Jonathan: Friday 13th – unlucky for some, it’s said. But not for us, this time at least : Spring has arrived at last! I can’t tell you how much I love blackbirds, especially their song. I only noticed him when, as I was pottering about at the back of the house, I stopped to think through some minor difficulty with an even more minor task : I heard a faint whistle, but more musical than that of the all-too familiar ‘whish’ of a cold wind over the top of the garden wall. I looked up – there he was, his body motionless other than barely perceptible palpitations at his throat, and a slight rocking with the wind. In past years I’ve heard a male blackbird, in the gloom of a late winter afternoon, somewhere amongst the logs of the wood store, singing so softly, so quietly as if teetering at the very threshold of silence. Who but himself was he singing for, or could hear him? I’ve thought that such song is sung solely for the encouragment of the singer himself – as a relief to the long and lonely – and hungry – months of winter. But today was different: though the wind was still cold and brisk, the warming early spring sunshine had encouraged him up on to the high ledge of the wall to sing his song for almost half an hour in the same spot. Though still too quiet to be heard more than few metres away, he song was now of the colour and vigour that are the very essence of early Spring, when hope yields to expectation, and patient stillness to the joyful exuberence of life renewed and rediscovered.
Jonathan: New Year’s Day, 2015. Hope re-born. Fragile and tenous as gossamer, but hope nonetheless. Promises made ; old commitments burnished. The first day of the rest of our lives – each of us, all of us. Stepping up or stepping out : from now and here to there and thereafter ; never a day sufficient unto itself but rather of a piece with its yesterday and tomorrow. And if now is the First of January and here is the Outer Hebrides, then there’s certainly one hope that’ll be fulfilled over six months or so – the weather! Today? Cloud so low, so dense, so heavy that dawn just rolled over and went back to sleep.
On the croft in Eriskay, Sunny Boy is in hibernation. A tap on the screen and all he can manage is a few blinks, a mumbled complaint (sorry not a complaint – he just states the facts) about 3MWh since the end of March, before nodding off again. But let’s not take that for a no, just a not now – or at least not right now. So, hens feed exchanged for eggs, sheep counted … and back home there’s mid-morning coffee and toast in the kitchen.
It’s noon, and all the lights are on. Online, upstairs in the office, checking the weather forecast, counting down the hours to a night wavering between sleep and coming storm – a raging westerly tearing at the roof just feet above our heads. But now, right now, here amidst endless variations on on the dark side of grey – there appears a hint – a mere tinge – of blue. Blue as in slate – but blue nonetheless.
Back in the gloom of the croft store, we see – we’d see were we there – a small green light start to blink … then take hold. A display lights up, and we listen – were we there at all, we might – listen quietly … closely … our breaths held a moment .. or two. A hum? Oh yes – it’s Sunny Boy singing the blues!
Denise: As afternoon has turned to evening, two days of wind and rain have finally given way to clear skies – and a chance to get outdoors. The air is heavy with the scents of autumn, and the sodden grass is no longer growing vigorously enough to feed our little flock of five Scots Dumpy chickens: moving their ark twice a day would make little difference. In Greenhouse No 1 the harvest is all but done: the courgettes finished nearly a fortnight ago and the plants cleared ; the last of the tomatoes (from this greenhouse at least) was picked earlier today ; and after carrying a trug of big green peppers into the kitchen, there’s sufficient space for the Scots Dumpies. J helped carry a spare, smaller hen-house indoors, and then the Scots Dumpies themselves. They’ll get through the winter just fine in there: Centre Parcs for hens!