Thursday, 6 November 2014

We sensed it last night

Better allow a bit of extra time before leaving for work this morning; time to rummage in the boot of the car for the ice-scrapper that has been hibernating beneath shopping-bags and rain-coats and map-books through the long summer. First frosts have fallen. We sensed it last night, when our fingers numbed and we shivered, gathering just a little closer to the roaring bonfire, gazing up at fireworks that cracked and sparked across the starlit sky, their brightness competing with the full orb of the glowing moon.
This morning, the sun was having his usual late-season lie-in, but when he eventually rose above the horizon, the sky brightened quickly, light reflected by the frozen ground.

No breathe of wind, the trees stand unstirred, stark and starched-stiff against the pale sky like mourning lace. Birds move between the branches, their thin calls piercing brightly through the cold still air. Those leaves not yet persuaded to relinquish their hold are rimmed with white. The self-seeded nasturtium that chose to grow beside the kitchen window, bringing cheer long into the autumn with its pumpkin coloured flowers and hand-span round leaves, is not so brave now and bows its head in submission to the coming winter. 
Jackdaws call to each other now, passing overhead in little parties, and in the distance rooks are squabbling over spilt silage around the barns. 
A starling whistles and sings his strange songs of clicks and trills. The rest of his flock are already busily feeding, attempting to stab the frosted ground with their sharp bills. The songster joins them as they swirl and dart away, in search of the easier pickings the rooks have already discovered, across the fields on the farm.

It is early November, Halloween has come and gone, and many folk as they clear up the remains of fifth-night’s celebrations and rake over the chilled embers of the bonfire, are turning their thoughts towards the first preparations for Christmas. Maybe you are heading out to the hedgerows to collect the sloes the frost has now sweetened, or crab apples and rosehips to turn into jellies. Will you look up at the half-familiar, half-forgotten chattering as thrushes and fieldfares from the far north fly overhead? They have their eye on the same ripe berries, hoping you will leave them a few to see them through the winter months.  Or perhaps it is the shops that call you, with their bright windows and warm, comforting displays, reassuring you that you really do deserve that extra cup of hot chocolate or new pair of boots for winter. Will you hesitate, rummage in your pocket and drop an extra coin or two in the charity’s collection tin as you pass? Someone will be finding it hard to keep warm tonight if the cold weather stays with us. 

The sun is well risen and the road outside is busy now. The frost will not last long once the sun reaches its full-day’s height, and the autumn colours will seep back into the landscape, reflected later in the burning sunset before the cold grip tightens once again.  Even the busiest person, who misjudged the time to clear their windscreen and is no running late for work, cannot help but loose themselves for a half second in memories, as their breath steams in foggy clouds and they are a child again pretending to be a dragon or a train. All too soon the moment is lost, forgotten; has it no place in the rush of the day’s affairs? How much good it would do us all if we were each to recognise such pauses, to hold them just a moment, a second, longer before they evaporate into the bright harshness of day, and let the moment of awareness, of noticing, warm us from the inside.

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