In my dream, it's a beautiful summer's day. The sun warms us in the palm of its hand. Snatches of birdsong dance among the tree-tops, fractured by branches, here and there a single pure note suspended in the morning air, clear as a sunbeam.
The six of us are wandering down a forest path, not certain where it leads. We have never been this way before - it is an adventure. The whole scene could have been painted by Pisarro. Everywhere we look the greenery assaults us, reaches out her arms to us like a speechless young girl. Every extended branch is both an invitation and a cry for help. Under our feet the heather smells new, but the path we are walking on is already well-trodden. It is a public holiday today, and many others are already ahead of us.
After many hours of walking, we come to a massive clearing, a great oval space, ringed with ancient trees. This is where all the other picnicers have gathered, whole families scattered along the periphery of the clearing, in the cool shade of the forest's edge. Somewhere a radio is playing Once upon a summertime. Off on the far side we see a great tree like a barely controlled explosion, its leaves like tiny flames. And underneath it, a single park bench, its back turned to the clearing, looking away into the invisible distance.
Walking towards this tree, we finally see the river. It's right there, just beyond the trees, skirting the edge of this clearing and then turning in a great curve to flow on south. We climb up a low rise and stare at it. The water is brilliant here, clear and unpolluted so you can see right down to the shallow bottom, tinted green like a bottle of lemonade. An old stone bridge, half in ruins, leaps desperately across the river. A row of battered rocks, trail their way down to the water in descending order, looking for all the world like a portrait of the evolution of stone. The sun is very hot now, and beside it, the river seems like a promise of infinite, lazy coolness.
I stand on the rise staring at it, wondering what lies beyond that next bend, trying to ignore the excited cries of children drifting up from where they are playing, just on the edge of my sight. An unmanned boat drifts by, trailing a lenth of broken rope behind it. No one seems to pay it any attention. I turn to my companions, wanting to point it out to them, but they are down in the clearing now, playing board games.
All the beauty in the world is passing helplessly by me. And I am alone.