We amble back home through the tall stems of prickly grass, Trudy is usually munching weeds or thrusting her snout into the hedgerows. Before I put her back on harness we often stand for a few more minutes savouring our freedom. I turn my face towards the wind and feel it tussle my hair. I inhale its freshness and allow all my anxieties to melt into the air. They disperse like paper petals. Trudy has a final nose-dive and then drums her tail against my legs ready for the four-minute stroll home. I never leave the park with an ounce of stress or fear lingering. This magical place renews and invigorates me. It makes life seem even more precious, and I arrive home eager to make the most of everything I have.
There is a park in Hereford which is four minutes walk away from my flat. This park comprises two large fields/meadows, a canal, an orchard and a gravel path which snakes its way round in an irregular loop. The trees are fairly sparse so it always feels breezy, and on a day like today there is a good chance that hat-wearers would go home hatless. Over the past few months I have become indebted to this open space known as Aylestone Park. As I feel the wind seize my hair by its roots and flutter against my face I can’t help feeling moved, for I am in no doubt that I am in the presence of something beyond words. This presence stirs, and seems to manifest itself in the tumbling wind. When I stand still in Aylestone Park I feel bonded to nature, I feel humbled by the elements, I feel mortal, I feel free.
Simply by rooting myself to the ground I am reassured. The earth still breathes and moves beneath me but my feet are still. My mishmash of worries becomes lighter, and my restless spirit starts to calm. Hope revives herself within me. I love this park because it has not been unduly tampered with. There are no landscaped flowerbeds and no ornamental ponds guarded by stone goddesses. Humans have their rightful place, as does the long grass, and the scuttling mammals. Dogs bound everywhere, sniffing out the mole hills and splashing in the canal. Some people find Aylestone Park “boring” because it is themeless and its only “facility” is a large car park. But to me this park is freedom itself. Just planting myself in the lower field and allowing the wind to absorb me breaks open the ties which bind my spirit. I feel so fortunate to have such freedom.
Trudy my Guide dog adores this park. It gives her freedom too, as here is where she sheds her harness and tears around being a Labrador. This time of year she goes scrumping in the orchard and I’m often showered with leaves as her snout sends them flying into the air. All I can hear is the rustling of twigs and leaves as Trudy pursues the myriad scents which arouse her snout. She befriends two or three pet dogs every time we visit, and eagerly joins in their games. If I take her to the canal she throws herself into the brown-blue water and doggy-paddles back to me snorting like a pig. The snorting is even louder if she’s carrying something in her mouth, and little jets of water spurt out of her nostrils. Sometimes a regular group of dog-walkers whom I’ve nicknamed “the Labrador Convention” arrives at the canal and Trudy mingles with the black, yellow and chocolate Labradors teasing and chasing them. She steals their frisbees and dives in after their treats. She is in Labrador paradise. When it’s time to go Trudy pretends not to hear the whistle and I have to use all my cunning and skill to lure her back to me. Even with her smelly water-logged fur I am relieved when she comes lolloping back.