The wind just came as a howling blast, those little birds darting for cover like darts flying into our unkempt hedge row, swinging snow spins round the open spaces of the lawn and between white covered borders, as the wind growls its presence, making spindly witches fingers twigs sway and bow, those little feathered darts safe in the hawthorn hedge row thickness till bluster passes for a short time. Just as quickly they dart to more exposed trees and bushes where moulding suet cakes hang to be pecked a thousand times or more, and man-made mesh tubes dispensers for the asking bountiful bird banquets to all comers.
The snow bleached garden, 6 inches deep or more, hiding all former colours, is still home to woodpeckers, blackbirds, sparrows, finches, to name but a sample, with investigative rabbits hoping to find edible greenery beneath the white duvet. Tantalisingly there are other casts of prints pressed into their carpet, hare’s with droopy comic ears for sure, but maybe those secretive of garden visitors too, the beefy big badger and the reddish forsaken fox. Detective skills are helped as one opens the garden wildlife book, browsing through flowers, butterflies and so many brilliantly attracting images till mammals reached once, just once the rarest of visitors wandered through our garden from countryside only a few manicured garden metres away, a family of roe deer too shelter for a few moments, perhaps to gather strength or agree the next directions to forage, who is to know the thoughts and machinations of such splendour; we were captivated, blessed to have these visitors even though only for a few minutes that passed like seconds, till they slowly blended into the hedge’s gap and vanished swiftly. Yet although they were gone they kept vigilance for a while to come, until other more modern distractions became our focus. Yet I think of those few minutes and give thanks for them, as such a rare occurrence had not happened before or since, this family of ‘Bambi’s’ blessed us and set in memory the fondest of images scarred in such pleasure. Every day, every single day, I look to the far hedgerow and hope they will come back again, moving swiftly and silently, using our garden as a brief moment of safety to gather their thoughts. Perhaps even a short cut or shelter, perhaps one day we will be blessed yet again.
Images of weasels, stouts and mice stand out from the pages to bring my attention back to the references I am looking for, but then a smile and a drawing of my hands together as I place it back on the shelf, as I rather just like to imagine and not to know for sure. These mysterious prints all my imagination to wonder and wander, and that’s far more enjoyable than glossy images and hard type-faced facts. My gaze is again pulled to the large window framed in tied and tethered cream drapery, feather darts flash by zagging, zipping, twisting, zigging, never fly straight but always purposeful to take food or find cover from dangers unseen by my eye but real to these small, beautiful, feather ball creatures of mother nature at her best. Against the dull of winter and the blankets of white their colours radiate, finches, greens, reds and browns; the black body and pinch of yellow beak start against the snow the hopping blackbird; the spotted browns of thrushes in and out of hedge rows; the most glamorous of all colours ping against the fresh white with blues, blacks and framed
Then strolls by the garden thug, commanding British superiority of size and colours, almost oblivious to the hunting season risk it runs being out in the open, the menace to many a wood dove the pompous pondering pheasant male, staying close to his hidden hareem, obviously demonstrating more sense than the males compulsion to strut till shot and hung for Christmas brace his biological imperative to attract more hareem hens no defence against ballistic buck shot.
Another gust of wind that is full of roar and rumble but has no actual physical visible presence, bending branches, creaking and cracking the old ash, bristling the conifer cone till it releases its covering of snow to show again its dark lush green coat of always evergreen at this time of the year there is no possible way to see if the ravages of ‘Die-Back’ has reached these mighty ancestral ash, that have such presence and have seen so many generations of people come and go from this plot, keeping an unseen record of time in its rings, not ready to show them yet I hope. Even with these gnarled and twisted giants of the hedge row, casting their mighty shadows over the white fluff blanketing the garden, these timeless recorders of manmade air and pollutions.
Spreading out, reaching, out, buckling this way and that, bending up, twisting back, reaching into every space, connecting every gap into a wooden web of tentacles, 3 dimensional natural complexity beyond the capability of any engineer or architect to have conceived or penned. Every branch ended in this ever finer, every thinner, every forming complexity till capped with dark hardened buds all ready to burst into unfurling leaves, shaped clothed of darkened green to herald and celebrate spring to come. These interwoven wooden threads reaching down to weave with the hedge row below in an intimate of ways, perhaps for centuries past, before there was even a reed for a hedge, before the reed for defining my plot or yours, these once uninterrupted expanses where my giants would have stood alone or with their elders now cleared for arable, tractor and man’s garden centre ornaments placed on false lawns were once may have been meadow grasses.
But the very best, the vibrant red, black and white that pleases me and makes me smile every single time I view them, is the majestic woodpecker. I sometimes feel they must have awareness of time that goes beyond our watches and clocks that drip time away, as they appear at 11:20am and 1:40pm every day. The colours so bright against the white of bird cake they skilfully hang from, feast from, glorious to watch. I feel so privileged to be visited by all these wondrous creatures of Mother Nature’s design, whether Darwin, God or combination of both, I am so very humbled by their beauty, their aerial antics, their grace and fragility, yes I am humbled.