Thursday, 27 November 2014
The weather is changing. The soft grey flannel overcast of first light was torn into streamers by a chill breeze, then swept away to reveal blue sky studded with puffy clouds of white and dark grey. There are large clouds looming in the south east: a great bank of leaden grey, as heavy and substantial as a wall. The sun, still quite low in the sky, breaks beneath them and above the hills rimming the valley, to shine a warm-hued spotlight on field and forest.
The temperature has dropped and the wind's cool gusts make me tuck my neck down further into the warm folds of my scarf. I can feel the moisture in the breeze on my cheeks and my fingertips tingle when I remove my gloves to use my camera.
On the marsh at the edge of the estuary, rushes and golden grass are distinct in their outlines, perfectly drawn against a background of bare branches and blue hills. The surface of the water changes constantly: still and mirror-perfect one moment, stirred into dancing ripples the next. No ducks light upon it but patient herons, spaced like sentries, fish along the edges of the river channels, so still that one can miss them entirely until - suddenly - they strike, and lift their heads from the water again, their beaks holding wriggling silver-bright fish.
Geese and swans fly overhead, on their way to the fields beside the bay, where they will breakfast on the rich green grass made lush by autumn's rain before venturing out into the protected waters of the bay.
Such a contrast between the two birds: The geese travelling in great, noisy, somewhat disorganised skeins that ravel and unravel as they move in flight, the swans so silent you can hear the swish of their wings when they pass overhead, maintaining position in perfectly symmetrical vees. On the ground they intermingle; a great crowd of large birds all intent on finding their morning meal, but still distinct, the geese's browns and greys blending into the landscape, the swans' bright white glowing against the emerald green background of the fields. In the water, both assume an almost unworldly grace, moving as smoothly and precisely as if set to music.
There are gulls too: Incessantly noisy, greedy creatures, they gather in number wherever food might be found. I have no love of their noise, but have to admire their strong instinct for survival, and I can't draw my eyes away from them when they are in flight. They play with the wind as if it were a living thing (which indeed it is), flying into the face of it and then letting it hold them suspended, or carry them in a swooping dance along the great sweeping curves of its current.
Along the edges of the trail that follows the top of the estuary dike, bright red rose hips are an abundance, suspended jewel-like at the ends of crimson branches, in brilliant contrast to the few vivid yellow leaves clinging to the brambles. Among them, the dried remains of tansy and Queen Anne's lace sway in the breeze; sticks crowned with tiaras. I gather some. Their sculptural shapes are hard to resist and, placed in a tall vase, will make a pleasing arrangement for my living room.
In the village beside the bay, people are busying themselves with the first errands of the day. They make their way from the bakery - its windows steamy from the heat of the bread ovens - to the cheese monger, to the fish shop, and on to buy some wine: most of life's essentials and a few sweet luxuries all to be found within a few short steps of one another. This is the time of day to pause and greet friends or to daydream over a cup of morning coffee while admiring a view of the water.
Some of us will head further down the road when our errands are done: Past farm fields glittering with a morning dew so heavy that at first glance it might seem like frost; past flocks of sheep, grazing heads-down in grass so tall that their rounded backs appear as dun and grey hillocks spaced across the acreage; past contented cows, huddled together, their breath making soft white clouds in the morning light.
The road will wind around again, and cross the highway - its course as crooked as a brook - past more farms, another small village, and a century old church, its yard full of stones that tell the valley's history.
The road narrows there to a single lane, passing under a railway bridge almost as old as the church, and then across a wooden bridge that offers only a single lane for traffic but a wide walkway for those on foot; a remnant of a simpler time. Beneath it, the river - so low in the summer you could walk across it without wetting your knees - runs full and swift, eddying in small whirlpools near its banks.
I continue on, past farms and vineyards, and forest and field, over another bridge, into town, and home again; a circle of some miles.
The sun has broken through again and, although I am reluctant to end my morning's travels, I climb the stairs, grateful for the broad windows in my living room that bring the light and air indoors. I'll settle to my chores now, pausing once in a while to listen to the quiet, and to accept with gratitude the beauty of the view.
Whatever the weather where you are, and whatever the view from your window, I hope you find the opportunity to pause now and then and listen to the quiet, to breathe deeply and draw in both calm and happiness, and to appreciate the gifts your time and place have offered you. Have a joyful day.