Before the rain the peonies were perfect.
Before the deluge the roses were pristine,
The lawn was trim and the slugs asleep,
But after the storm, in the snail slimed, dripping quiet,
The perfume was divine.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
It rained heavily here after weeks and weeks of bright sunshine and the bees were driven in under the shelter of the dripping patio. Luckily there were enough tangled wall flowers half in the rain and half under the cover to provide them with nectar and pollen away from the falling rain. Listening to the bees I thought of Yeats lovely line of poetry and of all the wonderful sounds of the “deep heart’s core”.
The leaves have come dark and green, green, green filling in the gap where the wind blew.
The longed for rain fills the flowers and bends the petals down to the grass.
A chaffinch sings the single note of its rain song green, green, green, time, time, time rolls in the cool, wet garden.
Beyond is the daily Sunday quiet and the leaves fill in each gap while the air lies still and heavy.
Magpie flying in the storm
a straight line against the flying white
chaos of snow.
Snow in all directions
the air made visible in all dimensions
above, below, between
and the magpie dark, a flat arrow
just making for home
in one single dimension
pulling desperate order along
on it’s piebald tail.
Greedy for the light they press soft leaves to the cool glass
The stems yearn over one another
Etiolated by desire.
The storm splatters rain hard against the window
The roof lifts a little in the wind
Groaning to resettle it’s self on the February house.
The empty quater of view is suddenly red kite –
Angled tail and feathers quartering the lift and bluster of the day.
Inside, the leaves press harder.
In winter the whole world seems older.
The houses are lit up, but the gardens are empty, only rain and wet birds buffet over the sodden ground. Youthful pretention is swept away; no awnings and patio furniture; no bbqs; no tofu: just wind and dead leaves.
A kite quarters in the dark clouds; a bull finch calls with its monotonous single note; the wind chimes clash in a sudden squall and the wood smoke blows the years away between today and Bruegel and every long, waiting winter day, still raging at the dying of the light.
Chaff scuds before the wind
low and twisting, it lifts and turns like laughter.
The harvest has long since been gathered
and only the paper that curled around the husks remains behind.
Chaffinches, dun brown and rose chested chatter from rose hipped hedge to empty field,
And when they turn in the late winter light,
no one can tell them apart.
From View With a Grain of Sand, Selected Poems, Faber, 1996, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh
I am almost over my horror of fungi.
This autumn has been extraordinary in the rich variety of mushrooms coaxed up by the rain, but I will never be tempted to eat any of them again.
This particular mushroom cap was thin and as smooth as porcelain. The edge was lined, as if it had shrunk back with delicate avoidance of the falling leaves pattering down all around it.
The aspen leaves were yellow and then black – no warming russets or browns to lull you – they know winter is coming and lay down to die with minimal fuss.
They only leave behind an unexpected perfume without the slightest a hint of decay . Something soft left lingering in the air.
The autumn raspberries are always small.
My fingers fumble for them amongst the yellowing leaves.
There has been just enough sun to ripen a few hard green knots into fragrantly
soft fruit, bowed down now in easy reach of the gleaming slugs.
And now the rain.
A benediction of mist in a quiet grey sky
Makes slippery the sticky handle of the little basket.
My fingers close lightly and tug to loosen the wet fruit from the white stipe
But the raspberry crumbles, the droops bleed juice and rain onto my hand.
I should have picked them long ago.
Summer rain, washing away the dust: cleaning and cooling the clouds and leaving grey sheets of warm perfumed air in its wake.
Butterflies shelter in the vine dry against the house wall.
The lavender is curved down by the wet weight of its own heavy loveliness .
Pale hollyhocks cup bees circling the stiff stigmas untroubled by the slanting rain.
The cat leaves off hunting sparrows sheltering on the bird table, in order to cringe from the low thunder.
Now it is glittering sunshine, now black towering clouds, now the suffocating perfume of budliea breathing through the saturated air.
Will there ever be a day like this again?
I saw this wonderful graffiti this week near a hydroelectric dam on the Rhine river.
I was thinking of it as I watched the sky light up over Basel in celebration of Swiss national day this evening.
There are places to watch stars and places to watch fireworks – both are beautiful and both are transitory.
Watching fat flanked trout flick in a clear stream as evening fell, reminded me of the lines from the Kipling poem The way through the woods:
“when the night air cools on the trout ringed pool,
where the otter whistles his mate,
(they fear not men in the woods because they see so few..)”
I love the repeated oo sound, which makes the line so wonderfully peaceful and elongated like a sigh of satisfaction.
As with all poems worth loving, you should read this aloud to yourself, just to feel the words roll in your mouth. Enjoy!
The Road through the Woods.
THEY shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.
Walking by the edge of an old duck pond , the shadowed earth between the grass shivered. A tiny vibration of stalks and a sense that the ground was spotted with raindrops falling upwards: the frogs had emerged.
Great lumbering things that we are, we minced and high footed our way, conscious at once of our potential to massacre with each clumsy foot fall.
This single froglet rested momentarily in an outstretched hand. Its pin prick heart beating blood around around this minuscule body; nerves registering our heat, eyes wide to the boundless ocean of our enormous flesh.
Two animals together for a single heartbeat next to an old duck pond in the July shade.
Today was the sound of kestrels learning to fly, keening, crying , mewing, mewling, over and over as they flopped and fell and soared and swooped for the very first time out of crowed malodorous nests in dark church towers out, out into the wide blue sky flying with clouds and martins and jackdaws and the clacking of stork bills and the unrepeatable perfume of lime trees in flower for the first time, the first time, the very, very, first time in to the new world.
Heavy rain brings quiet mornings.
Snakes of pine needles on the path show where water flowed in the night.
Poppies are slow to open in the cool hours and there is time to watch them shrugging off their sepals to expose their dark hearts to the hungry bees.
Droplets cling to the folds of lady’s mantle leaves – the name from the shape of the folds in the Virgin Mary’s cloak.
And the birds: such a rich waterfall of music from the birds, as they take the cloudy day for dawn and sing each fresh washed note over and over again.
The Lady of Shallot by Lord Tennyson
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
In the summer a stand of aspen trees quiver, their leaves dusk and shiver in the slightest breeze and I always think of these lovely lines from Tennyson’s famous poem. I saw the first wild cherry blossom today in a sheltered bend in the river, but we are still a long way from leaves, so I thought I would share a photo of the unexpectedly bright green catkins of the aspen sharing a branch with mistletoe, as winter and spring swap places.
Over the garden a red kite mewling like a kitten, so close I could reach out my hand and brush the polished perfect feathers.
Kite silhouette again the racing blue sky, the cat crouches low and the bird is gone, piping and laughing into the clouds.
And now another and another.
They twist around each other, wings touching the roof tops delighting in the fitful wind, hail flung after them and the sunlight chasing them.
Flame forked tails angle and the birds turn, quartering the spring sky into slabs of changing colour. Four birds over my tiny garden, calling to each other for the whole spring day.
Flirting, testing partners, laughing: dancing.