Athenree reflections

Marie Phillips

Athenree 29.09.2016

Since yesterday afternoon it’s fallen, on and off all night and still this morning, it is raining, a steady heavy thrumming on the roof. Sometimes it eases enough for me to hear the distant roar of the coastal surf driven ashore by the easterly gale.

We are sheltered here on the harbour, our back to the open sea, cloaked about by our double-storied neighbours. We are the black house crouched low and long in a small oasis of calm.

The seabirds know our home: our lawn fronting the estuary is often a refuge in weather like this.

Last night, at dusk, it was three small mallard dibbling and dabbling in the collected puddles for unearthed worms, then sitting companionably babbling in conspiratorial tones.

This morning, as I open the curtains in the bedroom, it is a lone Caspian tern sitting hunched, a startling patch of white against the green grass, sickle wings folded, head with its black cap turning to survey its surroundings; not that there is much to see, the sky and see meet in a blanket uniform grey.

Quite some time the tern sat there, until the dogs, already bored by their confinement indoors, noticed and stood at the windows, barking, causing it to rise with a harsh throated karh-kaa and a purposeful wing.

Off it flew out towards the shallows where the downward wave of deflected wind touched the water, chopping its surface. On it flew, until it finally disappeared in the grey veil.

Athenree 30.09.2016

This morning the tern is back in his spot on the lawn, nearer, though, to the bleached log that washed up a few winters ago. Today he shares it with a banded rail that stalks furtively from one stretch of water reeds that fringe the tide’s edge, to another. Its inconspicuous fine brown and black stripes meld it almost completely in the grassy clumps.

The tern turns his back,as if pretending not to see, but in reality to escape the questing gust of wind that has reached him from around his shelter of flax.

The gale still blows from the east. The almost full tide in the lee of the houses resembles a swathe of silk, smooth and pale grey that ripples and breaks into a spread of scintillating sequin-flecked gunmetal and stony green out where the wind touches down. Further out, towards the deep channel, away from the protection of the peninsula, is a moving ruffle of whitecaps.

The rain has stopped. I can see the hills across the harbour, blurry with the misty outline of pine stands and the occasional house roof.  A distinct improvement on yesterday.

I don’t think it will last.

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