Monday, 12 April 2010

Finches in a thorn bush

Every day they were there. Hanging around outside my window.
I didn’t even notice them at first and then I wondered how I had ever been ignorant of their presence.
Their squawking fascinated me.
It was the thorn bush that seemed to draw them to my front garden. A scraggy, twiggy, sparsely leafed bush that was nonetheless densely twisted and laden with sharps thorns. Many was the time, back in the past, when I fought with that bush – trying to tame it into some modicum of civilisation with my purposely sharpened shears. Every time the tree fought back, and won.
So now its tangled boughs were inhabited by dozens of tiny finches.
The first time I saw them it was only the movement of one of them flying into the bush that caught my eye. I watched them for a few minutes and then realised that I could hear them too. Their chirping cheeping conversations were at a pitch I had hardly acknowledged but, once I had heard their calls, I could no longer get the noise out of my head. Their calls were insistent, veering from musical to annoying, and I started to think about what they had to talk about. And then I left to go to work and, when I returned in the evening, they were gone.
The next morning I watched them for a little longer, eating my toast as I stood in front of the window. They were tiny creatures, small enough that I could fit several of them in to my closed fist had I wanted to, but they sat in amongst the thorns as if they were scared of nothing. Fluffing themselves up, so that their feathers stuck out likely new born chicks, they chattered away with no concern.
Over the next week I realised that my time at the window was increasing. After I arrived late to work on a couple of occasions I started to get up slightly earlier so that I could spend more time just watching the finches. Watching the tiny brown blurs as they flew across to the roof opposite and then back again. I couldn’t work out where they came from or where they went.
Their movements and interactions mesmerised me. I started to be able to recognise certain individuals and gave them names according to their activity levels and perceived erudition.
I started not to mind when I was late to work, finding it almost physically difficult to drag myself away from the window, wondering what I would miss if I moved for even an instant.
My manager pulled me up for being late too often. She said she understood that I was going through a difficult time; she understood that I was grieving; she was sympathetic. But that it had been six months now and there was only so long she could protect me, protect me, before she would be forced to act.
As soon as I went back to my desk, that one photo still staring out at me as if encouraging me, supporting me, I wrote out a terse letter of resignation. Work was no longer of any interest to me. Nothing was of interest to me except that overgrown bush and its teeming inhabitants. For some reason it made me feel alive, though I was no longer doing anything that could be recognised as living.

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