Every evening, just before sunset, the light changes and the hills turn to gold. It is so breath-takingly beautiful, that I sit quietly to watch for those few magic moments until the light fades.
The cormorants come home to roost in the silver-leaved aspens on the island in the centre of the river, where they chunner like roosting chickens, cackling in crescendo to greet each new arrival and then subsiding into a muted mutter of contentment. As a child I stayed with my grandparents, where I used to love going into the chicken pen at twilight, when the birds were entranced with sleep and one could pick them up and cuddle them with impunity. They clucked and squawked gently in a way that soothed me beyond measure. The cormorants have the same effect. I love them and I worry every autumn when they do not arrive to take up their winter quarters opposite my finca. But every year, at the end of October, when the rest of the islands are occupied and skeins of birds fly across like fighter squadrons in their hundreds, necks stretched and legs trailing behind, I fear they will not return to where I can enjoy their restful evening chorus. And every year, in the first week of November, they begin to settle where I can watch them, and the world feels in balance again.
This is the time when I retire early to my little Wendy house on the finca, with a good store of firewood and kindling and a stock of candles to supplement the inadequate solar power on days when cloud has limited its charge. I light the stove, take off the lid to fry a quick pan of eggs or fish, put on a cauldron of water to heat, or leave a soup or stew to cook slowly overnight. Once the fire has settled to a steady burn, I put on one large, dry log, close it all down for the night and put some stones on top to heat up to warm my bed. These I wrap in old socks to prevent them burning me or scorching my bedding.
These pictures were taken in very inadequate light, but give you the flavour of my play house with its wood-burning stove, stacked logs and kindling, candle holder, camping cooker, solar power inverter, water tank and my latest new mod con – a gas lamp to enable me to see to do my mending or read even if it has been overcast most of the day.
As I have often said, “It is never too late to have a happy childhood,” and I am thoroughly enjoying my second chance.