From the warmth of a hotel room I headed out. Free of expectations, because how can you form an expectation of such an unlikely event?
We met by a campfire at a farm outside of town. Green Farm, on Church Lane, Shadoxhurst - every part of that address conjures up images to me. 10 or so people, some strangers, some known to each other. Me, feeling my usual social awkwardness but managing to keep conversations alive. Added to the guest numbers were Tom the ornithologist, Clara the musician, Martin the owner of the farm and his wife Emily, and Will - I'm not sure of Will's official role other than to be adorably passionate about all things nature.
After greeting, we headed out on a dusk walk through the woods, Will quizzing us about every tree and encouraging us to adjust to the sounds of the birds, Tom separating and identifying each bird by their song. We walked casually, anticipating the return journey we would make under the cover of darkness.
Return to the fireplace and delicious warm food. Will spoke more and Tom introduced us to the story of nightingale and the long journeys they have taken to be with us tonight. Clara sang, in Catalan and English, with accordion and guitar. A sweet yet strong voice reaching out as the darkness drew nearer. Fire keeping us warm as the temperature dropped.
Then it was time to venture out again. But this time into the total darkness. This time to be greeted by only one song - the nightingale. Wrapped in warm blankets we walked silently across fields, through gates and woods. We began to hear the songs around us in the distance but we didn't stop. Eventually we reached our destination. Our bird was in the thick undergrowth. Safe and brave. Aware of us, despite our best attempts, but too determined to sing his song of love to be distracted.
We settled down and listened. Another was nearby, competing in song.
After a while, Clara began her duet, mimicking and contrasting the bird song. Starting softly and building until she was as loud as her partner only metres away. We sat and listened, in awe, in dream like silence, in the shared communion of a special experience.
When the time eventually came to leave, we quietly rose, gathered ourselves and began the long walk back. Reverent, feeling privileged and thankful. Leaving our friends to continue their song long into the dark night.
(Here's video from an earlier performance)