The village yet damped-down beneath the oil of night; the only report, the high-pitched, mock-bark fracas of fox-cub. In the nucleus of nautical dawn, all is grey: green-grey grass; mauve-grey cloud; brown-grey stone; black-grey horizon – the world the colour of mallard, wood-pigeon, blackbird, and rook.
Leaving the Shipston road, the burble of an old valve radio being spun between stations grows with the wheat. My footsteps and stick-falls are silent, here: but still that splashing of song sooner turns trickle; soon turns stream; turns river; turns waterfall – drenching me in an incessancy of resonant comfort; drowned merry in a sea of skylarks. To my right, a crisp rustle of stalk. Then muffle of noiselessness. Only as I move on, the blades once more immobile, threat dissipated or dissolved, does the torrent of Matins restart.
The dewy field beneath the windmill squeaks and fizzles with each step. Fresh canticles of blackbird and robin pour from each leaf, each stalk of hedge and tree; the broken car-horn of pheasant call, an amen – yet not an ending. Anchored to their roosts, no bird rises… until a couplet of gulls, the winnowing of wings caught only in my mind’s ear, passes high, high above static, hollow sails. No bird rises: no strigiform of owl; no corvine of rook, raven, crow, or daw. Fresh to the morning repertoire, however, a questioning plea of pigeon echoes from deep branches, unseen. No bird rises – not until the rebuking blackbird of home: uprooting worms between flower-stem and herb.
From the low summit, dawn splinters the sky beyond the village bullfinch-red. Pimples of tangerine, holly- and mistletoe-berry sprout and sparkle all around: streetlamp and lit curtain presaging both omega of dying dark and alpha of living light, of livelihood and labour. To the north, the twinkling sapphire twins of an ambulance trace the Banbury road; then to be swallowed by Sun Rising Hill – its familiar silhouette never more apposite than on this day.
The west horizon, though – bearing only whispers – blurs leaden with incipient mist: a Grimesian portent pushing me to return. My bones are seeped through with weariness: fatigue fusing with the intrinsic sting, the infused pangs of disability and depression. Having ached to advance so much further than this hill – re-treading my weekend beat – I should be disheartened. But, several weeks past, even this short climb had been beyond me: so I cast my woe be gone out; and rejoice in the accomplishment, stooping softly, smiling.
My descent is bathed in a joyful cacophony of alarm-clocks that will not be snoozed – all the avine airs (topped with a wren’s ringing roundelays) rejoicing in harmony with my raised emotions. Of course, the rain I had foreseen never comes.