The silhouettes of the branches are emerging from the darkness against the lightening sky whilst amongst the trees all is darkness so that the multi-hued autumn leaves that form a carpet strewn across the ground are no more than a pixilated mat in shades of grey. Walking from the clearing under the canopy of trees the silence and darkness envelopes everything. Away in the woods a pair of owls call and continue to do so until they fade from hearing. That’s when they are at their most fearsome; when you can no loner hear them stalking you.
Many people I know are afraid to go down to the woods to play and the idea of woods in darkness would terrify them. Maybe it is those killer owls. The most dangerous thing in these woods is me and that be good enough reason for others to be terrified. However the one thing that bothers me is that somewhere here there is a tree root. That will be it, the one I just stubbed my toes on. How is it possible that when I knew it was there and wanted to avoid it I was nevertheless drawn to it like an owl to the scent of fear.
The surface of the river is without a ripple except right at the foot of the rocks where the current rolls to the surface leaving a sinuous and every changing corded ripple that trails downstream past the leaf littered jetty until it is ironed flat by the flow of water. Were it not for that and the fallen leaves channeled into a narrow band flowing by out in midstream there would be little to suggest there was any flow at all. Even the chatter of the water over the pebbles downstream is subdued.
Retying my pony tail with additional bands to prevent any further leaf entanglement and scissors incidents I step into the water, give a short gasp at the cold and set off upstream pushing a swell ahead of me with my breaststroke. Emerging from under the tree canopy I see ahead of me upstream for a brief moment the sky overhead flushed orange with an unseen sunrise. However by the time I have returned on my second circuit the sky colour has faded to ashen grey, though the trees are now at least dull shades of green.
I am still alone in the silence as I set off for my third run. Up and back takes something like 12 minutes, but as I round the corner into the main pool for the end of my swim Clare is stood on the bank already slipping her sandals back on having changed, dipped, dried and dressed in my period of absence. We comment on the stillness, the calm before the storm, as rain and high winds are forecast for the afternoon. It does not seem possible.
But it was and by mid-afternoon the trees outside my office window are bent before the gale and leaves stream in a blizzard down the road that is gushing with water in the leaf choked gutters. Killer owls! Yeah, you try and hang on to your perches in that. Killer owls indeed.
There will be no river swimming tomorrow morning after this lot.