietly turning light into food, air into wood. The slow fountains of trees pump nutrients and water from deep underground where their roots nudge and probe the bedrock. Up the goodness comes as their sap rises each spring into the fullness of this high summer leaf, to later drop with abundance on the earth, patiently, over millennia, building the rich dark loam that feeds the grass roots.
These same leaves are quietly exhaling the rich oxygen that fills my lungs. A kiss of life, it quickens my blood and drives the quick beating of my tiny heart. The air is living, nourishing. Muscular. It lifts and cradles me.
I am speck, set dancing. Not under the wide sky, but in it. I need no defences, no clothing, no houses nor money. I am always travelling. I am always at home. I need no map, no compass. I take no luggage, no timetable or clock. I know my way. When the times comes to move on, I know. We gather as the northeasterly wind rattles the browning leaves, swirling and milling, and together we rise and rise and rise, beyond the clouds.
Above me, stars turn. Beneath me, rivers run, seas churn. Deserts sleep and shift. Cities buzz and hurry. A trout noses through weed. A man closes a window. A weather front swirls. A seed pod cracks. A molecule of oxygen is released by an oak leaf. Ocean gyres turn.
This is my family. This is my home. This is my lover. This is my teacher.
Wren teaches me pluck. Trout teaches me how to swim upstream. Worm teaches me humility. Slug, patience. Mountain, how to endure. The clouds teach me that all things pass. The busy, singing leaves teach me that creativity is not one, single god-like act of creation to be finished and complete in itself, but is born of being immersed in 'being', as one sparkling node in the great, self-creating web of life, of which I am just one, tiny, perfect expression.
Here the web has gathered itself up into a single point of acute awareness hanging in the sky ? Buzzard. Here, the web is expansive, heavy, dense ? a lake. Here the web is diffuse, a constant exchange ? rainfall and evaporation.
This web is my home. I feel its textures. It moves through me and I through it. I am a knot in its fabric, tangled together for the few moments of my lifetime and then dispersed. Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, dance their eightsome reels in the barn of my body for a short time, and then move on.
But the dancing goes on forever.
Sam ClarkQuenby Hall - July 2009