Reflections from a home front: 16
Last Saturday, we ran an event at our local parish church, where people shared all kinds of creative projects they’d been doing during lockdown. All online, of course, via Zoom. ‘Light for Lockdown’ (on the eve of the Solstice) was thus fairly risky in all sorts of ways, but actually came together remarkably well. It turned out people had been busily producing poems, old-fashioned letters, photography, paintings and knitting; they have been practising violin solos, piano duets and choral pieces; they have created community gardens. Of course the acoustic quality of the playing was nowhere near live performance, and photos of woolly hats and mixed borders can’t convey the textures and scents required for a full appreciation. But, somehow, miraculously, spirit transcended technology, and the result was most certainly greater than the sum of its parts.
A couple of people read from books that had assumed fresh significance during this time, one of which was Emma Mitchell’s The Wild Remedy. I hadn’t read it myself but certainly intend to now. For this author’s account of how, in the midst of depression, encounters with nature proved the most effective therapy, seems to touch on the experience so many of us have had in recent months. The selected reading seemed spot-on for this moment. It wasn’t written this year, but could have been:
June is the time when I begin to wish the year would slow down. I want to stretch the growing season out, so that I might more easily absorb the growing abundance of the weeks ahead of midsummer, before the grasses start to become bleached and brown and the year steers towards Autumn. I want to press pause.
I find the changing of the seasons fascinating, beautiful and compelling. For us in Britain, at any rate, nature is the seasons. And I know I’m not alone in having become more acutely aware of the nature’s rolling programme. Perhaps it’s just because we’ve had the time to be out there. Here we press Pause for the next instalment of the sea eagle story. Previously, I wrote, in a poetic flight of fancy, about ospreys patrolling the pond. In the following post, I was very excited to be able to report that a friend told me that they did in fact have sea eagles, more or less outside their house in Petersfield. Shortly after reading about these extraordinary birds, apparently on a day trip from the Isle of Wight, we then took our own day trip to the Norfolk coast – and saw a white-tailed eagle. Definitely. Couldn’t have been anything else. On the drive home, though, I began to doubt my binoculars. I’ve just got sea eagles on the brain, I thought. But then some keen ornithologist friends assured us that birds from Germany and Norway are regularly spotted there. And indeed, the sea eagle website confirmed that the Isle of Wight ones have been seen as far afield as Wolverhampton. (Wolverhampton?!)
Anyway, (Press Play) perhaps it’s because the cleared byways and quelled engines allowed us to see and hear, as if for the first time. Perhaps because we had a sense that, though we were halted in our tracks, nature continued her course. The more the hedgerows changed, the more it felt the year was slipping away. The year the calendar forgot.
Perhaps, too, at some level, we are drawn to the changing seasons because we’re now aware of life changing in a wholesale way. We feel the earth turning. For many of us it’s deeply unsettling. We would like to press Pause. Some days we might even feel like pressing Rewind. But apart from the fact it’s just not an option, to rewind would be to lose perspectives and lessons that might just be the remaking of us. All sorts of initiatives are springing up – just this week, the the BBC’s Rethink, for example – with the aim of taking stock and taking the opportunity of this auspicious moment to pause, to reimagine, to reshape our living. The hope is that seeds sown in lockdown may produce the shoots and fruits of a more sensitive, sustainable future.
Today’s poem took root a couple of weeks ago, when, on my morning meadowside walk, I noticed the first green knots of bramble fruit in the hedgerow. For me this always portends the pencil-sharpening days of September when blackberry picking meant an imminent return to school (though blackberries seem to come much earlier these days). For this week’s audio reading, we have a guest appearance from the Wandering Albatross. When handed the first draft, he immediately read it aloud – and rather well. So there he is.
Walking though the meadows, early June,
It seems a thousand greens have been unleashed.
Burst buds, new wings and every strain increased;
Everything we came for – here so soon.
Among the bramble flowers, the tight green fists
And tiny haws – time’s stealthy infiltrations,
Then the starlings’ minor murmurations
Call to coming mellowness and mists.
All is prequel; all a slow cross-fade.
For longer days to linger here we yearn.
But just as summer finds her stride, nights turn,
Edging out the day: the darkward slide
To winter, where attenuated light
Swells sticky buds and draws the aconite.