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Trees

Oct. 14th, 2005 03:02 pm
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The trees are close to a busy road, but there's a silence around them. They have an aura and the aura is charged with a mood so utterly non-human that it would be a travesty to try and characterise it.

Even so I find it calming.

What do trees think about? "Think" is the wrong word of course. "Contemplate" would be better. So what do they "contemplate"? I think they contemplate water- how it falls, drips, percolates, slides, rises, drifts about them. Do they notice us? I suspect they do, but only as an aura impinging on their aura- as something ratcheted-up and fast-moving and quickly gone.

Meeces

May. 13th, 2005 09:46 am
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I went in the bathroom last night and a tiny, dark hallucination went streaking across the floor. "Ach, that's what comes of staying up too late staring at the monitor," I thought, but then the hallucination, instead of disappearing, started running round and round in circles and I had time to identify it. A mouse. Finally it quit panicking and ran to the corner and hid. And here's something I didn't know before- mice don't realise they have tails. I located it behind the toilet cleaner and it bolted behind the toilet pedestal and every hiding place it chose it forgot to tuck its tail in. After a while I gave up trying to catch it and just opened the bathroom door and invited it to find its own way out.

I'm torn between "how cute" and "oh drat".

I told Ailz this morning. She proposes getting a batch of these plug-in doodads she's seen advertised that emit a ultra-sound screetch that mice can't abide. A sort of Pied Piper effect in reverse.

P.S. Since I wrote the above, Ailz has been looking on-line and she finds that the screetching doodads also disgust spiders. What, drive out our lucky spiders that catch the flies? No way! So we need to do a rethink. I propose humane traps. Then I can take the meeces out the back and let them loose in the long grass. I absolutely refuse to kill them.
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We have a fat clump of ivy and honeysuckle stuck to our garden wall. And there's a blackbird's nest in it.

I've just spotted father blackbird sitting on the fence across the way with something disgusting in his beak. Look left, look right and all's clear- so he lifts off and flitters home.

The other day I planted wildflower seeds in a window box. These particular wildflowers are supposed to attract butterflies. I'll be glad of that and so will the blackbirds I guess. Ah, the great Chain of Being!

I saw my first butterfly of the season yesterday, sitting on a neighbour's gravel drive, sunning her wings.
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Winter always goes on just that little bit too long.

I don't hate winter. I like snow and bad weather and Christmas tree lights.

And the winter stars. I love the winter stars.

But there always comes a time when I've had enough.

And it's always several weeks before winter finally packs it in.

But here's the Spring Equinox at last. Yesterday wasn't just mild, it was hot. Walking down the street, we passed a tree full of cock sparrows all flapping and pecking and skriking at one another. I guess love was in the air.

And today I looked into the back yard and saw a hen blackbird with moss in her beak go dodging into a clump of honeysuckle and ivy.

Nest-building. Yay!
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A pinch and a punch on the first of the month.

I know what Eliot says about April being the cruelest month, but I've never understood it; I'd be glad for it to be April now and the lilacs growing out of the dead land.

Does he mean that April fails to live up to its promise?

I guess one can't accuse February of that. February makes no promises. It is the coldest, bleakest, muddiest, dankest month. Thank God, it is also the shortest.

And now it's March. And here comes Flora, with one hand on her hat, pushing her way against a strong, cold wind, with daffodils clasped in the crook of her arm.

Crocus

Feb. 12th, 2005 09:12 am
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The crocus are out.

(What's the plural of crocus- Crocuses or crocii? Both are ugly, so I'm sticking with the generic singular.)

As I rode into town yesterday they were coming up in clumps by the roadside. It's not Spring yet- of course it isn't- but the crocus are the first sign.

Harbingers.

Ezra Pound talks about their "gilded phalloi". This has stuck with me because (a) it's bold and (b) it's wrong. The crocus is fleshy, but not in the least bit metallic. And the colour isn't gold but a sort of deep egg-yolk yellow.

I stole the sexual metaphor and wrote a poem once in which an early crocus "Peeks like a clitoris from the rough." I've never been sure whether this was brave or ridiculous.

I'm struck by their fragility. A little wind, a little rain and they're done for. They push sleekly up through the hard soil, then just fall to pieces.

