It was a call like crows
But not those of crows
Even on their most talkative days
When whisked up by winds
When they chitter and churr
It was more musical than crows
Deeper tones balanced by middle notes
From behind the hedgerows
Beyond the browned ancient oaks
Low to the grey horizon
A stretched vee
Unbalanced, but sharply led
Three, five, seven, nine in clear formation
With forty, fifty, sixty more
Lagging loosely in lines
Warning of winter’s coming
Or dragging down
Its icy curtain?
Wearing little but a smile
She slides off stage early this evening
Generously leaving us
The uncountable cosmic array
With all the stars of the distant past
And contemporary bright young things
But this hurried exit is not what it seems
The night threatens crystal clear cold
And she doesn’t like bitter
So she pursues Mercury and Venus
Who promise to show her a good time
Whilst we wrap up in the deep blue
Observing the space she has deserted
Now gone with all else
Held in cloudy memories
Bottled and pickled
n.b. The serious work has begun to collect the fruit, vegetables and crops from the summer. What must be gathered from the orchard floor and stored for winter; what can be collected from the vine and pressed; what can be cut from the plant and eaten fresh, or kept dry; what can be picked from the over-burdened trees and turned to juice, or pickled, or made to jams and chutneys; what can be best preserved frozen?
The stoves burn, jars are sterilised, temperatures carefully monitored; steam and sweetness fill the home. Hair tied back, aprons on while the heat in the kitchen turns us pink and sticky too during these long satisfying hours before labelling bottles and still warm pots and cleaning up in the company of curious wasps and to the buzz of frustrated flies.
Fierce frosts bite morning
Noon sky wears Marian blue
Sun brings butterflies
n.b. This arid track, these browned brambles and dry ivy leaves, the dessicated litter and parched grasses are the backdrop for a vivid yellow, medium sized butterfly. The brilliance of the colour was breath-taking. It is in the picture somewhere towards the right. I saw another, larger dark brown butterfly a few moments before.
A bee was exploring some early flowering plants too. The concern is that the burst of unseasonable sunshine draws bees from their nests, or hives early and they then perish from hunger due to the insufficiency of food, that is if the frost doesn’t get them.
Soon after the yellow butterfly I was surprised and thrilled to see a small group of bright birds also flashing yellow. They dashed from the field edge to the top of the trackside hawthorns and settled long enough for me to catch up, before they flitted briskly on again. Eventually, realising my route was persistently pursuing the path, they turned into the safety of the middle of the adjacent field. These were highly likely to have been yellowhammers. Their chirpy song a welcome relief to the unremitting tedium of the Great Tit call that provided a backing track from Bognor to Bloxwich for me today, (apart from when I was on the train).
A little later, between Ford and Arundel, seven deer stood gawping at the passing train trundling atop the Arun Valley railway embankment.
February sunshine, welcomed by all, even if a little mystifying to explain.
Incidently, Marian blue is the light, bright, blue used to colour the dress of Holy Mary, Mother of God in medieval European religious paintings. This February’s sky has often been such a hue.
White dusting slow melt
Ice on road blackens with night
Will nothing stop us?
As Winter’s fingers
Scratch and claw at our throats
Here flowers sweet hope
n.b. Galanthus nivalis now found throughout the British Isles, is one of the earliest plants to flower each year. A headache cure of folklore that is now used in some dementia treatments, it is a plant that helps remind us that we are moving steadily, toward the Spring Equinox, although the worst of Winter has yet to come.