The blackbird sits in the sun and regards me with a silent alertness. It is missing a few tail feathers from its matted plumage. Could it have had a scuffle with a cat? Its bare pink skin is visible. It flies soundlessly into the kiwi bush. The silence deepens.
It is always still in the summer months. Walking the dog through the neighbourhood and the woods the stillness engulfs me. No traffic noise from the N225, very few other dog walkers. It’s like Sunday morning every day. No birdsong either. You find this kind of stillness high in the mountains. Very different to the spring when the birds drown out all other noise.
It makes me think of Dutch poet Rutger Kopland on Blackbirds: ‘... and there is something in you that is empty and it fills up with the song of the blackbird...’
My blackbird was sitting in the kiwi with its damaged feathers. Was it sad? Suddenly I understood: moulting is something you do in silence, otherwise you will fall prey to cats. All birds are silent at moulting time. That explains the ubiquitous late summer stillness.
I don’t need new feathers, but the summer holiday is still a kind of moulting time. Recovering from an intensive teaching year. I’ve been quietly moulting too. Letting the sun get to my skin. Under my skin even. Through my pores I felt the sun seeking out the stress from the last year. And making it evaporate like sweat in the summer. A relaxed emptiness fi lled my body. Now the feathers in my brain are ready for the next academic year. I make a fi rm resolution to spend more time out of doors and less at the computer.