Friday, November 23, 2007

In the Tranquil Garden

Peace reigned in the garden of the little blue house. The toddler sat on the swing hands holding firmly on the ropes, his woolly hat and winter coat at odds with the bright sunshine. A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the trees, a mere breath compared to the usual gale. I pushed the swing several times giving it enough height for me to do my chores. Behind the house I disturbed two chaffinches sitting on the woodpile, they chirped and fluttered wildly as they made for the safety of the trees. Having gathered the wood and kindling I pushed the toddler again, reaching him before he called for me.

After months of drought, the rains of October had brought life back to the grass which sprouted an uneven carpet of green. Outside the garden wall the olive trees were laden with fruit, glistening in the sunshine. This time I left to hang the clothes, returning when the toddler’s shout disturbed the birdsong. Finches, bluetits and great tits all clamoured to be heard as flocks of sparrows glided by. Even the hum of cars on the main road below the field seemed to harmonise, giving a bass note to the high shrills of the birds.

It came as I pushed the swing with the empty clothes basin under my arm. From the south, from out of the sun’s glare it came between the olive trees along the ridge. I shielded my eyes and saw its pointed nose and wingtips. The wingtips were lighter green then its smooth underbody. Silently it flew above us, probably no more than 20 metres up. As I turned to watch it fly beyond me the noise hit. It seemed to reverberate in my chest before roaring in my ears, loud and inescapable. The toddler screamed as the neighbour’s dogs howled in unison. Dropping the basin I held him where he sat on the swing watching the jet as it lifted its nose and rose vertically above the houses. It climbed and climbed until, just as it was about to flip over, its wing dipped and it began a graceful curving dive. The sound died away to a deep roar that echoed along the horizon as the jet disappeared behind the houses.

Beneath his coat my son’s heart beat a staccato rhythm as his shaking subsided.

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