Dead Bugs

Dec. 24th, 2004 10:35 am
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There was a spider in the sink. I fetched a piece of paper and scooped it out. I like spiders.

In fact I like all bugs. My fear of them has to do with hurting them. Those fat squashable bodies, those flimsy wings and legs. For some reason I'm horrified by dead bugs. Living ones are fine. Dead ones- aaargh!

When I was a very small child I was sitting in the bath and I turned round and there was a big drowned moth bobbing about behind me. I got out of that water soooo fast...

Swimming pools were always problematic for me because of the drowned insects. Still are. I steer clear of pools though I love swimming in the sea. I guess insects must drown in the sea, but you don't see them do you? Maybe the waves sink em. Maybe the fish gobble 'em down double-quick fast.

I just watched Dennis Potter's Singing Detective. It's full of horrors. But the bit that got me was when the little boy killed a ladybird. Omigod.

If there's one thing I despise in a movie it's gratuitous bug-squashing.

Fluffy

Dec. 13th, 2004 10:55 am
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The dinosaurs weren't wiped out by a meteor. Or anything else. Instead they grew wings and flew up out of harm's way.

The fluffy little robin in the holly bush was once a velociraptor.

Maybe that's why I'm so fond of him.

Once it's pointed out, the link is obvious. Birds have a dinosaur attitude. See how the strut!

And the dinosaurs that are being uncovered in China had feathers. They were flightless, but they had feathers. It's not impossible that ALL dinosaurs- or at least all dinosaurs of the raptor kind- had feathers.

Which would mean they were always birds. A bird is not so much a dinosaur that has evolved as a dinosaur is an early kind of bird.

Starlings

Dec. 12th, 2004 12:57 pm
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The starlings have found the suet blocks. It's like a Hitchcock movie out there.

I'm told people don't like starlings because they hang out in gangs and twitter too much. I think they're beautiful- sleek and streamlined like Concorde, with an iridescent sheen to them if you manage to get close.

The robin sits in the holly bush, a little apart, fluffs itself up and waits for them to bugger off.

Poor Thing

Nov. 30th, 2004 09:59 am
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There's a frost on the ground. So the first thing I did this morning was renew the food in the bird feeders.

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor Robin do then?
Poor thing.
He'll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing.

Which makes me think of Mary Poppins and how it's no longer permitted to feed the birds in Trafalgar Square.

Why, what harm did it really do? The birds messed up the monuments (so what?) but children loved being at the centre of a fury of wings, with birds perching on their shoulders, their heads....

Mayor Livingston is a good thing in some respects, but in this he's a kill-joy.
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A small bird (sparrow or blue tit- the procedure is the same) perches on the railing, flicks its head left-right, left-right as if crossing the road, then launches across the brief open space to the feeder.

We had snow last night- great clumpy dobs of it- but the ground was too wet for it to settle. This morning is cloudless and there's a frost. Tonight I'm putting an extra cover on the bed.

Last night- after a complicated, tactical fight- parliament finally banned hunting with hounds. The ban comes into force- earlier than the Government wanted- in February.

I have stayed neutral on this one. The class warrior in me wanted a ban and the libertarian opposed it. Besides, I have never lived in any place where hunting was an issue. This ain't my fight.

I don't really see it as being about animal cruelty. The ban won't stop foxes being shot or poisoned. All it gets rid of is the ritual- the red coats and the stirrup cups and the tearing to bits and the arrogance.

It's been a while since I last saw a fox. A few years back one came trotting down our street at night. I followed it and found it nosing round the dustbin in a neighbour's yard and we eyeballed one another over the garden wall. I was almost close enough to reach out and touch. The orange streetlights made its eyes shine blue.
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I drew the bedroom curtains this morning and four or five small birds flew up from the second feeder I've hung over the front door. I came down to the kitchen and saw sparrows and blue-tits hopping about in the eucalyptus tree- location of feeder #1

Operation Feedthebirds is a success!

I'm half way through Virginia Woolf's Between The Acts, her last novel. Compared to most of the earlier ones, it's an easy read. What she's trying to do is say something affectionate and positive about England on the brink of WWII (it's set in 1939). If I've a criticism it's that it's a bit too starry-eyed. But lets not carp. It's charming and delightful and I love you, Ginnie!

