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

Monday, 13 August 2012

young things

The woods and fields and meadows are full of young things this time of year. On the moors this year's foals, four or five months old now, gallop around in stiff-legged rocking-horse gangs, tails held out like bottlebrushes.

The Galloway cows that do so well on our moorland are accompanied by calves, curled into commas amongst bracken. Each time I cross the moor I look out for a handsome unusual white cow with two charcoal ears. Last time, I spotted another; a sister perhaps.

Near us at home at the crossroads, sadly, a young hare, a leveret, was killed by a passing car. There are so few of them now, relatively, in England, and I watch for the few near us closely. I'm not sure if it's the same or a different family who hang out in the field next to ours, a few fields down and then  up again from the crossroads, but I watch over them too, to the extent of finding a fury and a deep-throated roar of anger I didn't know I could possess when, last year, the hunting horn announced the beaglers on the trail of 'our' hare. (It worked; the head man actually tipped his cap to me and apologised 'ma'am'.) The dog has never heard that voice on me either; she got quite wound up by it, and if she ever hears a hunting horn in the distance now starts her own loud deep bark (she barely has a voice, usually) which it's almost impossible to stop. Still, eighteen months on, when I go near the fence from which I launched my bellow she woofs a little, hopefully, ears as close to pricked as her droopy lurcher ears can manage.

Where was I? Oh yes, young things. In the hedges, tribes of sparrows – a welcome sight, as tree sparrows seem almost as rare as house sparrows these days, at least here.

Three plump juvenile jackdaws were perched on the wire in perfect placings, like a musical chord. Young swallows are growing their needle tails. There are yellowhammers and goldfinches aplenty; bullfinches flit around the margins of the courtyard seed-gathering; and last week a family of young willow warblers were (was?) in the – ah – willow tree, twittering and tweeping. They're tiny enough for one to barely bend the stem of the ox-eye daisy it flew and clung to.

A pair of young jays, bolder than their parents around humans, shriek and shout in the oak tree above my study.

In spring, we had three generations of greater spotted woodpecker at the feeder.

On my walk this morning I passed a field of brood mares, five of them, Thoroughbreds all, with their foals at foot. I've been around horses all my life, and they give me bucketloads of joy. My daughter and I use the principles of befriending and cooperating rather than anything coercive in our relationship with horses. But I have noticed here too recently my tendency to flow outwards towards any thing and everybody, and engage. Some people might call it 'in your face' (*see 'On Habit'). I'm trying to learn to be more self-contained, so I leant on the gate and resisted calling/whistling/speaking/directly making eye contact with them; just leant on the gate and let my attention rest loosely on the field and the ancient woodland with its iron age fort up behind. After five minutes or so a mare came by to check me out. Having sussed that Dog and I were no threat, she occupied herself by eating hazel switches alongside the gate and me. Gradually the youngsters came by, one by one, until twenty minutes in four of them were clustering and jostling to sniff my face, arms, hair. I managed to remain motionless rather than reaching out, and a couple of them relaxed enough as to point a hind hoof and doze a little, inches from me.

Here, now, near my blissful hideout, there's a young buzzard mewing so plaintively on its nest. I suppose that the high notes of young birds are the 'cuddle and feed factor' of avians, where cuteness does the same for young mammals.

Talking of high notes, above the sound of the mower moving back and forth in the orchard this morning, there was a sustained powerful high note I couldn't identify. Surely we're too far for it to be the whistle of the steam train that accompanies the Dart between Buckfastleigh and Staverton? Eventually I worked out that it was H, singing as he mowed.

I have found myself warbling a bit too, as I walk. Not sure how that fits with my self-imposed Rule of Silence for this week.

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