All nature has a feeling

20170716_101125[1]Everywhere we look are remarkable things. At the bottom of the front garden, in the black elder tree, right at Kemo Sabe’s eye-level, a perfectly pinkish-grey collared dove sits patiently on her nest, flattened against discovery. The hebe beneath the study window has burst into white spears in FB_IMG_1499806190300today’s full sun; the front sparrows – as we call them – use its protective labyrinth all year, to chat and shelter in. Solitary and honey bees search among its blooms, pondering where its scent is strongest. The tiny fir we moved to a sunnier spot beside the gooseberry; a specimen which once served as a Charlie Brown tree, one Christmas when we had little room for anything bigger – is sprouting nicely, now it has room to breathe and be itself at last, having emerged from the dark beneath the elder where only ferns and ground geraniums flourish. The rhubarb –  always a prodigious provider – is bold and brash, pulled regularly in order to keep the neighbours supplied with crumbles, puddings and pies. The blackcurrant bushes bend with fruit, bowl-fulls picked repeatedly but just as quickly replenished from Nature’s store. On the heath behind the FB_IMG_1499927845621castle, all kinds of wild flowers flourish: orchids and oxlips, cranesbill and such. Magical mushrooms burst into fluffy pompoms, perhaps teasingly concealing the danger which lurks within. We cannot name them, only admire. Across the mere, young herons gather as is their custom. They speak but little to each other, their silent stillness resonating with reflection on their solitary lives to come.  All around, the green life of change is visible. On days like today we can easily agree with Isaiah when he says:

the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Each shining hour improved

20160803_063436Plenty of ups and downs this week, and plentiful holidaymakers to witness them. Weather-wise, we’ve had a bit of everything (including this magnificent double rainbow early one morning – immediately followed by the torrential rain which drenched us all over the three miles home), and for the next few days more extreme tides than usual, crowding everything – including the rubbish – into a smaller portion of the shore.

20160805_064548We Dickens Dogs are out and about very early, or so others remark; we see things others may well miss, like Johnny Heron perching quaintly on Monk’s House, gazing thoughtfully in the direction of the wood which houses the heronry where he was born. Usually we see him on nearby Greenhill Rocks, peering hopefully at the fishy bits and pieces coming in with the tide. His reflective demeanour, as he gazes across the meadow with its waterfowl, way beneath him and the other side of the road, indicates a personality pondering on something bigger than the next meal. Well, this is my domain, it seems to say; I must make the best of it.

20160804_120742In the front garden, those who would wish to see what is there must get a lot closer to the glorious white hebe, now in full flower. This is the sparrows’ favourite resort, a capacious and welcoming labyrinth of branches and cover for them throughout the year; a reliable resting place both day and night. During the months when the days darken quickly, the 20160719_175917bush glows with twinkling, tiny, blue lights – as though the winter chill is singing out for joy. In August, though, the hebe is completely covered with long, white spikes over which all kinds of bees, solitary bumble bee species as well as honey bees, buzz with joy as they sip their fill of nectar. If you look closely, insects of all sizes are visible, too – verily down to Alexander Beetle – drawn to the intoxicating perfume of this generous and ebullient shrub. Everywhere in the heathland beneath the castle there are wild flowers: copious supplies of thrift, harebells, lady’s bedstraw, bloody cranesbill, meadowsweet, silverweed and harebell. The insects thrive, thanks to nature’s bounty and, it has to be said, despite the ravages of careless visitors, too often blind to the wonders upon which they walk; too lazy to pick up after themselves.

 

 

Three years on, and counting

20140911_065258Last week on the beach we met some visiting New Yorkers  who were excited about seeing puffins on the boat trip they’d booked for the following day. Their dismay was palpable when we said that the puffins had already abandoned the Farnes for a life in the North Sea over the coming months; they really took some convincing that despite their desperate desire to see the puffin population, it simply would be impossible.  By mid-September, having raised their jumplings and seen them off into the watery world they would thereafter call home, instinct had driven them up and away to an adventurous life at sea, away from land until their webbed feet touch our rocks again next spring. However much the visitors may have wanted – nay expected – to see our iconic seabirds, they were confronted by a simple fact of nature:  the birds have their own agenda, and their own way of life. The winter months are their secret, when unseen and unwitnessed, they confront uncertainty  – surely something they enjoy.

220px-Emberiza_hortulana_1The sadness of saying goodbye to summer visitors like the puffins and the swallows, some of which are still diving about round the dunes and returning to the church porch where they were born, is balanced by the beauty of the quietness they leave behind; the mist rises and falls as the hours unfold, revealing further wonders of a world remade after the birds have been abounding. No less than eight young herons, tall and touching, practise identifying the pond life which will sustain them, temporarily drawing strength and confidence from a togetherness on the mere which will desert them once they mature. Safe for now from its human hunters in southern Europe, an ortolan bunting lands on Inner Farne; we pray it remains safe, though we will not see it again and will never be sure. Like daily life itself, we take it step by step, pondering on the preciousness of life, whether it be the junior frog I spotted climbing slowly across the fossils round our pond – welcome to a different environment young Pardiggle – or the beginning of my third year. Every dawn is different, every sea remarkable. Yesterday we had the first real rain since we can’t remember when. Thursday we hope our Scottish neighbours will want to stay with us. Those in danger far from home endure unimaginable pain. I lie at Kemo Sabe’s feet. Tomorrow is another day and I humbly give myself up to it.