Reasons to be cheerful

Small things to feel cheered by:

we got internet back this morning and the problem is apparently close to being solved;

panic over about not being able to send important docs electronically, just slipped in under the wire;

the youngest’s on-going drama of living on her own far away and finding herself locked out of things like cash flow in now in the responsible hands of our bank person;

the doctor’s secretary (who is a nutter) actually agreed to ask the doctor to renew my annual vitamin D prescription without insisting I make an appointment;

the empty nest is going to be visited for a few days by one of the fledglings;

and a magical moment—when I let Finbar out for his early morning pee, a hind and her two young ones were grazing in the meadow in front of the house.

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Through morning mist hanging grey

and faintly shimmering, I

watch the meadow where a shape,

rain-blurred and russet-brown stirs

then another, then three—hind

and her twins cropping the grass,

the only sound falling rain.

 

 

Surprise

I needed some thyme for the salad this lunchtime and thought I’d snip some from the bush in the ground rather than from the  pots. I found an entire black and green whipsnake skin wound around the thyme, behind the pots and disappearing into a crack in the wall. I pulled it all out—exactly four feet of sloughed snake skin.

I suspected a whipsnake lives under the house, having seen one zipping under the walls several times, and while I was measuring the skin, one of its children popped out to have a look, so I guess I was right.

The old editor posts tiny pics…

Herb garden

My garden is essentially herbs. There are always geraniums and roses, but until we find a way of breaking up the soil, the ‘garden’ will remain essentially herbs, mainly in pots, a few tentative attempts in the soil.

We had a similar problem with soil in Bordeaux in that the house had belonged to a painter (and decorator) and the soil was saturated with chemicals and broken glass as well as a pets’ graveyard. Very little (and no herbs) would grow in it. At least here, once we manage to get stuff into the ground, it thrives.

In front of the sorrel is a pot of something I can’t name, like chives but with flat leaves.

chives oseille

 

Rhubarb, basil, bay and a feeble specimen of parsley (and Trixie doing her claws on something).

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Hyssop and sage.

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Parsley, thyme and origano.

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Rosemary and honeysuckle and more sage.

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Different types of sarriette and rosemary.

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Sarriette and a sage cutting planted in the ground.

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More thyme and honeysuckle.

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One of the two intensive care units.

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We eat nasturtium leaves in salads.

nasturtiulums

 

and the chives that are everywhere and I forgot to photograph….

 

 

Crayfish

Finbar has found several of these brightly coloured critters since the (too brief) storm on Friday. I was thrilled because crayfish are en endangered species in most of Europe because of competition from imported Louisiana crayfish. Identifying the introduced species is easy. The giveaway is their colour—bright red.

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Crayfish in the ditch

I thought you were a happy find

turns out you are an intruder

an introduced invader

with a price on your head.

 

Hare brains

Yesterday evening, just after supper, we watched a hare loping around the house just under the windows, not doing anything in particular, nibbling a bit here and there. For once, we thought to try and take a few photos, through rainy windows though so as not to frighten it away by opening them.

Later, walking Finbar before bedtime, the fox was there again by the boundary fence. All three of us were startled when a pair of barn owls swooped between us, screeching like banshees. Magic (again) !

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The neighbour says they know,

they taste the air around the house

and sense a peaceful calm,

like birds that know the lazy cat, replete,

will not even stir a paw.

They come up close she says

when the house is still, the light is silent,

timid things that race away when danger strikes.

There’s something in the scent of meadow grass,

the scent of man-not-killer

around houses such as hers, as mine.

I watch the way she bends and parts the weeds,

not uprooting—they need their space too—

finger-skin cracked and black with ingrained earth,

how she listens to the song of every bird,

and in the slow, measured sweep of her hands

the bow of her back

through the crook of finger and the tilt of her head

she builds a place of safety

deer-dark

hare-tight.

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Sprung spring

First Sunday lunch outside this year. Hastily cleared away one lawnmower, one bicycle, a lot of plant pots waiting to have something done with the contents, and there we are, watching the pheasants of what turns out to be an established breeding colony (yay!) and their crazy aerial acts. I hesitate to call it flying…

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One hot dog getting a dose of sunshine.

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Leaving the nest

The Daily Inkling prompt about the hardest nest-leaving prompted me to write about the last time I ever set foot in my parent’s home. I’ve never written about it before. It must be time.

 

There was a stillness about the house as if she had just gone upstairs, or out to buy the bread, an expectancy, a trail of her perfume in the air. I could almost hear her departing steps, the click of the door. My eyes went to the chair by the window that my dad hadn’t sat in for ten years. Exactly ten years. The symmetry was unbearable, as hard as the tidiness.

She had known before anyone even knew she was sick, terminally sick, that it was over, life, living, walking the hills with her friends, nattering with us all on the phone, always a visit planned. She had spent those last weeks folding the linen away neatly, cleaning out the fridge, throwing away everything that was worn or torn or would be of no use to anyone else. Afterwards.

She permeated the air particles with that faint scent of a perfume that nobody else wore. Nothing was out of place. Everything was clean, shelves dusted, the rental paid on the TV up to the end of the month. She had even renewed the subscription at the DVD place, up to the end of the month. By then, the funeral would be over and we would have all gone home.

I wept over every still, faintly perfumed corner of that house where I had never lived. It had been my parents’ house, where they lived. Their nest. But I realised then, in that moment of sitting in a front room that had never been mine, with siblings around me, together as we had so rarely been in that house, that the house didn’t matter. It could have been a pile of dust on the dark side of the moon, but that tidiness, that delicate thoughtfulness, the faint perfume that permeated it, made it home.

After the funeral, the house died too, and we put it to rest. We emptied it of the carefully folded linen, the mementos, photos, her paintings, the furniture, all that she had thought would be useful or would please us to have, and we laid the stones to rest. My parents’ nest was empty. We have it all now, the twigs and pebbles lovingly gathered, in our hearts.