Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve

For a moment, walking the forest path, a crunch of leaves and a smell of earth, I can't recall where I am. My feet are treading somewhere. I think, I am overlooked by those mature trees, I see the layering of green woodland, the spindle branches, fallen leaves, pale blue beyond the trees: I am in England, and those ferns are Northumberland, then the hillside, sliding steep towards a river, pooled in cold grey mists, puts me close on the footpaths of Cragside.

The children run backwards and forwards, complaining about sisters, slipping their fingers in and out the picnic bag, ripping apart bread and stuffing crumbling chunks into their mouths, saying, Mummy, hurry up, you're so slow. You take forever.

But it can't be right: the way the boulders have tumbled, the sharp turn of the track, the wax coated leaves. The air isn't right, not cold enough for March, a misshapen bark on a tree, too thin, is hung with broad green leaves of a type I can't place. My footfalls are all wrong too. Here is a click at the hips where I should be fatter and rounder. By rights, I should have no memory of these strange loose clothes.

I hear the children, gone ahead. They're brought to my sight as the leaf-covered trail gives way to a broad grey, concrete road, familiar with storm drains and marked with signs, and I know where I am. Remembering, telling myself it's no disappointment, that now I have imaginings to hoard, I watch the children. They're already here by a pond, feeding fat yellow and black fish with bread dangling from sticks, laughing under the rattling and creaking of bamboo.