May journal 16

Last day of peace and quiet, the morning fresh and dripping after yesterday’s rain. Blue sky and a drift of white clouds. The mewling and coarse crow-calling as four buzzards sail away from a single angry crow.

Is this blue
this limpid light
or the reflection of a dream?

The pheasants visit the new enclosure, oblivious to my presence, weeding. Golden Orioles squabble in the poplars, and so many blackbirds this year that their singing is ever-present. I listen to the birds not expert enough to pick out the individual singers, the instruments of this vast indomitable orchestra.

Quiet is when bees are noise
a distant cock crowing
buzzards high in the blue
mewing their plaintive call
the cricket beneath the window.

The house waits, as if it knows. The element that has been missing for the winter months will soon be back. Like the swallows and all good things. Tomorrow.

May journal 15

A day of brilliant summer gradually covering over as the storms arrive from the ocean. We hope for rain but not violence, for water not hail or gale to strip the blossom from the vines and the first roses.

Earth cracked in the baking
opens black fissures
how deep we wonder
how far
before the subterranean rivers run?

A nightingale in the lime tree, blackbird in the hornbeam, a dual of talents as the storm clouds move away east.

Trees full of music
day ends
in bright cascades.

May journal 14

We walked along the woods by the stream too dense to walk into. Animal tracks run under or over obstacles of fallen trees or bramble tangles steep above the stream. Dangerous for human walkers.

The days of sun, heat and no rain have crisped the heathland brown. Orchids stand like ornate daggers plunged deep into the thin grass, gradually shrinking back into the earth.

Poppies have appeared through the wheat, springing up and opening like bright wounds in the tender green, and great swathes, where the sangliers have trampled lying like dry ponds amid the yellowing waves.

The air shrills with insect song, and the birds struggling to pretend it is still spring. Pheasants crow, enjoying the heat. Already we sense the company of hounds, padding silently, ears pricked at the strangeness of it all.

Through all this ripening
this fruitful fecundity
of blossoming and littering
we watch from the shade
exulting in the richness
of the broad green world.

May journal 13

Today has been another day of preparation. Incredible how two dogs, who will only ever ask to have a corner to sleep in and something to eat, have turned this house upside down. The enclosure is almost ready, attic ransacked for beds, bedding washed and aired, cats defleaed, food delivered, furniture protected, carpets rolled up, dining room organized.

A ripple of birdsong
sun at the window
a cloud of dust motes.

The nocturnal passage of hedgehogs, martens, owls and toads can be seen in their leavings. Last night must have been a feast.

Trees border the flower field
crissed and crossed
by night time traffic.

Deer bark as the sun sets, some things stir, others settle, and we prepare to walk in the last light of the day.

Dusk falls gently
without a breath of a breeze
nightingales and blackbirds
raise their voices
above the throb of the bees
in the honeysuckle
the mimosa tree.

May journal 11

Mist rises with the dawn
hiding the stars
beading on meadow stalks
trickling into parched earth.
Dry spring drinks thirstily.

Another hot day begins in the clammy grey of thick morning mist. By 9am it has all gone and the sun is warm. Gunshots disturb the quiet regularly, and the noise like heavy sails snapping in a changing wind, a canon to scare the pigeons. The bardage to shut in the porch is finished and the fencing for the dog pound is in progress. A small piece of high security in a big meadow.

Fescue and cock’s-foot rings the house, high enough to fence in the pheasants, towering over more picturesque flowers. By noon, the flax flowers have closed their sky blue eyes.

Sun rises
arcs in bird applause
ringing from tree to tree
and little by little
the cold stones of the house
like oven bricks.

May journal 10

Another day of hot sun and the meadow grass shooting. Jays and magpies wove like feathered fighter planes among the trees, stolen eggs source of dispute.

The wild boar had been back again in the night, turning over almost two hundred yards of ditch, and digging deep holes in the path alongside. Luckily, we have no lawn.

As I walked beneath the willows, inspecting the boar family’s earthworks, I disturbed a buzzard, close cousin of the red-tailed hawk. Tired, famished perhaps, unwilling or unable to fly far, it took shelter in the deep undergrowth by the stream. It worked its way too far into the brambles to be caught and helped, and anyway, how do you catch a bird that size?

The foxes have stolen all the disposable containers, plastic and cardboard I had, and even the paper bags spread out on the grass for want of anything else. Perhaps in annoyance that a feral cat invariably serves herself first. She was waiting by the fence, hunger giving her courage.

Nights are warm now, noisy with crickets and the frogs in the pond.

Air vibrates
insect cellos
playing to the stars
as if nothing else in the night

May journal 9 (part 2)

Spring left suddenly, in a surge of fescue, and the meadow rose up to meet the sun, damselfly and dragonfly-winged. Heat baked the clay bowl of the earth, crickets sang in the cracks, and windows, tight against the dull wind, were flung wide. Even the blackbird fell silent in afternoon lethargy, and new leaves, barely unfurled, wilted.

In the woods across the stream, a deer barked in irritation, and a young broquart raced across the field, chased by the older male. Woodpeckers, pied, red-flashed, hammered in the heat, a squirrel looped the loop through the alders.

Quiet peace throbbed with noise, and I closed my eyes, relieved that both still function, yet in the bright, warm dark, trotted regrets for the ephemeral spring.

indigo lace
above the running water
turned to lapis lazuli
by a stray sunbeam.

May journal 8

Victory in Europe Day, hot sun, fitful cloud and the birds, the birds, the birds. No migraine and back pain lessening, all there is to do today is watch and listen.
One of the new pheasants and a lady friend wandered around the house together. It’s good to see survivors surviving, though I miss the old Edward who was shot earlier in the year. These new fellas are a different strain, brighter, lighter-coloured, more copper than bronze, with larger ear tufts and shorter tails.

Orchids fill the meadow, but are difficult to photograph. The light either too bright or too dull, or the wind. Thousands of pyramidals, scores of serapias mingle with marguerites and vetch, and the first bee orchids have appeared.

The old vine, trained now along three rows, is looking more professional this year. You would almost think there were a dozen individual vines rather than branches of the same one.

The bright May meadow
a song to rival the blackbirds’
gentle pastels
against a soft green
wild and untamed
retrieved from abandon.

May journal 6

Nothing happened here today,
the sun, the clouds, a brisk spring breeze
that rippled through the rising stalks.

Nothing changed except the vines
that tendrilled higher opened leaf
and crept across the lizards’ walls.

So many birds are singing now,
the rich of oriole, the lush
of blackbird, thrush and nightingale,

I tend the ear for gentler songs,
the warbler, chiff chaff, chaffinch songs,
the whisper of the poplar leaves.

Nothing happened here except
the growing and the nesting, now
at dusk the bats take to the air,

and deeper dusk will bring the owls.
I hope for many more such days
of birdsong, growing, golden peace.