As twilight comes, the street lamp across the street begins to sway back and forth. The trees begin to dance. A storm of leaves and dust are swept up into the air, swirling past my first floor office window, occasionally slapping the glass. Biting sleet accompanies me on the walk home. Storm Arwen has brought a rare ‘red’ weather warning, advising of potential loss of life due to flying debris. We are told to stay away from the coast and not to travel if we can avoid it. All night the wind roars. There are occasional bangs and crashes. But we are lucky, with no more than a few overturned things in the yard. A buddleia has swept out of a neighbour’s yard into the lane. A yard wall has collapsed across the road. In the park, a tree sized bough of the poplar has sheared off and now balances in the canopy. Pavements are heaped with golden leaves, twigs and red berries, like seasonal offerings. That afternoon, wind is replaced by snow – the first of the winter – a light dusting that soon turns to ice.
In these dark days of winter, routine lies heavily on my shoulders. I struggle out of bed in darkness to the daily routines of washing, dressing, breakfast. It is just getting light when I take Winston for his walk and on our return I go to the library, where the daily routines of work begin. The storm is a welcome distraction for me, after the third warmest autumn on record and settled weather, but not for those deprived of power for weeks to come. Now the landscape is damp. Soggy leaves. Twigs and branches vivid with lichen. The damp accentuates the colours: vibrant greens of ivies and ferns, rich browns of leaves and bark. The trees are suddenly leafless, but a party of wood pigeons has found something to feed on, on an evergreen across the railway tracks. Hidden sparrows chirp in the privet, starlings call from the trees above.
Mid month there is another break to routine. l have a meeting at headquarters which means a sunrise visit to the country park across the road. By the time I arrive, the sky has already blushed orange and subsided to a subtle blue. The sun is a molten semi-circle, just peeping over the horizon. The landscape is dull and water-logged. Clumps of drooping brown grass, mud stippled with paw prints, spongy patches of moss. A few stubborn leaves cling to bare stems. I hear a plaintive seep now and again, but the birds are well hidden, until a trio of goldfinches flutter overhead.
Gorse leads me up to the sundial, spiky green stems that give no hint of their luminosity in other seasons. I have to shield my eyes when I reach the top of the hill. The sun is almost a complete circle now, breathing fire. There is a hint of orange to the gnomon, the shadow of a bench crossing it. The sundial has been painted and cleaned. It will be part of a new memorial to those lost to the pandemic, linking art works at the four compass points along what were once waggon ways crossing the borough.
I hear robins singing. To north and west, the distant hills are layered with mist. The sun begins to catch the landscape, turning sea and clouds to pastels. The ferry is on its way into port from Amsterdam and the sun lights it pale orange. A metro crossing the fields reflects copper. There is now a dividing line in the park. Below it, the trees remain a dull brown, but above it, they glow bronze.
I walk down to the pond, past wild carrot nests and alders studded with cones. Guelder rose berries and rosehips gleam at the edge of the water. Mallards, moorhens and a tufted duck float on a pond that reflects the sunrise reflected from the surrounding buildings.
Later that day, there is unanticipated news. My story ‘The Muse’ has been published by Toasted Cheese Literary Magazine. Inspired by stories of foundlings, it is a story about identity, that you can read HERE. I also get some more great feedback from an assessment of my novel. In these last days of December, my routine is being disrupted in the best of ways. There will be many more dark, dispiriting days before spring but I hope for a touch of the unexpected to spur me through them.