Message from a fieldfare

The clocks have changed.
Office hours equal daylight hours,
pretty much.
Work finishes and it is dark.

Why did we create
work rhythms
that lock us away
from the light?

To make sure I observe
this day,

I leave my desk in the afternoon,
head out through autumn colours,
the smell of wet leaves,
face misted by rain,
lungs full of fresh air.

My thoughts settle
to the rhythm
of my walking.

Words of a future blog post
roll through my mind.

A pleasant state,
half here,
half elsewhere,
until the scolding of
a fieldfare brings me back,
as if to say
‘I have travelled over seas to get here,
And you will notice me.’

I look up, into a tree full of birds.

Chastened, I remain present,
as a treecreeper darts
silently
up the trunk
probing for insects.

The blog post I was composing
will have to wait for another day.
The fieldfare sent this, instead.


Listen to a fieldfare here.

This moment

At the end of the garden

sipping beer,

the bench in early evening sun

still warm.

I read a new book,

Chinese mountain poetry,

a subject about which

I know little.

Centuries apart,

it seems we write

about the same things.

Then a sparrow chirps

in the hedge,

pulls me fully

into the present moment.

Always, and only,

this moment.

Morning routines

 I sip my first cup of tea
surrounded by birdsong
as bees breakfast on the columbines.

Now that warmer weather has arrived, I have started having breakfast outside in the garden instead of mindlessly slumping on the sofa in front of breakfast TV news.

We’ve had a run of lovely mornings; blue sky, sunshine, fresh cool morning air.

I find this so calming. The immersion in nature relaxing my body and mind. The felt sense of my belonging, my need for this outdoor world.

I resolve, even when the weather is bad and I have breakfast indoors, to stay away from the morning TV news with all its negativity and trivia, telling me things I don’t need to know, ignoring the things I consider to be important. It gives me the impression that the world is a dangerous place, when just outside my window the world itself is telling me a different story. It sends me into my day with a sense of unease.

There is news in the garden too, much of it in a language I barely understand, passed on in song or bee-dance. Some of it is every bit as sensational as the TV news, tales of life and death. Did the baby blackbirds in the nest in the hedge make it through the night? (its awfully quiet in there). Did the deer eat my broad bean plants? There are stories of growth, news of the flowers most ripe with nectar and pollen, of turf wars between the robins.

Out here there is no clock in the corner of the screen hurrying along the minutes, so I linger, then sit down to work a little later than I planned. I take indoors with me a sense of calm that permeates my day.


What are your morning routines? Do they make you happy?

Easter heatwave

This easter we are gifted with a heatwave.

It’s 21°C, and people and plants are starting to wilt.  I imagine my overseas readers laughing at this, but really, 21°C in April is a heatwave in this part of the world!

I was busy weeding the herbaceous border, then it got too hot.  The sun was beating down on my back as I dug, boring into my winter-cold body, warming my core.

I stopped, sat in the shade for a while, then decided to go for a walk in the cool woods.

My regular route is rendered unfamiliar by the warmth, the hint of summer in the air.  It’s so early in the year that the leaves aren’t all the way out yet, so the shade is dappled, sun filtering through to warm the carpet of spring flowers below.  Birds sing in the canopy.  I reacquaint myself with the sound of various warblers, swallows and house martins, welcome migrant voices joining the familiar chorus from great tits, robins and blackbirds.

Above my head, in the canopy, insects buzz.

There is traffic noise in the far distance, and the sudden harsh discord of an ice cream van doing the rounds of the village.

I sit on a piece of limestone in the deeper shade of a yew tree, to write down some of the ideas whirling around my head.

I look around and everywhere is the power of spring.  Ferns uncurl, buds burst, leaves expand, flowers turn their heads to the sun.

A dog, out for a stroll with its owner, growls at my unexpected presence beneath the yew tree.  It’s owner is too polite, or disinterested, to ask what I am writing.  We talk about the weather, and she moves on.

The limestone is lumpy.  Uneven rock sticks into my flesh, finding the tender spots from yesterday’s cycling, first bike ride of the year leaving the imprint of the saddle.

So I carry on, feet crunching on the leaves of autumn which still lie on the woodland floor, patiently waiting for fungus and earthworm to turn them to soil, to recycle them into plant food.

Several times I hear a noise in the undergrowth, loud, like a deer or some other large animal scuffling through the leaves.  Each time, it is only a blackbird raking through the leaf litter for insects, a sound so much louder than its creator.

Sycamores dangle lime green flowers below their darker green newly emerged leaves.

The insistent repetitive tweet of a nuthatch catches my attention, it’s high in an oak tree, but I can’t spot it.  The oak branches are still bare, just a yellow-green haze where the buds are swelling, usually the last to burst into life, the herald of summer.

Blue splashes are just starting to appear among the green leaves; a foretaste of the carpet of bluebells to come.  They join the wood anemones, violets and all the other flowers of spring; racing to make their mark before the canopy closes over and they are plunged into shade.

The trail narrows and I brush against the softness of newly emerged beech leaves.  Wild strawberries flower along the edge of the path.

I emerge at the estuary edge, saltmarsh almost covered, tide high this close to the full moon.  Back into the sunshine.  The sky is hazy, hills of the Lake District hidden from view.

The tide pushes dog walkers up to the railings; familiar paths submerged beneath the gently lapping wavelets.

I stroll along the coast.  The sun burns into my winter-pale skin, but I am shielded by sun cream and cooled by a sea breeze.  Even though I am high up the estuary, the breeze and tide bring the smell of the open sea, the dreams of the ocean.

The tide has pushed flounders in to the flock of fisherman, waiting at the estuary edge with baited hooks and bated breath. That tide has now turned.

I sit again, this time on a flatter, more comfortable piece of limestone.  The tide rushes out like a river toward the railway bridge, draining away, returning to the real sea.  The distant cries of gulls mingle with the voices of walkers along the embankment behind me, the sound of cars, a distant plane.

I move on, following the tide.  It moves faster than I do.

A tendril arm of the sea snakes up the saltmarsh to my feet, disgorging its water back into the bay, wet mud at the creek edges glistening slippery in the sun.

I turn inland.  A steep narrow lane curls up past ancient farm buildings, fringed with wild garlic, first flowers starting to show, white bundles of stars above glossy green.

I feel sweat on my back, wishing I’d done the walk the other way round, down the sunny steep lane, back up through the shady woods.  That is summer thinking and I’m still in winter mode, where what matters is the wind direction and strength.  Walking into a cold wind on the estuary edge is not fun.

I stand in the scent of garlic, in the shade of an old drystone wall and realise that I have taken off the armour of winter, literally, my muscles have relaxed over the warm weekend.

Then I head for home, past gardens on the edge of the village.  A lilac tree is starting to bloom.  The last few daffodils stand proudly among the pinks and forget-me-nots.   The blackthorn and damson blossom have faded.  Spring has moved on a chapter.

I walk into my garden and I swear, in the hour or so I’ve been away the plants have grown.  Back home to a seat in the shade and a cold drink.

I hope you are enjoying the weekend, wherever you are!

 

 

 

Rough edges

My garden,

like much of my life,

a little scruffy,

a little rough around the edges,

beautiful to my eyes

but perhaps not everyone’s

cup of tea.

Today I watched

a queen red-tailed bumblebee

dusted in golden pollen

feasting on a dandelion,

mother of next summer’s bees

sustained by my laziness,

my dislike of weeding.

Perfection may ensnare us

but it is a sterile thing,

there is treasure

to be found

in the wild,

in the untamed,

at the rough edges of life.