I fell in love with it years ago when I first read it; and, even now I read it with relish and enjoyment as if it were the first time.
Here it is:
There comes a moment in every day when I know I can fly. Then, effortlessly, I am away, light as thistledown, on the early evening breeze. Soaring in an instant over rolling fields, I plunge into dark and mysterious valleys then swoop up to dally in the evening shadows beneath my hilltop trees.
One particular place draws me back again and again. There is a feeling of excitement within me as I sweep towards it along the winding road, between the high primrose lined hedges. It has a rambling old farmhouse with water garden lilies, giant rhubarb leaf plants and old stone walls. As I speed up the hill, tall trees fold over me and embrace me in huge welcoming arches.
In the undergrowth all around, there is the earthy scent of brown leaves making a soft bed for newly sown seeds and a sparkling brook twists and turns down the hill through slim avenues of hazel trees and bramble bushes.
Skimming along, I soon emerge out of the dense tree shade. Rutted paths, stiles and hedgerows sweep by until the short pony cropped moorland grass is under me and I can again feel the spirals and eddies of air pushing me upwards and outwards into the welcoming open countryside.
Once I resisted this flow and stopped for a while by an old wooden bench with the inscription "In Memory of Hilda and Jack."
They too mush have loved this place, enjoyed the peace of its' greens and browns, its carpet floor scattered with red and yellow wild flowers.
I stayed awhile and as time passed, I became aware of two beady eyes, partly hidden in the bushes. It was a mother fox looking after her cubs. I watched as they ventured out into the evening sun, rolling over and over in the dark earth and tall grass. Snapping and snarling, they twisted and turned in brotherly competition. Then something startled them and they ran for cover.
I turned and saw a car come slowly over the grass and park by the old oak tree. Its gleaming redness harsh and stark. The occupants were deep in conversation. Smiles flew from face to face. Heads tilted towards each other. They didn't see the countryside around them. With eyes locked increasingly into each other's, they seemed drawn together by an invisible force. Yet unfamiliarity also pushed them apart. There was an invisible chord of tension between them.
Those first moments together were an adventure; neither seemed to know how much the other wanted. But little by little, gesture by gesture, with small shifts of position - a knee pointed, a hand touching an elbow lightly and then finally resting on a shoulder - they drew closer, always talking, smiling, laughing.
Each eventually recognized the signs and was reassured, their desire for personal space passed and soon words were not needed as they became locked into each others arms and lips.
I watched them and felt their desire. But their happiness unsettled me and the warm glow which flying always brought me diminished and soon became a pale shadow against the bright diamond of their passion. Eventually, I turned sadly away, feeling the green thorn's prick of envy.
Much later, as I rested on a nearby grassy mound, the car pulled away, leaving the glade to slumber. Drained of the energy to fly on and dejected, I could only return home.
For a time I did not go back to that place - my jealousy was strong. I remembered too well his round face wreathed in smiles, his sparse hair carefully slicked over to hid his baldness, his shit ever more rumpled with their desire.
But when I did go back, it was to learn more about them, to watch and share their journey of discovery and not for the exhilarating twists, turns and tumbles of flight.
Perhaps she was a work colleague. Like him, she was well past that first flush of youth. Her moon-shaped face had a tendency to a double chin as she pressed her head happily into his shoulder, toying all the time with his fingers and chattering on.
Her dresses were never extravagant; simple cotton prints, sober wear that would suit any office although always loose enough to be comfortable for his caresses.
Their happiness visibly grew. It radiated from the car in waves. It mingled with the undergrowth and brightened that corner of the woods. The birds sang harder when that couple were there and the wild flowers were brighter.
Occasionally, they would leave the car and walk a little. They found the tiny brook nearby and leaned over the old stone bridge holding hands as they watched the small brown trout swimming in the clear water below.
Sometimes they would like on the grass together looking up at the soft clouds drifting above, enjoying the sunlight as it fell on their faces and the warmth of each other's presence.
And always, before they drove away, they would say their good-byes. Lingering farewells with kisses and long drawn out hugs as if they couldn't chance them in the presence of others.
The one day it was over.
She arrived along in an old Grey family car, opened the door and walked a little, deep in thought. I saw a tear trickled down her cheek and fall to the ground. Then she continued. Walking and staring - quietly remembering.
Again and again she came, seemingly to relive her memories. Sometimes she sat on the bench and stared into space. Sometimes she would sit on the grass, draw her knees to her chin and bury her face in her arms. At these moments the glade seemed dark and full of pain. The birds fell silent and the flowers dimmed.
Yet, in her sadness, her beauty grew. The plumpness of middle age disappeared day by day. Always attractive in a matronly way, she now looked younger and more desirable. Still she came and still I returned to watch her, sharing her grief and her pain.
