Horse Chestnut by Rebecca Shivji

Hand in hand,
my son and I
walk to school
because broken down car
has broken our routine.
The morning sunshine
and movement infusion
gently lifts my mood;
then awe reveals herself
following an unexpected
horse chestnut tree
Mother and child can’t resist
searching through the rustling,
russet leaves;
and engrossed,
are initially unaware
of the elderly gentleman and his dog
who have quietly drifted over.
Alerting us to his presence,
the man earnestly informs us that
“there were more conkers last week”.
Sensing our disappointment,
the man sets about making amends.
He strolls into an
adjacent garden,
and beckons for us to follow.
Forming an audience of two,
or three if you count his dog,
the gentleman forages in flow,
fully in the moment,
with no concern for time.
Soon the man returns
and from wrinkled hands,
he gifts my son
two handfuls of smooth,
chocolate-coloured conkers,
wrapped in a ribbon of words,
instructing us to
“leave the conkers out to dry
for a few days,
then thread them with string”.
Promising we will,
I look into the man’s sepia eyes
and wonder what childhood memories,
like photos developing in a darkroom,
these conkers might be
awakening within him?
Later that day, I reflect on the encounter
and it seems fitting that my son,
a schoolboy,
received his introduction to conkers
by a veteran of times gone by.
The spherical horse chestnut
has symbolically illuminated
the travel of time,
the circle of life,
and the need to savour
the now.