At sunset the chickens retire from their day’s labours as if guided by the hand of providence. So gently and so surely are they gathered in by Nature, all order is confirmed once more. There is for the moment no rest better earned, no retirement more deserved, no process more befitting. A commanding, careful surety of purpose guides each bird calmly, steadily to her ordained place of safety. She murmurs contentedly in its sure caress.
Each bird glows red brown in the setting sun, their bodies seeming bulkier now, yet graceful as they are called in together by some mystic inner prompting. Their being is built up, embellished and re-defined in a painter’s light.
Turner knew how sunset reveals the inner nature of things. How it builds an exquisite density of tone, how a formidable solidity is briefly lent to all creatures. Tonight, these tiny russet bundles of being are figures in an eternal cycle, each creature etched forever against an ancient terra-cotta frieze. The setting sun is lighting them up to bed. As it has since time began.
It is an unhurried business, the birds’ foregathering and slowly ascending the stair that takes them to their small loft. They appear to tarry briefly and bide their time, softly cooing to each other as if to soothe and soften the darker edges of existence. Yet not one will delay overlong. An inexorable progress is evident. Day’s ending is undertaken with order and decorum. Each bird has its allotted place in the stately, unhurried, procession up to their straw-lined nests.
I check on them. My torch reveals they are nestled close, their heads aligned towards the east as if they were rowers in a boat setting out together on some ancient voyage towards dawn.