I don’t celebrate Christmas and try hard to avoid the consumer chaos, so this time of year is always a bit strange: I feel there should be something a little special, but am not quite sure why or what.
Some wintry weather might help – there’s nothing like a bright frosty morning for clearing the mind and restoring the spirit. But when I went for a brief walk in the park this morning there was really nothing particularly seasonal, just vast expanses of sodden leaves and an unpleasant amount of mud.
There were plenty of people about – though I didn’t see a single child on a new bike or scooter, warding off dragons with a shiny toy sword, or proudly showing off a smart new coat and matching mittens; a few of the dog walkers said good morning but there was a decided lack of festive cheer.
I followed one woman and her large off-white hound along the path, drawing closer as she’d stopped to speak to a man and the elderly lady he was pushing in a wheel chair. “I told him, ‘I’m no use to you if I’m dead,'” was the only clear phrase I heard her say, but when the little group broke apart, the couple thanked her enthusiastically: “That was a lovely thing that you said.”
As they came up to me, I’m pretty sure the elderly lady wished me a “Happy New Year,” which seemed a bit premature, but her voice was no stronger than her legs and I may have misheard, so I simply said “Good morning.”
Coming up alongside the woman with the dog a few moments later, I was slightly surprised when she turned and said, “How many magpies were there back there?”
My reply – “Seven, I think” – seemed to reassure her, though I can’t see why, unless knowing that seven is a secret never to be told means she can rest easy that her skeletons will remain in the closet a while longer. Personally, when I’d paused to watch the mob of magpies chase away a jay, I was hoping to count six for gold, or perhaps eight for a wish.
Still, the jay is one of my bluebirds of happiness, so even if the magpies didn’t promise riches and the weather didn’t do much to raise my spirits, it wasn’t all bleak. Not particularly festive, I admit, but perhaps just enough to justify the photos of the Christmas baubles I found hanging on one of the trees.
A flurrying mob of magpies
furl and flounce
against the mulchy red
of sodden autumn leaves.