The colour of his wings, black, fine-tipped, fast moving. He skims the brackish water, rises, then slides down again through the sky. And, he is gone. A diver? I don’t know. He was too fast and I’ve lost my bird book. I could feel the push between his snowy chest and the crisp water, cold, not bothering him, gun metal grey and lifting in tiny lumps, not one of which he damaged. Cold, grey, heaving with life and always moving. In and out. Out and in. The endless warp and woof of a body of water, unconfined and yet soldiered in by granite and basalt, its only escape forward into the belly of the great Atlantic through a narrow rock-peppered slew of water the size of a big snake.
Cloud light dancing along the edges of the faraway hills, still daft with winter boredom, all browns and yellows, waiting for enough trust to push out green. Not yet, not yet, for there was a snatch of frost last night and Aurora played fireworks in the dark. Hold and breathe, be patient. Let time go by as Time always will, whether we like it or not. Sudden sunshine and a jumper too many. The heat stabs at the woollen fibres and yet in seconds, it is cold again.
My little grand-daughter and I walk to the Fairy Woods. I don’t bother to tell her that all woods are fairy woods. Let’s keep the secret in a silent gasp of excitement, trammelled up in sensible Granny Talk. She breathes. She stops her chatter about carrot sticks and school out for Easter. We find wild garlic and I crush a leaf for her to smell. She says it’s disgusting, but Mummy will love it. I show her the cloak of it beneath the bent-backed hazels and the birch all silver and knotted, witch nests hanging from old limbs like spiky Christmas baubles. The moss rises in delicate fern across the huge rocks and there are poke holes dotted across the surface. Fairy homes, I tell her, and she gasps (quietly so as not to frighten the fairies). She goes to stick her finger in and I stop her. Fairies are secretive I tell her, and they bite. She is in awe and I am on a roll here. This is my childhood, all over again. She finds an acorn, still sheathed. Can I gift it to a fairy? She asks, and my heart melts. Of course, darling. We move on along the deer paths, empty now until the dark falls like a safety net upon this land. We find another fairy hole with a primrose blooming right outside the entrance. The yellow petals are wide and smiling at the sunlight. With tiny fingers, and on tippytoe, she carefully presents the acorn, just at the entrance.
The sea-loch vibrates, as if some god has thrown the wind down. It skitters the surface, lifting it like a tune, just beginning, the words yet to be gathered up from the moment. The song itself flew out to sea, for we never heard it. And yet, as we wandered home, all quiet and thinking, the warmth of her little fingers wrapped around my own, sending bubbles through my old heart, I found the song, and so did she. Let’s have a singing competition, she said. Ok, how does it work. Well I sing first (of course) and then you sing.
Off you go, I said. Well it’s a Halloween song, she said. Are you alright with that? Well, considering we just saw witch nests and hushed ourselves around fairies, I reckon I’m up for it. Let’s hear it. She began.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star……