Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Battle of The Birds

The snow finally stopped snowing and people, mainly winged people, started to come out of whichever hedges they'd been hiding in. On top of all the crisp whiteness, clearly devoid of anything good to eat for anyone, we threw a handful of breadcrumbs - and inadvertently started a war! Or a day of battle at least.

This fine fellow started it. He came to our garden and swapped a crumb for a song (as the bard said - follow this link to hear Telling The Bees beautiful song 'Blackbird') 

He briefly flapped off home and invited his lady wife to join him, which she did, gratefully eating the crumbs in a far more delicate way then her bluff and bullish husband. She eyed me cagily as I photographed her.

He, meanwhile, was seeing off all competition in no uncertain manner!

He strutted around chasing Robins, (this one had a sneaky peck while The Blackbird Bully was seeing off some Robin cousins.)

He flew at Hedge Sparrows,

Even Song Thrushes, a bird as big as he, were not safe from his attacks.

He was busy for a good while, defending the crumbs against all comers.

Some retired from the fray and took up spectating.

Some engaged him in dance after dance, playing here we go round the mulberry bush between spats.

But in the end, even this determined little thrush gave up.

He just sat on the gate and let the wind blow through his feathers, while the blackbird hopped from foot to foot on the cold snow, refusing to budge.

He took up a 'Position of Power' underneath the sage bush, his feathers all fluffed up against the cold.

When any other bird strayed near HIS crumbs he was straight at them. Fanning his tail out and puffing himself up, partly against the cold, but partly perhaps to show what an impressive opponent he was.

Fluffed-up and spread out seemed to be a popular stance. There were those brazen enough to risk the blackbird's ire. They came in twos and threes, so someone always got a peck or two while the others provided the distraction.

Some others took up 'Positions of Power' too! This robin sitting on a snow hillock to emphasise his momentary dominion over the field.

I don't suppose the robin's really were working together, but you never know. When the blackbird gave up, just too cold to stay put any longer, they started fighting each other for the crumbs. And we went for a walk.

Out of the gate, past the battle field.

We walked along the tractor tyre path

Because it's so much less slippy, and frankly, none of us are getting any younger!

Although not all of us always act our age.

We went past frozen wonders,

Past the garden, now straight out of Narnia and no longer looking like something that needs some urgent weeding. The magics of snow are many!

Across the starkly beautiful fields,

To 'The View'.

From here we can see Hound Tor,

Bowerman's Nose and Hay Tor too, but I didn't photograph those. And wild and beautiful land, both farms and moorland, that stretches out in every direction. On a clear day you can see the sea. Not today.

It's mostly gone now, the snow, and the strange and beautiful feeling of being isolated and yet utterly in community with all that lives has slightly dissipated. Snow days were full of beautiful moments, watching birds for half and hour or more, making cakes and real hot chocolate, sewing and reading and making music. We lit fires which we then sat and watched rather than just being slightly absently grateful for as we focus on what 'needs' to be done.

It is my wish for myself that I will remember have snow days even when it isn't snowing. To feel the spaciousness of 'nothing too pressing to do', to know that there are few things in this life that really need to be done BEFORE you have a cup of tea, or look at the birds, or listen to their songs, or remember that you are part of all of this - an indivisibly interwoven facet of Nature, as truly as any blackbird or berry.

I wish it for you too.

Friday, 2 March 2018

The Cailleach's Stick Pile

She was out for quite a while then, that old crone The Cailleach. A-gathering sticks at Imbolc.

The snow has covered every single breath of spring in white silence.

At some points yesterday almost everything disappeared. The blizzard driving snow into every nook and cranny, breaking the silence and pulling branches from trees. The swirling, icy wind piling snow on hedgerows only to push it off again. Nothing moved that was not wind driven.

Now familiar territories seem strange.

Eerie. Ways are blocked, somehow a door has been shut.

And another has opened. The trees have become Goblin Trees, the gaps between them gateways into Faerie.

Not that this hasn't always been a Faerie Wood.

