Day 38

I go up the lane where I first recognised a horsetail sprouting in a verge many years ago. Then so rare to my eyes and now so common. Are there more of them, or is it my awareness of them that makes them more obvious now? It was a strange plant to my eye then, but now instantly recognisable and commonly found. In Ravenna two Aprils ago the embankment leading to the railway foot tunnel was thick with these primitive plants. I cannot see them now without being reminded of their astonishing profusion there – nor the pleasures enjoyed on that excursion.

At the ford, a footbridge makes crossing simple. The stream is still deep after a month of strong sun and minimal rain. The flow spreads out wide across the width of the road after the confines of the narrow stream, but then backs up as it has to queue itself into the next run. A pair of ducks slalom down through one of the narrow channels there. They use the force of the water to carry themselves effortlessly through the rocks and over the rich-green reeds straggling from the gravel below. The momentum of the water, its rolling and pitching from rock to bank, bobble the birds as they move downstream. When the race smooths out they drift around in a slow, looping circuit before having to start paddling again. They are carried off past the roots of the over-hanging willow, where the water swirls left toward the mill pond.

This morning, along the coast road, a buzzard is moved to retreat to the oaks uphill by two furious lapwings. The two mobbing birds make sharp turns after flitting across the big raptor’s path. They call insistently, drop fast across the flight of their target, return quickly to an attack position, just up and behind slightly behind the broad wings of the buzzard. They persist in their harrassment until the bigger bird adopts a straight lie of flight and heads away from the nesting area on the marsh.

The birds of prey are active now because they too have young to feed. A kestrel hovering near a line of poplars, descends menacingly from parallel to the tree top, to a height just five metres from the pasture grass. For a few moments it adjusts, head still, fixed fully on the movement beneath – then stops its rotary movement of wings and drops rapidly, silently into the grass. It disappears from view for a few moments before it reappears. It flies off low to the ground with claws clasped tight, almost dragging behind its body in the slipstream. Its purposeful exit indicative of the success of the drop.

In the early evening I watch a jet at high altitude churning out a trail of white crystals against the sky. It carves a line that is perfectly set between two other fattening trails. The aircraft continues eastward and the three plumes fatten up, drift and gradually merge moving south on the thin air above.

You have been able to arrange to meet a friend for a coffee by the lake. Everyone keeping their distance as required, but happier for the relaxation of regulation. Coffee from the kiosk, open for take-aways only. You tell me how good it feels to be able to change the pattern of acquaintance; to shake-off the ennui of isolation, if only for an hour.


n.b. This and everyday of this diary constitute my response to Day 25 prompt: detailed observational prose poem

Christopher Perry

25th April, 2020