... quite early, and the street was as still as the ghost of sheep on the high hill. But dawn had broken. Oh lord, how it had broken, sending splinters of light into the victorious, ringing, bird-carved, air. Even though snow still lay as white as sea foam on Sunrising Hill and lay under each hedge, ribbed, like the bare, bleached bones of ship-wrecked schooners, the sun had risen high; higher than the turbulent rooks and higher than the breath that billowed in clouds of steam from my ragged body.
I walked abroad in the slumbering village, and as alone as a blushing, rib-full, Adam, beneath a sky of thrush egg blue; as blue as the cornflowers of summers past. Down Main Street, past Quo Vadis. No curtains twitched, though the garden hedges bristled with song. The occupant of each house slept warm and deep under the soft hills and folds of their duveted wildernesses. Jackdaws wheeled and laughed among the sleeping bones of the old oak on Fourways Corner to see the sun beams of that beautiful morning trying to prise their honeyed fingers through the neat, new shutters of the Old Shop and its cymbal playing tin monkey. A blackbird stood as proud as your mother (should she see you now) in the middle of the road. The sun warm on her back. She watched me pass with beetle eyes, a harmless spirit in her eternal eden of sun and ice.
Only two other souls were awake. The vicar who, with knitted brow, played with whirling fingers the organ of the braying heating pipes in the village church. Climbing down from one of the Jacobean, dark oak pews, he fussed some dust into the morning air as the sun poured like Eucharist wine through the great east window and stained the altar cloth crimson and blue and, oh, such golds. Does he know that, when no one is looking, the faded saints and the firemen in their smart blue serge climb down out of their stained glass windows to ring out the hour on the faithful old tenor? Or that, in the church tower (made of rough brick and cobwebs and prayer), the stone angels play hide and seek with the umbrella-winged bats, piping and squeaking, in the belfried dark? Or that, behind his back, at every Pentecost, the yews in the churchyard burst into flame and that tongues of fire dance upon every shaggy branch?
The other is the runner who outruns the dawn, red faced and breathing out dragon's breath, down past the village hall (built in 1929), newly painted, and then past the Post Office, bursting with wool and flowers and unlicked stamps, and on past the shuttered tearoom. But not even he can outrun my nose in this impudent north-easterly wind that has been sharpened by the claws of polar bears, and the clash of icebergs, and carries down these whistling streets the sound of Saami bells, and shamanic gongs and the deep green waters where the blue whales sing. Past the Peacock, smelling of booze and laughter and last night's ashes. Down Saddledon Street to blow on my fingers and the sweet smell of the cattle barn on the frigid air. The old dog at Herbert's Farm snuffled where foxes loped, loose-limbed and laughing, under the frosted thatch and snow and dreamt of the days he ran wild and free over Orchard Hill. A woodpecker drummed out his exuberant life among the sighing trees. The morning whistled and trilled.
As I returned home, my hand on the garden gate, the Park Keeper opened his front door and roared out his approval to the triumph of the morning.