It's just that usually, you can't see the Fey.

It is considered very rude to look directly and I certainly wouldn't dream of photographing one, but looking at the people who are looking seemed OK.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Love Everything

Spring is springing; the flowers know it, the birds know it, the trees know it. Every living thing is starting to hum the beginnings of the song of Spring. The vital upthrust of LIFE is present in the unfurling of seed and twig, in the just perceptible swelling of buds. It is in the brighter light, the greening of the returning green and the blue of the great expansive blue and, as ever, in the coming of Yellow. How I love you Yellow!

 Witness the unfurling of the voices of the dawn, more and more birds performing ever more complex arias to the earlier rising of the golden sun. The air gloriously layered with the multiplicities of euphoric and vital sound as the tuneful battles for territories begin.

Not everyone is speaking all of the time. Some are listening.

Some are looking. Watching and wondering.

Some are busy with other things. You can never know what, exactly, when it comes to crows!

It feels as if were perched on a moment where anything could happen..... In traditional British weather lore, if Imbolc was a beautiful day then the Cailleach was out gathering sticks for her fire. If she has been gathering sticks then she can keep her fire going for another few months, and winter will drag on. If the day is rainy then spring will come early. Imbolc was an absolutely exquisite day, clear and radiant. But Spring does seem to have come early, it's bursting forth everywhere. Then again, it's still only February, and things can change fast up here.

If the Cailleach was out gathering sticks then she's not the only one who's been busy!

We, or rather more accurately - Fergus, have gathered an impressive log pile too! I love the feeling of having a store of wood. Like having a full larder it makes me feel safe. There's a safety also in the feeling that Spring will be uncurling and the tendrils of new life will be offering food to the many, and the many will be birthing new life.

Life supports life. Life nourishes life. Even in all the deaths that inevitably occur amongst the natural rhythms and cycles of All That Is, there is life implicit in each death. Death implicit in each life, for the only thing you can absolutely guarantee in this world is that everything will change, and the one change you can be most sure of, is that everything will die. Someday. Maybe even the Patriarchy.

The Ravens are nesting. They are usually the first, although I have also seen blackbirds gathering moss and wagtails with twigs in their beaks. I watch them as they gather what they need for a soft and warm place for their chicks to hatch and this too fills me with hope. Hope born of the knowledge that change doesn't have to be about death. Change at this time of year is surely predominantly about life - new life.

Woven into my acceptance that things are as they are, is the little green bud of what I see as a new time coming for us humans: More and more of us seem to be waking up to what it really means to be alive on our beautiful Earth at this time. I see more people giving up buying single use plastics, more trying to be waste free, more starting to think about what they eat (where does it comes from, did it get here on an aeroplane, is it full of chemicals?). I have more conversations about ideas like Gratitude, Reciprocity, Equality, Sustainability, Earth-Justice, Grief.

And I know that even if winter does come back, underneath the ice and the snow Spring will be resolutely calling herself into being, bringing change whether we're ready or not. And I know that there are questions that seem to be arriving on the wind at the moment, for the many, or at least for more than just the few: How would it be for us to know ourselves as diverse, as multiverse - like the many layers of song in a spring morning, how would that be? Could we begin to share with all the rest of the diversity of life? Could we even begin to see that other humans, different from ourselves, are just as beautiful, valuable, lovable, worthy of respect.. what about other mammals? Other animals, other Earth Dwellers? Could we extend these privileges of care to our food? To our Air? Our Water? Land, Trees.....How far can we go?

Can we change our minds and therefore our behaviours? 

May a good vision catch me
May a benevolent vision take hold of me, and move me
May a deep and full vision come over me, and burst open around me
May a luminous vision inform me, enfold me.
May I awaken into the story that surrounds,
May I awaken into the beautiful story.
May the wondrous story find me;
May the wildness that makes beauty arise between two lovers
arise beautifully between my body and the body of this land,
between my flesh and the flesh of this earth,
here and now,
on this day,
May I taste something sacred.
—David Abram

May that happen for you too.