The story- insofar as there is a story- is about a pageant that the village people are putting on to entertain the nobs. Queen Elizabeth I features prominently. I remember watching a pageant in my home town of Croydon sometime in the late '50s and Queen Elizabeth came into that as well, entering on a white horse with a page-boy/girl holding the bridle. I guess that must have been one of the last pageants ever staged anywhere.

Woolf's England has vanished. But there are all sorts of things in the book- tricks of speech and manner and little spasms of prejudice and snobbery- that bring back my boyhood. My mother had a friend not wholly unlike the over-assertive and over-sexed Mrs Manresa, "the wild child" who overrides the rules of this rather stuffy society and gets away with it by sheer force of charm and character. I counted up on my fingers and was a little shocked to realise that 1939 is only 12 years before I was born.

Here's one of Ginnie's wonderful similes: "She had been waked by the birds. How they sang! attacking the dawn like so many choir boys attacking an iced cake."
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We bought a gadget that you fix to the mouth of a large plastic bottle in order to turn it into a dispenser of bird seed. I assembled the dispenser and hung it in the eucalyptus tree in the back yard. That was yesterday. Since then I haven't seen a single bird in the vicinity.
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I remember sitting in a car on a Kentucky hillside (the tyres will earth the power if a bolt hits us, right?) watching the lightning strikes get nearer and nearer as the storm swept up the valley towards us.

I remember rain in Philadelphia. The air pretty much displaced by water. The force of it and the roar of it.

I remember a huge thunderhead sailing over the fields (in Kentucky again) all lit up from inside by frequent lightning- like a citadel at war- and how I waited till it was almost directly overhead before I ran for the house.

This is prompted by [livejournal.com profile] jackiejj writing about hurricane Frances. Heigh-ho; we don't get weather like that in Britain.
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I love heavy rain. Yesterday we had bouts of it. There was one just before Ailz and I set out on foot for the health centre and another just after we arrived back home. Good timing, eh?

Of course I'd rather watch from shelter. Under cover of the Rashomon gate for instance....

Down in Cornwall heavy rain- perhaps the same belt of it that hit us later- caused a flash flood that swept away the heart of the village of Boscastle. Amateur video footage showed cars being swept down stream and out to sea. At the last reckoning no-one appears to have been killed.

It seems like our weather in Britain is getting more and more extreme.

I don't altogether understand the panic over climate change.  The way I see it, it's going to happen whether we humans help things along or not.  During the lifetime of our species there have been any number of switches. There was the Ice Age of course. And before the Ice Age our corner of Northern Europe enjoyed a climate in which giraffes and hippopotami flourished.

Maybe I'm being naive, but I think we underestimate our ability to cope...


P.S. The spell checker has problems with the word "Boscastle".  It suggests that I may have meant to type "bookstall" or "bisexual".

Bird News

Aug. 5th, 2004 06:01 pm
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Local: We've taken to throwing stale bread on the roof of the shed under the window where I have my computer. It's good to have the birds swooping and squawking. In the old days when we had cats the birds kept away. Heresy, I know, but I like things better this way. I like birds better than cats.

There's a principle here. I like beasts better when I don't own them.

Mainly we get sparrows. But I'm sure I glimpsed a long-tailed tit a few days back.

National: Some chap has reintroduced the Great Bustard to Salisbury Plain. He's brought in chicks from Siberia. The Great Bustard is the largest bird that can fly. They used to be British natives but the Victorians had a mania for putting them in pies and museums and so wiped them out.

The chicks are being trained to avoid local predators this way: a tame fox is walked among them on a lead and if they don't hasten to get out of its way they get squirted with a water pistol.

World-historical: Scientists have finally settled the question as to whether Archaeopterix- the ur-bird- used its feathers to fly. Answer: Yes, it did. It's all down to the amount of brain space that was given over to functions like sight and balance. They did a scan on an archaeopterix  skull and found the brain was just like a modern bird's. This makes me happy. I like to think of those funny, little, scaly, toothy things actually  flitting about.

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