December 22, 2013

A subsong for spring

Yesterday was 'the year's midnight' – and it felt it: still, cold, grey. It rained for much of the day, and the sky was louring and dim. It was as though everything had... just... stopped.

Yet today we woke to high cloud, blue skies beyond them and a freshening breeze. Gulls wheeled overhead, in the garden the invasive Spanish bluebells were breaking ground and on the way to walk the dog on Tooting Common we passed a cherry tree in tentative blossom. The year has turned.

We paused outside one house to locate what we initially thought was a starling, burbling to itself as they do on some nearby aerial or gutter. Yet it was a male blackbird not five feet away from us, perched in a bare shrub and deep in subsong. His yellow beak was closed, although his throat worked visibly; the phrases, unmistakeably blackbird-ish now, seemed trapped inside him, the quietest and most private of performances. And yet he included us in it: me, my husband and the dog, transfixed on the pavement. He regarded us first with one golden-rimmed eye and then with the other, the lovely quiet song like a runnel of water tumbling endlessly but joyfully within him, in preparation for spring.