To us, experienced as a slow moving freight train, the world has moved full circle at unperceived high speed, or should I say full ellipse. We are where we were a year ago, in the same spot in space, although not in the same time. Time and space are inextricably linked, as they dance their waltz together. Spacetime, that abstract ying and yang, whose effects we can sense but not the process. Time can be slowed by the vagaries of gravity but can be fast forwarded or turned back by human artifice. So time has abruptly shifted an hour back, this blink of an eye arrythmia ushering out the last dusty remnants of summer. Fruit withers with leaves as the metaphorical handbrake kicks into gear the dark time of winter and all its mysteries.
This is the time that foxes shriek unseen, that Tawny Owls shout their signs and countersigns, denoting gender and imminent fecundity. This is the time for the corvids to gather in this place and I am drawn by their primeval magnetism, the glint in their eyes, the fathomless black of the Rook and the grey pearls, as if plucked from the depths of the sea, of the Jackdaw, those two good companions.
As I hastened to the gathering place the sun blazed low in the west, spontaneously combusting autumnal trees, immolating their browning leaves as their colours flashed bright against the deep grey clouds, advancing and bringing rain. Before I felt the first strikes of the heavy drops a rainbow seared and burned its arc, curving the air under its weight. It was so bright it cast a rainbow shadow, arching over it like some vast multi-coloured umbrella. A cloud briefly shaded the sun and the bow switched off to return seconds later.
As the sun sank lower its rays mellowed to a deep yellow as they fought through the thick lens of the atmosphere at the horizon. The clouds above glowed like mother of pearl and like the workings of the machine driving the orbit the interior of clouds were revealed. Thermals drove spindrift wisps of yellow cloud filaments up from the pinkness below. Dark filaments of rainfall dropped from the bottom of the clouds.
So began the gathering. For years innumerable they have been driven to gravitate to this singularity of place, the field that attracts them like a magnet, drawn like moths to a flame, as I am drawn to the spectacle. This is the wilding of a usually benign stretch of countryside. For a short time every late autumn and winter evening something primeval, from beyond time occurs.
I sit, as always, hidden in the hedge, Jack-in-the-Green, my threatening profile deconstructed by the vegetation that surrounds me and gives succour against the growing wind. I watch the birds, the corvids that come to this place, Rooks and Jackdaws in the main, with a small smattering of Carrion Crows perhaps, more reticent and solitary. They accrete noisily, drifting in from all compass points but the bulk from across the unseen Yare. Distant at first, they appear small and are so numerous they resemble nothing less than the black shadows of the stars that spatter the fast darkening sky. Beside the platform of the railway station are one or two trees and the corvids decorate them like some strange black fruit. The telephone lines that bisect the field sag beneath the mass of birds, as they jostle for space and drip like beads of jet to the field below, to be replaced instantly.
The bright magma stripe of the sunset at the edge of the visible world sparks up the myriad of sabre bills and plants catchlights in otherwise fathomless black eyes. Still they arrive and spill the air to quickly descend. The commotion of their wings and their shouts fill the air like a substance, growing exponentially. The voices of the Rooks, harsh and guttural but with a wild beauty, like the sound of branches of trees rubbing together in a gale. The Jackdaws voices are almost anthropomorphic as they continuously shout their names, “Jack!!” There is no diversity in Jackdaw names, male or female. Just “Jack”.
The dark brown stubble of the fallow field is almost subsumed in the flowing darkness that now overwhelm. The light is almost stripped bare of photons and my eyes strain to make decipher the encoded shapes, when, as one these most companionable of birds explode into the air, a Big Bang. From this point of singularity they soar and swirl, they are now blurs, a persistence of vision. The cacophony drifts like a fast ebbing tide toward Buckenham Carrs, their ancient roost.
They reach the trees and, as if a vacuum had been created at the heart of the wood, they are sucked out of the air to disappear as they reach an event horizon. Their calls are muffled by the baffling foliage and they soon fall silent as the gibbous moon rises high and silhouettes a Woodcock, rehearsing for next Spring’s roding.