Behind the sky

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A few days back, before the mizzle set in, we were treated to a day or two of bluster and storm. Heavy grey clouds raced across a blue sky allowing the sun to burst out from behind them, setting the dark wintery world aflame. From behind the sky, as one of my children once described it. I wrapped myself up and headed to the Sanctuary for my first visit of the year.

It isn’t far – a few quiet residential streets to walk down, a ramshackle gate, a hundred or so yards down a hidden track and there you are. A quick fumble with the padlock and I had left the city, transported into a magical secret place, silent and secluded. The air feels different in here – even on a day like today, still and heavy with possibility.

The guardians of the Sanctuary have been busy. The undergrowth and dead wood had been cleared away and the place had an empty quality. Already, plants were taking advantage – ferny things were poking nubs up through the humus. The fresh verdant green of new dock leaves could be also seen but these were rare moments of colour. The Sanctuary is dank and monochrome.

There is little in the way of wildlife. I startled a muntjac and a few woodpigeons that flapclapped away through the trees. The crows didn’t move for me. They shuffled as they watched me from their vantage posts, calling to each other and warning of my approach. A single robin darted around, whilst a pair of Canada geese bobbed around on the lake, seemingly oblivious of my presence.

The real drama was with the wind and the light. Although I was sheltered down at ground level, the treetops swayed and rocked in the fierce wind, creaking against each other. It was noisy and exciting –  thrilling explosions of low winter sun flashing through the trees and lifting the spirits. The Sanctuary was alive.

It was cold too and, huddling into my scarf, I pulled my hat down over my ears. A heron, surprised as I appeared, dragged itself wearily into the air and flew off to the west, following the sinking sun. Even at this early hour, the night was setting in. I closed up the gates behind me and headed off into the gloaming.

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