A lone woodpecker and horizontal rain: field notes from the garden 17.12.17

Cold, damp, dark and defeated: if autumn is a slow exhale, then the depths of December days like this are the death rattle.

And yet, whilst the garden matter sinks ever deeper into a natural stasis, birdlife continues. The abundance of tits, finches, blackbirds, pigeons and sparrows in the garden only highlights their increasing reliance on the food we put out for them.

In the afternoon, a moment of pure exhilarating magic, as a great spotted woodpecker visits the bird feeder. My wife, daughter, and I all stand inside of the kitchen window and gaze out at the clear black and white markings, taking in the breath-taking beauty of such a rare sighting in our humble little garden. A stark reminder, that within the depths of winter, life in all its wonder can be enjoyed.

The afternoon seems to move slower; time expands and contracts, and today feels one of those days where time has been elongated or stretched. I head back into the garden, to take in the last vestiges of the weekend, before the last working week of the year.

Drizzle shifts sideways across the landscape, almost crablike: plumes of incessant motion that carry with them an enveloping mist that shrouds the late afternoon in apathy and resignation.

To label the raging torrents of water below me with the usual moniker of ‘stream’ almost feels redundant, such is the renewed force and invigorated energy of this primal element below me. Snowmelt, rain and a pervading sense of damp have swollen this tiny waterway to something powerful and worthy of unfleeting attention for a few minutes.


Comfort, as plump drops of water fall from the ash tree and onto the canopy of umbrella above my head. The steam from my coffee snakes away from the mug and joins the misty air keenly; water vapour called by invisible Sirens away from its manmade ceramic and back into the elemental ether.

I turn to the shed, open its creaky green door, and stand inside, leaning on the worktop and gazing out of the door at the quickening night beyond. Like the umbrella before it, the shed roof is pocked by staccato bullets of rainwater from the empty branches above it. There is a wonderful comfort in being inside, outside.

A slight breeze moves only the delicate strands of the Pittosporum, an organic weather vane whose beauty only seems to increase in the hardened winter months.

The light fades quickly now: the day is seemingly tired of its slow pace, and seems to suddenly now fold in on itself: mind made up, it rapidly downs tools and hurries the last bastions of light into retreat.

Turning back to face the house, I decide to follow suit.

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