The wind has picked up. It carries with it something that all at once I yearn for and shy away from and do not quite understand. A summer breeze practising for the changing season, it plucks at my hair as I walk up the track to the cottage, like a child might tug a sleeve – look.
It is not autumn, not yet, but it has the air of a dress rehearsal. Small birds tumble in flocks from branches, catch the air like buffeted leaves. The first of the pinks have passed overhead, flying south in long skeins – travelling early to miss the rush.
And perhaps the sight triggers this chattering of swallows and house martins, as they soar and plunge and shiver through the sky. Is it time to go home? Or perhaps these skies and fields are home, and the sight means a winter’s exile. They mass on the telephone lines in their hundreds, like beads on an abacus, counting down…
And more likely they think nothing of the sort, and it is only my own busy head which turns hither and yon with the wind, like a weathercock. What next?
I haven’t quite the knack for just being. Thought leads on to thought and back again, weaving a knotted mesh that I cannot easily unpick – thinking ahead and thinking back – how to get it all right.
But today is not a day for thinking through this tangle of thought and fretting. And perhaps it is penitence for the gate’s pinching slam, or simply a whim, but for a moment the wind lies cool on my hot, heavy head – a benediction.
And now the sun is shining, and the wind is blowing, and it is the sort of day that catches at your heart and at your heels and cannot be contained within four walls.
On the purple knapweed in the garden, Red Admirals slowly open and close their patterned wings, wave a languid farewell. Near the stream at the meadow’s boundary, an iridescent prehistoric dart of a dragonfly passes too swiftly to be identified.
Between the flower beds the hare lies in its form, bright eye alert. Yesterday I disturbed it into flight when hanging out the laundry, then knelt and felt the warmth where it had lain. Today I step back quietly, leave it where it lies barely visible through the long grass.
Heedless of the hour, and the sunshine, the resident tawny owl hoots its strangled cry like a bad owl impressionist – a child’s secret signal, quavered through cupped hands.
In the cleft of the valley, the grasses bend deeply in homage to the wind, pointing south like waymarkers. My trousers billow, ballooning against my calves. I am smiling before I realise it.
I will walk the path around the loch, cut back the encroaching gorse and blackthorn, breathe deeply.
By the loch side, rushes bend in the whispering obeisance of courtiers, purple seeds shivering above long unsheathed blades of green leaves. Where the path narrows, they reach tremblingly to touch my hair.
The trees whisper, and rowan berries blush ever more deeply. Ripple chases ripple across the surface of the water. The coots scold loudly, to no effect.
Brambles are dotted, fat and glossy, along the briars that line the path. They are as sweet as they look. I stain my fingers pink.
Leaving the loch behind, I walk the short distance to the bay with its red rocks and clamour of gulls. A shimmering, twittering flock of goldfinches alight on the thistles near the path. A wave passes through the grass like rumour spreading, sets thistledown dancing in the breeze.
Beyond the shelter of the land, the deep blue sea is dotted and striped with white caps of waves. Lines of gannets skim the surface in formation, silhouettes like Spitfires. Closer to shore, heavy-bodied fulmars bank and glide. If they vie with the wind they hide it well; their soaring seems effortless.
Beside me, husks of thrift shiver like pale ghosts, the odd improbable pink bloom still nodding agreement with the wind. A solitary harebell trembles against the rock, softened here by lichen. A wheatear flicks its bold tail feathers, flies from one rock to another.
It is enough to just be here, to lean against the rock and scan the sky, to hear the laughing cries of herring gulls. And for just this moment, to let thoughts lift and scatter like chaff in the wind.