I have wanted to write again for a while now. It is much harder than I remembered. Things get started. And sometimes things even get continued. But always they fizzle out, like used sparklers in a bucket of water. Probably the things were never properly alight in the first place. When a piece of writing begins to look like anyone else’s piece of writing, or to sound like an instruction booklet on how to live, it is time to stop wasting time and plunge it into bucket of water.
As Ernest Hemingway once said to himself when he could not get a story started:
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
So, I will begin with this one true sentence:
Early morning is the best time of day.
Early morning, before everyone else is awake and about their business, and the sky is lit low from the east, is like a secret. Being outside in it feels like whispering with the world about things that only the two of you know.
This morning I took the dogs out for a walk before the wind was awake. Grey smudges spattered the colourless sky like dirty fingerprints, sliding slowly westward. Chaffinches decorated the still woodland air with their tumbling song, and collared doves arced between the high branches, grey against grey, looking bigger than they were. The dogs disturbed a pair of ducks mooching about in a small pond, sending them complaining into the sky, to circle noisily overhead before heading off in search of privacy. I called an apology to their shrinking forms, but the dogs didn’t care – already running ahead with noses to the ground, in search of something else to bother.
We did not see another person. The Sunday traffic on the dual carriageway across the fields was insignificant and masked by hedge-boomed birdsong. The air was damp and cool, and blissful in its emptiness.
After exhausting the dogs with toy-fetching fun, I stood a while and let my mind float across the dew-lit grass, into the back-lit trees. A young fern stood tightly curled at my feet, holding its breath, and waiting for me to move on before continuing its infinitely slow uncurling. I did not see the barn owl today – that precious, ghostly being that haunts the landscape while I dream of other ghosts. But knowing that it was there, hidden deep in the dark of its nest-box, high in the grand oak at the gateway to its scrubby feeding ground, filled me with peace – like the satisfaction of knowing one’s small children are safely tucked up in bed, at the end of a fractious day.
Dogs and small children are the things that get me out into the secret of the morning. They disturb the hush and flush out ducks, but without them I would not be there to share the secret at all.