By The Willows

By The Willows

Mohit Patel

Weeping willows are funny, sometimes. I can never be sure whether I am going to smile when I see them or enter melancholia. The bend in the river flowed through my dorm garden. A small rivulet branched out of the river Cam. Before it met the main stream again, just outside the garden. It must not have been more than twenty feet wide. An old wooden bridge from my side of the river took one to the other side, which opened on to green fields. The other side was lined with three or four weeping willows. Grand, old. When the winter arrived, the town went to sleep by five in the evening. The drooping branches, still laden with leaves, would sway as if to hypnotise the gazer. I would go there often. On the other of the side of the bridge. It was silent there. A bench, covered by the willow branches almost touching the ground, was perched right at the bank. The view was beautiful. I could see the small branch of the river, now merging with the main stream. It was a bench meant to sit and reflect. One could not help do anything else but think.

I was in pain in those days. Great bodily pain. My spine was not behaving well and it had me walk with a limp and excruciating pain. I was also alone. In the great flow of my life, I had forgotten how anchored I am to my body. I thought of Hannah Arendt's haunting words, "Indeed, the most intense feeling we know of, to the point of blotting out other experiences, namely, the experience of great pain, is at the same time the most private and least communicable of all." So incommunicable, that I could not talk about it even with myself.

The river became the listener. Not of words. Not of thoughts. Perhaps, of some existential dread, looming heavy like the willow branches. My religious faith, already shaky and conditional, was the first to go. I joined the great team of Spinoza and Nietzsche and many more. But how does that help in bearing the incommunicable pain? It doesn't.

The river keeps flowing. It contains and is contained. Picnic goers, feeling merry, sit opposite me. Viewing the same river. I sit there, every evening. The river brings along many stories; untold, unheard. And takes mine away. I am far from my home. I think of the people I love. The things I love. As the days go by, the bench, the willows and the river, become my home. Where am I now? Where is my home?
Inspired from the song Riverman by Nick Drake.

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