I was reminded, again, of the word crepuscular when looking into a bird we saw yesterday by the Thames.
It’s just one of a number of words like that – and petrichor and liminal and a long list of others that my Kindle helpfully retains, having long-touched them to read their definition while reading.
The small wading bird we found right by the edge of the Thames yesterday appears to be a woodcock. It was strikingly pretty, and very well camouflaged against the pebbles and other detritus that had attracted us and the other mudlarkers in the first place.
I read that woodcocks have an epic migration from Finland or even Russia and by the time they end up here – and in vast numbers they do – they get disoriented by bright shiny things like glass buildings and large rivers and bodies of water reflecting the sunlight back to their beady eyes.
For these birds are crepuscular, you see, meaning they are normally active in the twilight hours. This bird appeared either injured or disoriented. It tried to fly off but just darted around and planted itself back where it came from. Those little eyes were blinking in the bright sunshine – and it really was dazzlingly bright yesterday morning. We couldn’t do much to help, and the advice was to give it some time and space and let it get its breath back eventually. So we went on our way exploring the Thames foreshore at low tide.
(It occurs to me that words like crepuscular and liminal are themselves somewhat liminal – mostly outside of daily use but always lingering there in the peripheral vision, ready to be used when the moment calls for it.)
While the weather remains cold and crisp and mostly dry, I am enjoying the new shift to the winter clocks one week in. The evenings in winter should be dark. It feels right to spend that time under artificial light, whether electric or organic (what is fire anyway?).
This should be a time of slowing down. In the six weeks or so between now and the shortest day I can almost hear the tape delay in my head as the tone slows and slow and slows, inching ever closer to stopping completely dead. Any other movements become magnified and we cherish them.
I noticed this again yesterday, as the flicker of a candle flame made my own shadow dance briefly on the dim wall beside me. In a house, and time, of constant, fixed utilities with an unflinching gaze, it felt briefly exciting to catch a movement out of the corner of my eye. There it is again – something distracting me by catching my peripheral vision.
I know this is also why I so love our paper mobile of swifts, which dangle and wheel around, their movement urged on by the tiniest draft or – better yet – a candle beneath their wings. They ride on the thermals.