Carol Ann Duffy
The weather was unkind to us, again. A damp, bitter February which had, at times, barely reached above zero. In my quest for wild walks, that was no reason not to venture outdoors. A neighbour mentioned that she sometimes runs in these temperatures from our home in Portobello to Musselburgh, and then onto the lagoons.
Lagoons: blue and lush with a jewel-green bottom, encircled by tropical forests. Places of mystery: the splash of leaping, neon-scaled fish, the silent plummet of a stone. An undiscovered secret. An adventure. Perhaps winter in Scotland could bring some natural beauty, at least; a haven, a retreat.
According to the map, there were three lagoons. We crossed the muddy track from the bus stop, and followed a family past a wooded copse and across a field. Above us and beside us, robins and blackbirds and thrushes sang. Then, slightly ahead, a circle of bare trees stretched around water: the first lagoon.
It was large, perhaps two hundred metres wide, and frozen, topped with deep opaque ice. Its surface revealed attempts to break it; there were large stones, tree branches, sticks strewn on top, but it hadn’t even cracked. In the freeze of winter, all was still. Life, it seemed, had paused.
Then, mwop-mwop. Mwop-mwop. A young boy and his father threw pebbles onto the lagoon. They only bounced, their sound waves coiling around us, the echoes fading slowly. It was unnatural, otherworldly. We gasped in wonder, the air misted our breath. We stepped a cautious path along the heart-shaped perimeter, our footsteps crunching ice-brittled twigs, and listened whilst we searched for the remaining lagoons.
We didn’t find them. The chill seeped into our clothes, and as we began to leave for home, we found a narrow path that led into the copse: a signpost marked it as as a bird reserve. We entered, speaking in hushed tones as instructed by the signs. We tiptoed, but birdsong ceased wherever we spotted nests high in branches.
A fork appeared in the path which drew us to a birdwatchers’ hide. Inside, we huddled together on the concrete bench and peered through the slats. There, a short distance beyond us, lay two lagoons, created as breeding sites and sanctuaries for oystercatchers. Hundreds of birds flocked there, eating, circling, fluttering between the ponds. They were oblivious to us: the oystercatchers in their world, and us in ours.
We lingered there for a while, birdwatching. Then we left them to their haven, their retreat, and returned to the warmth of our home.