Walking the park midday is not my favourite time, missing the birds, the world is in full tilt and the light is flatter, this morning was dull when I expected blue skies, there’s nip in the air, I busy about my morning till after midday when I strike out to deliver some Glen booklets to groups up the road. On the way I pass a crow and a gull trapped mid-flight in death, it seems some scrap on the road brought has them down in beak to beak battle. Now rolled over by traffic, head of gull is submerged among wing feathers, beak of crow is energetic still, weapon-like and bundled against the shiny dead eye and deep black head – betraying the tender feathers of a young one. I had been attracted to this spot by the dazzling yellow heads of sunflowers, incongruous here on the nomansland corner of the housing estate, heavy heads bowed and bobbing, constrained and supported by the railings that skirt that vacant space left by the demolition, and erasure of the old Glen flats. Here with their backs to the houses they are tuned to any drama that might emerge before them. I am certain they have witnessed more than the evidence I see now. I walk on further and come across a large gull, soft, gentle, dead, an unmarked beauty, it could be sleeping still with its head curled almost under wing, its soft beige greys and ‘off’ whites all setting a peaceful scene of downy softness – (the Irish word bán, being a better word for this gentle milky colour, that draws you in rather than hitting the light right back at you). Resting at the kerb, I stop to take some photos of her sleeping eye, a woman approaches sad, I wonder aloud if it could be the wave of avian flu blowing across the land and sea, she says she often sees them killed here, she feeds them sometimes and nods to the grassy bank across the road, and cares deeply about them, having pigeons of her own. Later walking back I notice the bird is lying in a bed of squashed potato chips.
So on my outward mission I pass the chestnut tree, gathering this morning 11 new conkers and adding a few, now on my return, from nearby trees. I feel a loyalty to my tree and hold the chestnuts from each other tree in different places, shoving them into different pockets and keeping the 11 in my bag. I ponder making a gesture to my tree – to leave a neighbouring conker at the roots, but decide against it, instead I pick up a twelfth for my bag before sauntering on the the Glen.
The height of the day is not my favourite time here, and I am glad to come across Donal, who is sitting on the bench near the Rowan that once was. He is keen to chat about energy and the cost of living about renewables and solutions and the old days of layering and new leaps in understanding about farming, nutrition and the science of it all. I like his kind grey blue eyes, while he talks I am distracted by the Sorbus by the bridge, its open winter crown, a dome of colour, berries luminous, greys and greens of leaves against the pale sky, their undersides lifting the colour to that bán I noticed earlier in the gull, I change the subject, unable to stop myself remarking on the beauty of the colours, and Donal names the Sorbus, he talks about the bark matching the perfect grey to the colour of the leaves in spring, as I listen I am seeing another perfect harmony, vermillion berries abstract from this distance, pure colour brightening the October song…. Josef Albers plays impressionist. We both agree it’s good to live in the moment, appreciating what we have here and now as we walk along talking about travel, the Swedes and the Irish, seeking winter sun, the queues and the pleasure being knocked out of it.