Reflections on the Bourne

When I decided to begin sharing my thoughts on Plaxtol, I thought about calling this blog ‘Of Time And Place’. It’s part of the last verse of Tennyson’s poem, ‘Crossing the Bar’ (1889):

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far …

For Tennyson, the bourne represented life as we know it, and the flood was the unavoidable passing from this life to that beyond the grave. But ‘our bourne of time and place’ has always suggested to me a place of belonging, the wellspring to which we can return (in thought and memory or in fact) no matter where the vicissitudes of life may take us. It is our native stream of the things we know and feel connected to, where we can hang like the brown trout in the gentle current and feel the caress of the familiar.

Taken literally as a small stream, this familiarity and security suggests the Bourne in the Plaxtol valley,  where dark, empty cones blow from the hazy purple alders. There are stretches of sand, of silt and of stones. There are places where the late sun lances through the leaning trees and makes fractal fire of the water, and dark primeval places where the sunlight seems never to reach but the ground is moonlit with white ramsons flowers each Spring, their garlic pungency filling the valley after dark. There are little weirs and eddies where the water always sparkles, and still pools where bubbles and mayflies rise. Plants on the banks grow so tall that mallard can swim, and the green-black moorhens make their nests, in secret. The parsimonious heron can stand unseen until he lifts his wings, greyer than November, and flies away with legs trailing like regrets.

On deep summer nights past, straining to hear the song of the nightingale, or in the icy winter darkness when foxes scream as though the bright stars might answer, the Bourne’s bubbling whisper has been a constant undercurrent to time and place.

© New Moons For Old, 2015.

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