Saturday, 2 December 2017

My colours are as red…

It was as if they were precisely as I had left them: serene shapes bathed in blazing sodium – a tinge flattering of the redwings, particularly as they settled; although the companion fieldfares and thrushes likewise glowed with the radiance painting the village’s warmed brick chimneys (some, like ours, wisped with telltale drifts of light smoke). But now the sunken sun shone westwards – not from the west – although my suspicion was the same: that, perched as high in the skyclad oak as its topmost thin fingers would hold, these returning travellers were relishing this tepid coloration; were making the most of the new winter’s protective evanescent light, of its ebbing eight-hour span.

Rare tussles interrupted their persistent forays to the towering, roof-reaching holly: its ruddiness, too, now almost limited to the loftiest branches – the blush berries there requiring more acrobatic cunning than the lowest: where fruit was proffered with guileless generosity; where more of the company could feast in unison (most only knocking back their singular treasure, in one artful slug, when returned to the congregant flock). And yet, either hierarchy or courtesy, for the most part, reigned; as did silence.

Only when an interloping blackbird or pigeon – whose uninterrupted summer roost this had been (until its partner, overly eager for nesting foliage, flew where traffic sped, unheeding and unheeded; to be mourned and missed for many a day) – alighted too – or a greedy upstart loitered – was there altercation: terse, angry, whistled or rattled consonants enough, it appears, to resolve or remove. (Such dusk-dawn shades – impeccably harmonizing with autumn’s lingering leaves – thus conjured imagined flushes of shame, or chagrin; of Reynard’s rufous presumption; even of a collective slant on the distribution of such riches. Doubtless, there is, as Dior proposed, “a red for everyone”: in inference, if not also elegance.)

Presently, at some sightless signal – red, orange, brown, grey, buff flashes speckling the heavens as avine fireworks – all evaporate in chorus: their perches fleetingly recharged with sparrows, tits, dunnocks, finches. Below, hidden by the mulch littering the under-hedge, a domineering wren – still surprising me with the volume and stern supremacy of its inexhaustible trilling, chirruping admonishments – contests its domain with our habitually sociable robin: who has chosen to champion the fence-top. It vaunts yet more of this vivid Yuletide hue: although its florid, bombastic breast is more flame than fire-engine or -brick; like that forsaken leaf-mould, more autumnal than brumal.

Presently, all would be hushed. One final time would this convocation feast, before migrating to another remembered source of nourishment: apple, elder, hawthorn, blackthorn, or rowan perhaps supplanting the then monochroic holly.

On the seventh day – sky filled with dankness; the road painted with overnight storms pulling chestnut soil from the hilly fields (that pigment once more: a wash which had long named this place; marked it distinctive, even red-letter…) – the holly was bare: of both berry and bird. Earlier than I remember – and before we had scarcely thought to trim, to pare the garnished branches for festive garlands: to trim, to ornament our front doors in wreathed welcome.

On the seventh day, all was hushed. And I had witnessed their last supper, not perceiving its significance. Yet, meditating, presently: perhaps theirs was a presentiment of impending bleakness; of cold, callous days to come.

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