One of the glories of winter is watching the birds – where we live, the hungry waders and migrants come to feast on what hides in the mud. There is even, sometimes, a small murmuration of starlings over the reed-bed by our little railway station. Collecting my daughter from there, last year, I arrived at the moment when they began. Quite a welcome home!
A little further up the coast the starlings gather in great clouds, thousands of them. We had, as a family, discussed what things we would like to do over the Christmas holidays a few years back. One of the suggestions was to visit an exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre, UEA, of East Anglian art. We saw some paintings by Steer, of Walberswick beach, and also some botanical drawings by Mackintosh, drawn while he stayed in one of the fishermen’s huts by that same beach.
On the way back, we stopped off to look for starlings as dusk was falling.
We ran south along the ridge of dunes –
sea on the left, reedbeds on the right.
Behind dark trees the sky was red
and the sea –
purple and gentle in the evening.
The winter sun had shone bright
all day, the first sun for so long.
And you came with me, you all came
with me, when I said I wanted to look
for the starlings. So we run, laughing,
in heavy boots, towards that black
smudge in the sky over the reeds,
spreading and swirling, darkening
as the birds turn, moving together,
as we run together over the sand.
Mystery and wonder, the way they move,
a thinking cloud, and laughter
comes from the wonder,
and the running,
and the being together.
And as the mist rises from the sea, drifts
across the golden shining reedbeds,
and the birds darken as they swoop and
turn, our eyes are opened as wide
as memory – of this beach,
when you were children, when we came
here in the warm summer light,
laughing together in the bright waves.