Falling twigs and golden light: field notes from the garden, 20-22.04.18

I sit at the end of the garden and bask in the early hours of the day, alive with a frenetic energy, yet simultaneously calming.  The cool breeze is respite for the soul, as well as the body, and I embrace and enjoy the cool sensation of the early morning air across my arms and neck.

The light is different this morning; somehow stronger. The blue sky carries only a few elongated wisps of cloud and the tops of the various trees are bathed in a gold that brings warmth to the browns, greens and greys of lichen-strewn trunks.  The fast-appearing buds catch the light; green and yet almost like gold thread that weaves a final flourish into a timeless morning tapestry.

A beautiful idleness hangs in the air, despite the birds’ proud concert of chirps and chirrups: ‘we’re here! we’re here!’  Last night, as I sat in this same chair and watched dusk give a loving embrace to my tiny landscape, the branches of the ash tree waved lazily above my head.  Around them, a bee yoyo-ed around their buds, bouncing back and forth on an invisible piece of elastic.  Closer to my vision, the tiniest flies circled through the air, carving small, meaningless loops that perhaps spelt out something more important.


Back to Sunday morning, and no idleness for the various jackdaws, who fly, perch and observe with a sense of ownership: this is their domain, and they observe it both close up (usually from atop my shed roof), or from afar, studiously surveying it from bark-covered sentry posts.  An ash twig lands two feet away, as this corvid builder selects another strut for the nest it builds each year in my chimney.  Sleek, and refined, the fingertips of its feathers cleave through the air, as other jackdaws cross the sky with sticks in their mouths.

A lone white feather is attached to a branch high above me, and shivers defiantly in the wind, waving from up high.  My view is suddenly focused in front of me, as a long-tailed tit chirrups in the lilac bush in front of me.  These beautiful birds seem almost a ball of body: were it not for the long tails, like tillers ploughing the air, it would take a moment to establish the head.  As usual, it’s a pair, and they flit from branch to branch, in seeming play.

I’m pleased to see the long-tailed tits back.  Over the past few days, this lilac bush has been almost the exclusive preserve of a great tit, whom I have watched with close interest.  If I sit still enough in the evenings, he seems not to mind me, and I watch him go about his business.  He pecks at the tiniest buds of lilac flower, and then flies to the nesting box four feet away.  The tiny wires of his feet grip the front of the box, and he pecks at the hole, not unlike a woodpecker.  Given his tiny stature, the hollow noise that emits from his pecking is impressive.

My curiosity piqued, I remain undecided if I want to know what he is doing.  I am more than interested, and yet much of the beauty of being in nature is surrendering yourself with something bigger and more mysterious.  The wonder is often the charm.

Next to me, my vinca has exploded into life, with delicate purple flowers dancing in the early morning breeze.  Before I can look closer at it, a crack from above warns me of yet another impending hazard, and another twig – hefty this time – clatters to the ground a few feet away from me.  The jackdaw barely registers me, glancing as if to say ‘I did warn you’.

My admiration for this efficient acquisition of natural building materials is quickly tempered with the realisation that my chimney is rapidly filling up with my neighbour’s ash tree.  I don’t mind too much: it’s served its purpose to me this winter, and I can always clean it in the autumn.

A blackbird joins a pigeon on the lawn in front of me.  The former pogos up and down, while the latter ambles side-to-side.  They walk close to each other and strike me as two people at a service station: both from different places and from different walks of life yet brought together by a shared purpose in common.  They chat for a few moments before heading off on their respective ways, refreshed and renewed.

Life feels rich with goodness, promise and hope.  Longer days and some warmer weather have seen everything rise, from our spirits to the sap that now courses through the veins of these magnificent trees around me.  Woo-whooooo-wup; woo-whooooo-wup: the soft coos of a pigeon accompany this morning scene and somehow make it complete.


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