Autumn Fog

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Fog dogs the morning, and the rooks rise from their roost in the ghosting pines. It’s hard to tell where these birds are heading; perhaps to the yellow turf where the silage stood, or maybe the last of the barley stubble on good ground towards Castle Douglas. Memory guides them, because sight is useless.

The moors are hung with gossamer. I find it trailing in my hair and across my hands as I walk. A spider stands at the hub of every web, each one fat and gay as a sloe. These trappers have nothing to fear but cattle; many of these lacy lines will be unmade around the hocks and shins of heavy beasts.

And there are woodpeckers in the turf. I hear them bawling in the vague and poorly sun. Green shapes flit between the anthills like spooks; they tip their heads and listen for the crackle of insects. Progress comes in tiny hops, upright and livid as a dagger. It would be hard to imagine a bird more reptilian and primordial in aspect; I expect to see their forked tongues flickering like an iguana. How often do you hear green woodpeckers? And how often do you see one? They’re shy, sly and hard to know. They swivel their discy eyes and are gone.

The rooks come home at lunchtime with their bellies bulging. The fog has gone by then, and they shine around the trees like shreds of black plastic.

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