from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

avian hierarchy

photo by Francis Jones

'I must be losing the will to live,' I say wryly to TM. It's 7.30am and he's just picked me up from the garage where I've dropped my car off – just since posting yesterday another, different, problem has developed. My small savings are visibly dwindling. My comment is because where he's about to drop me and the dog to walk home from while he goes on to work, the hedges are lush with wild garlic – the nearest spot to us, a couple of miles away, and I have zero impulse to gather it.

More family bad news at the weekend, too. More work loose ends to tie up before I leave on Friday than seems possible.

And so it goes, this period. No doubt we'll all emerge from the tunnel stronger; and meantime, our new potatoes are showing leafy green crowns; and also meantime, in the interests of sharing with you the wild strawberries of the present moment, I'm watching the antics of the birds in the courtyard with a cup of tea (me, not the birds).

All good PC people resist hierarchies ideologically – well, I do, anyway; but it's hard to argue against natural hierarchies, and this avian one is pretty strong.

The bluetits cluster in their tens on the feeder.
The great tits arrive and see them off with a certain amount of internecine jostling themselves.
The nuthatch dives in, turns him- or herself upside down and pecks fiercely and purposefully with that long honed beak at the feeder, having displaced the great tits.
The woodpecker flies in from across the valley in underarm arcs, so to speak, and lodges in the oak tree cautiously. If it's a mature bird it'll progress quietly to the feeder, displacing in its turn the nuthatch.
Within minutes, the magpie mafia arrive with great aggressive swoops and displace everyone. They patrol the courtyard officiously for minutes, and one may attempt to swing from the feeder, just to demonstrate that it can, for 30 seconds or so. Having cleared the area of all riffraff and trouble there's clearly little incentive to stay, so they parade around for a few more minutes and then flap off.
(If, though, the woodpecker is a juvenile who signals her arrival with a lot of anxious clucking, the whole process of mafia arrival is swifter.)

After all this, natural small-bird order restored, briefly, anyway, the pheasant picks its way modestly up the track, and displaces no one as it pecks around the base of the feeder, clearing up the fallen grain.

And now, my friends, to work...


  1. Thank you for this beautiful example of how to be comepletely in the (observant) 'if's', no 'but's', no 'ought to's' - just being fully, wonderfully present to what is. Thank you for these grounding words.

  2. "No doubt we'll all emerge from the tunnel stronger; and meantime, our new potatoes are showing leafy green crowns ..." I love it! Puts things in perspective. Oh, and I ordered All the Missing Names of Love - looking forward to its arrival! :)

  3. Well, you two, on a morning when LIFE continues - work stress, blood tests back for dog who's been not right for an age showing a puzzle, car unsorted as yet, extra admin due to complications with next week's Hebridean Island course - your kind comments moved me enormously. THANK YOU. And Roz you have it and have already spread the word - thank you - but David I was v touched re my book. Thank you for that too. I hope you like it - it's more personal and less 'Buddhist' in tone than last year's 'Bardo', so hope you're not disappointed.


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