STARLINGS in Topsham

In days gone by, Topsham was an old smuggling village and still today it’s filled with an interesting and mysterious past.
Relaxing on the stonewall overlooking the Estuary, we watched the starlings gather on summer evenings. After purchasing tea and beer from the well-known Lighter Inn nearby we carried our beverages over to the algae covered sea wall.
We sipped our drinks as the day softly dissolved into the horizon and twilight descended on the quiet Estuary. Life was good!
Stunning sunsets inevitably urged us there night after night and the appearance of starlings was an extra and much appreciated prize. They flew in front of a setting sun covering the burning red sky in black dots. Fluttering in unison while stretching and elongating then suddenly crowding together in a black mass, only to elongate again like a rubber band, this visual concert was a synchronized movement in the sky’s expanse – a concert that held me spellbound for the entire evening.
Swans gliding up to the wall in their search for food imparted a contemplative setting on those evenings as the boats were being moored up for the night after chugging in from a day’s jaunt.
When the sky took on its apricot and rosy hues, the starlings continued circling the vicinity while all the time smaller groups from the surrounding area joined them, quickly merging in with the gathering. In the early evening they often sat on the brown tiled roof of the church nearby, waiting for their group to assemble.
Darker blue hues came looming in from the sky when the birds seemed to have finally gathered their group and with one dramatic swoop, they crowded together and fell into the marshes. That was it!
Once settled, a noise must have disturbed them on one evening, for they rose out of the marshes in an excited mass – circled around for a while and descended again for the night.
One may plausibly assume that this display night after night could become monotonous. In fact it was always captivating; the natural rippling movement through the evening sky was mesmerizing. Nature offers an opportunity to be present in each new moment and to perceive the enchantment through fresh eyes – always unique and always different. It’s not surprising that artists come especially to this village on the Estuary.
On one of those evenings an artist from Germany was sitting silently on the stonewall close by and while she was totally absorbed in her work, I glimpsed a sensation of colors and emotion on canvas. She later explained that she had been coming to this location for the past five years, and each year there was even more to express through the mysterious language of art.
I continue to look for the starlings whenever I visit Topsham, because it signifies a place where I found and still find peace. Now, walking to that evocative place on the wall, I am bathed in a wave of nostalgia and many good memories.

This story comes from my book ‘My Reflections of England’.
My Reflections of England

Copyright reserved Charmiene Maxwell-Batten August 2010

STARLINGS in Topsham

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Artist's Description

This is a narrative about the lovely summer evenings spent watching the Starlings settle for the night in tune with the setting sun. Those were special moments never to be forgotton.
Topsham is an old smuggling village from bygone days, it is now a lovely quiet village near Exeter in Devon, England. The boats are moored on the Estuary and people enjoy the summer evenings watching the wildlife sanctuary of birds across the water.

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