Nocturne in green and grey
Once upon a time I thought I had something Important to Say to the world. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that I needed my voice to be heard. Pretty much like every other humanities graduate who ever lived, in other words.
Recently I have noticed that this need has been fading. Creeping into its place is the urge, not to be heard, but to listen. Listen to the world, as a favourite mug of mine reminds me. Listening is the way to contentment and understanding; to happiness, indeed.
Sometimes happiness can whisper so quietly, though, that you don’t register its voice until afterwards. Today was a day like that. Between the bookends of the school runs, I saw no-one all day. A planned morning coffee with a friend fell through, so instead I busied myself with household chores. At lunchtime, I took the puppy for a brisk walk: the weather was cold, wet and windy, not conducive to lingering and an unpleasant change from yesterday’s one day of glorious warmth and sunshine. Yesterday was the antithesis of today, in fact: twenty degrees (68F) and sunny but also very busy and full of meetings, journeys and faces.
By contrast, the occasional whine of the dog was the only other voice I heard for most of this afternoon. I even turned off the radio, the better to hear the silence.
It’s a delicate balance, finding the point where the silence is peaceful rather than tipping into melancholy. Perhaps I might have been at risk of that slide, if it hadn’t been for having to fetch my younger son from school in the mid-afternoon rain. Once he was home, the atmosphere of the day changed completely, the momentum picking up and carrying us through with chatter and homework, cooking and hugs until bath, story and bedtime and Daddy’s return from work.
Eight o’clock. Child is tucked up in bed. Before stepping into a hot bath, I pause at the window, looking out at the end of this wet day. The fields, woods, hills recede in subtle shades of green and grey, their outlines softened by drizzle. The two swans on the lochan are the only bright smudges. But look, there is a swallow diving over the dank field – and there is another, higher up, white breast flashing past the window. Soon more than a dozen swallows are flittering like bats in the grey air, higher than I’d have expected, lifting my heart with them. Hidden in the hedge far below, a blackbird burbles its evening song.
An hour later, and the grey-greens outside the window are darkening to cobalt and aquamarine. The swallows have vanished and the swans, barely visible in the dusk, are tucked up on their nest.
The blackbird is still singing. Listening, I find myself smiling. And I realise that today has been a happy day.