But as she changed, so did I. This time spent quietly together had become more important than any number of moments of swooping soaring. I remembered now, with shame, the envy that I had felt when I had seen them so happy.
Part of me wanted him to return to ease her sadness - but I also now wanted her for my own. My greatest fear was that she would never come again to our spot; our spot now, not theirs. But to talk to her I had to give up flying. I loved flying - almost more than existence itself.
And, anyway, it might not work. What if she didi not want to know me. What if the memory of her departed lover was too strong and she did not want me to hold her, be with her and make her happy.
To give up flying for such a slim opportunity was a very great risk and I was not sure I was brave enough. Long days came and went and I still could not decide.
Then, again the pattern was broken.
Watching her one day as she gazed into a clump of grass, I sensed we were no longer alone. Another had come to join us. His anguish sent me spinning out of control across the moorland and resisted my return with a wall of almost impenetrable pain.
His force was strong and he coveted the place where the lady visited. But he was not willing to wait and watch. Repeatedly he railed against her with his feelings and then fell back in dark disappointment when she did not respond. I had to tell him the communication was only one way, that those that can fly cannot be seen or be felt by those that they watch.
At last, in desperation, he let me come close and we talked. He told me he must get through to her, that he could not bear to be apart, how afraid he was she would stop visiting. He told me of his love for the lady, how they would spend time together and then return to their families. How they had vowed to love for ever, quietly and passionately. To keep secret these pearl bright moments of their lives and not harm others close to them.
I learned of their life away from the glade, of the day they to the restaurant and ate oysters. I learned where she liked to be touched and of their dreams of time together in a cottage with trailing flowers around the door.
But I also learned of the day when still tingling with warm sensations of brief moments together, he forgot to slow at a sharp corner. I felt too the scorching flames that engulfed him in the twisted wreckage. I felt the searing pain that he suffered in those moments and discovered it was nothing compared to the agony of being separated from his lady.
Out talk seemed to comfort him and time flowed fast past us like the rivers between the moorland pastures and the winds that buffeted the trees on stormy nights.
His descriptions were vivid and fresh and soon I found myself relating how I too had come to be in this place.
But slowly his force was fading and I realized that he would soon lose his power to fly. Each time we met and waited for his lover, he seemed a little further away and less in touch.
He felt it too but didn't complain. He seemed to know that he had a journey to make and as time passed became more ready to go. Perhaps her memory of him was dimming, losing its hold. Perhaps he began to understand that reality for him was soon to be elsewhere.
And as his presence faded, I knew mine was fading too. But my journey would take me along the other path. The pull from my home came ever more strongly.
I was sad to find myself spending less time in the quiet glade dappled with sunlight, listening to the brook, watching the birds, smelling the damp earth.
The home to which I returned was busy with people who tended me, talked to me, fed me but expected no reply. It was sparkling the cleanliness, with the buzz of voices, hum of machines, and artificial smells.
In my heart, I knew then that the decision was made and I would relinquish the joys of flying. I allowed my eyes to open and my ears to hear. I listened to their gasps of relief and saw their happiness.
And so it happened that one day I found myself seated on "Hilda and Jack's" bench which I had passed so many times. It had taken time for my body to heal and more time to identify the glade. Beside me was a lady whose name I knew but could not say.
In me a breathlessness that was nothing to do with my weakness after so many months.
Slowly, we began to talk. First I of the times I had come to this glade and how it was for me a special place. She was surprised that we had not met before but I offered no explanation.
She talked ot the story I knew already. Then, feeling comfort in each others company, we agreed to return at a common time. We kept our promise and slowly I could feel her confidence grow. Gradually came friendship.
Still I held back, not sure whether to tell her how I first came to know of her. And although we had things in common and found pleasure in each other's company, the bright spark of intimacy that I had sought and for which I had returned remained unkindled.
One day, when we were sitting on that bench she told me of a thought that had come to her and which had brought her comfort.
In her minds eye, her lover had appeared and begged her to return home. But he also told her of a man who had once been deep in a coma and had only recovered consciousness after finding a special reason for living.
She turned to me with a new light of understanding shining brightly in her eyes ad slowly her lips sought mine. At last I felt the true lingering sensation of her kiss. The joys of flying and floating free with clouds at last crystallized into forgotten memories.
Her warmth radiated through every part of me and I felt the bright light of hope burning again.
Yet, from her tender words and slow gentle smile, I knew it was also a kiss of farewell.
We held on to each other tightly, not wanting to be the first to go. Then, with love's glow still inside us, parted back to the embrace of our families.
Now, after many years and with family grown and flown, there comes a moment in every day when those memories of floating free as thistledown call me. Soo I know the warm glow will fade completely and I will again be flying free - forever.