Year ending

The limbo time between Christmas and New Year feels very like the whole year has felt. Waiting to start again, but still enjoying the quiet and expanded sense of time between the tinsel and the fireworks of hope: safe and separate and too much time to listen to the unexpected silence.

In the quiet there are always the barrel rolling ravens and a flurry of bright goldfinches hanging on to the long birch in the wind.

In an unploughed field a single chaffinch does what gave her her name and pecks amongst the stalks for spilt grain.

A mole has pushed up a soft hill on the edge of the field and there is a definite line across its peak as if a playful walker has drawn a walking stick across it . I bend down to examine the mud and realise that the track has in fact been made by the passage of tiny vole feet. There is a vole hole between the mole hill and the field edge . The vole, like the chaffinch has been gleaning the spilt grains of corn and pulling them into his burrow to feed on them in muddy safety.

The year is coming to an end and we stay warm and fed underground with the moles and the voles . Spring will come, but winter has its own quiet virtues too.

Rash promises in Covid year.

I promised to tell you how my attempt to grow my own loofas went.

I bought the seed last winter when cutting down on plastic seemed the most important thing in the world. Well, the seeds germinated well and

the seedlings grew. I identified a good place against a wire fence to plant them out and watered them in. Then it turned wet and the cats were both sick and the slugs came out and ate the plants down to the ground when I wasn’t looking!

End of story.

What is astonishing about this little tale is that a whole year has gone by since I bought the seeds and the whole world has grown so strange since then.

I feel as if I haven’t been out of the garden or house since then. Time has folded in on itself so much since then that I am not sure I ever planted the loofa seedlings at all, or what I was hoping to achieve by growing them.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time this covid year staring at my two cats Winston and Pixie and marveling at their markings. They are brother and sister who were living in a neighbor’s greenhouse as kittens. We took them in and have always been fascinated by how many wild cat genes they might carry.

There are wild cats here in the edge of the Jura and I have seen cats on the edge of the forest with the tell tale fat banded tail and the black Pom Pom on the end.

Pixie and her huge tail.

Pixie has the classic wildcat tail, when she is being really agressive or scared, it quadruples in size and my little affectionate Pixie becomes a fluffy monster. Her larger brother Winston has some of the wildcat markings, but no where near as many as his sister, he has sleek velvety fur and classic tabby cat stripes. They both have wildcat cat ear tufts.

Winston with his tabby stripes.

This useful illustration of the markings on a cats back is the best I have found for telling a tabby from a real wild cat.

It could be Pixie A (wild cat) and Winston B, ( tabby cat ) but as they are sister and brother I think all that it proves is that cats, just like humans are a bit of everything and wonderfully mixed up like us all!

Notice the markings on the head and the spine. She has 5 bands on her tail and a black line across her shoulders. Wild cat!

Waiting

Waiting for the year to be over and for better times to come, waiting for the vaccine, waiting for the solstice and the world to swing back to the light, waiting for just a little break in the cloud, waiting with the ravens, waiting.

Monochrome.

Nothing is ever monochrome.

Being alive is all the colours in between and simplification is so often trivialization, however fervently we may yearn for the comforting separation of thought and experience .

The hunters have been shooting the wild boar in the forest with what sounds like elephant guns. The hunters wave to us as they pass us in their vehicles because they see us in the woods so often. We wave back, pleased to see that they are wearing masks, appropriately socially distanced as they drive off to kill.

When we head for home there are two pigs hanging on hooks behind the lodge, waiting to be butchered . Their feet dangling in the air are so tiny, so elegant it seems improbable that they could have ever have carried such muscular weight .

The next day we see ravens when we walk to the woods and then more and then more. Ravens are always in pairs and they talk to one another raucously when the winter comes. I think of bickering and companionable married couples as they roll overhead in a sky that is ready to snow.

There are so many ravens and they are so close to us and so loud, that we realize there must be meat near by to make them so excited .

Of course there is: the hunters’ lodge is very close and the entrails of the butchered boar must have gone somewhere.

The ravens were uproarious with delight . The couples were contented and after feasting, they descended into the stubble to clean their gory great black beaks in the clean winter field.

The raven is in the bottom left hand side.