Last week’s storm spent most of its energy to the south, where rivers on the levels saw the first of the seasonal floods. Up here the waters teased the banks but didn’t burst. Paddling upriver at the weekend I found the traces of high water, in stranded dinghies and fallen trees strung out along the banks. The water was still up, and turbulent, but I made good time against the flow, so my kayaking skills must be improving. This is welcome as the practical challenges of simply surviving and orientating myself on the river, though a part of what I have come to seek, act as a barrier to the creative space where embodied and disembodied experience meld and I experience a sense of continuity between mind, body and landscape. The barrier here is not so much an obstacle as a point of entry through which I have to work to reach the creative/contemplative state.
The high water elevated me to a new position in the landscape, the high banks receding and giving way to glimpses of the world beyond – crowns of pollard willow, distant hills, and even the occasional damp, level field of grazing cows. The higher water also meant greater exposure to the wind, which whipped the river into blue-brown waves and sent my kayak scudding at strange angles across the water, drenched me with spray and sometimes threatened to steal the paddle from my hands.
The wild weather also appeared to excite the kingfshers, who were lively and vocal, their chestnut fronts more than usually striking from the low angle of the kayak and set off by the wintery sun.