The jays that otherwise-invisibly inhabit the woods behind the house have been more active in the last few weeks. I sometimes see a magpie-shaped bird flying out of the trees, with a pinky, buff-coloured chest and know it is not a magpie or a wood pigeon but one of their majestic blue-flecked cousins. Often heard but seldom seen, except now. Coming out of the house the other day, with a well-coated toddler in one arm and a changing bag in the other, I looked down to see an acorn. Quite odd, given that most of the trees around us are ash or Scot’s pine. I knew who’d left this precious little arboreal offering. It reminded me of reading that jays are responsible for planting more oak trees than squirrels. A couple of days later, I saw one flying right over our house. I knew a jay had dropped it, just for us.
Another day I was driving in the tail-end of the afternoon and already it was starting to get dark; to soon, too early. I was driving to run some errands, baby and husband esconced in the warmth of the house, playing on the floor. I drove a while and noticed that in the valley nearby, the fog was starting to form. It was as yet confined, the sides of the hill keeping it contained. Thick, grey wisps moving slowly, hanging low in the air.
A little further in my errands, I came around a corner and the view was lovely; very wintry, very familiar, very hygge (a new word in our collective lexicon for something I’ve been trying to do for as long as I can remember). A row of old Victorian terrace houses in silhouette, with chimneys peeping out, some of them smoking, the ladders of smoke climbing heavenward. Behind them the sky, almost dark, held the remnants of the day’s sun; lemon-yellow with a teeny bit of blue, edged with grey clouds. The church in the distance with its castellated tower watched regally from its promontory, back-lit by the same lemon sky.
A different day, this time grey and wet, with the first really cold chill on the breeze. Driving down into a little valley with a river at the bottom – it sounds like we live somewhere hilly, but we don’t, just a few river valleys – we pass under a canopy of trees. High enough so that the branches just skirt tall double-decker buses and thick enough so that it’s quite dark at the bottom. As it was windy, the trees were blowing and it looked for all the world like we were driving into a snowstorm, except these were yellow and brown ash leaves fluttering down before us. I called to Baby VP in the back of the car and told her to look at the leaves falling. I watched BabyVP in the mirror looking around her with a smile, before going back to the song we were singing.
I found a new classical piece, or rather, new to me thanks to ClassicFM. The piece is Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch. The ending, the last two minutes, is something quite magical.
Today we went for a walk around our local town. After a coffee with granny and sorting a few necessities, we all headed off for a walk in the park. Most of the trees are now bare, the leaves thick and yellow-green, red and brown at our feet. Soon to become soggy and slippery. We stopped by the swings so that Baby VP could get her fill of laughter and we could revel for a moment in her joy. A robin came to sit on a nearby hedge, watching us intently. He flitted from branch to branch, eager to see if we would drop something or reveal a tasty grub in the leaflitter. As we moved around the park, he followed too; his bright red chest and quiet, subdued tweets mingling with the human giggles and goosanders and ducks nearby. A cormorant swooped through the trees above. I’m always surprised to see a cormorant so close to trees and town, but he has become a bit of a regular face. No rough seas or isolated lakes for him! Sensible bird.
It never fails to surprise me that so quickly the nights can get so long and the days so short. You’d think that by now, in my 31st year, I would have learnt the seasonal changes, but each year I am stumped at how quickly November becomes dark, December darker, and January icy-cold and grey and dark. And equally, how February starts to bring the first hints at the longer days to come. How quickly it all comes and goes; how quickly now, with a baby, life is flying and time is not an endless stretch any more, but sand that slips away before I can catch it. Breathe and appreciate every single moment.