Friday, 27 November 2015

A World of Glass, Sparkling and Motionless . . .

"Warm, orange glow in the afternoon.  The sigh of my feet in the frosted night grass.  Wrap my coat closer, wrap myself into the ground, fold myself into the earth.  As night descends I can hear the shiftless hunting of voles, shrews and mice in the hedge.  And spangled is the only word for this starry night of seeping cold." ~ from Meadowland by John Lewis Stempel - 30 November. 

"It was a world of glass, sparkling and motionless.  Vapours had frozen all over the trees and transformed them into confections of sugar.  Everything was rigid, locked-up and sealed, and when we breathed the air it smelt like needles and stabbed our nostrils and made us sneeze." ~ from Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee.

Winter is slowly sneaking up on us.
Frosty mornings with white roofs and crystal toppings on the cars.  The fields in the distance pale and glistening; leaves rimed with white; pansies drooping in their pots;  the last of the summer flowers blackened and mushy.
I love the sense of stillness with a frost.  The slight cold haze in the sky; the crisp feel to the air; and the grass sugar-coated.

The house takes a while to warm up; I am reluctant to get out from under my quilt as I lay in bed waiting for the sun to come up.  Even so, it is still barely light when I go downstairs to make a pot of tea.
Lorries and cars are already going past making their way to work, and I feel grateful that I don't have to be out there, scraping the windscreen, with the frost biting my ears and fingertips, my breath streaming white in the cold air.

The birds come down early to feed after a cold night shivering in hedgerows and huddling together on branches.
I throw some breakfast crumbs on to the bird table and hurry back indoors; but even before I have taken a few steps, a crow lands, and is pecking away; mouth full before any other bird has a chance.  She usually goes to the bird bath to soak the bread.
This morning it is frozen over.
We fill the feeders daily for our feathered friends - as a thank you for the pleasure that they bring.

A rare sighting in our garden - a Tree Sparrow (centre)

A passel of Long-tailed Tits on the peanuts
"A dozen long-tailed tits flit along the hedgerow, separate yet together, as if connected
to one another by invisible strands of elastic.  When you are close up to a flock of them, the
sense of intimacy is palpable.  It's not quite that they don't notice us, more as if they
don't really care.  They all stick together; as a friend of mine sagely noted, this is the
only small bird that spends Christmas with its family."
~ from Wild Hares and Hummingbirds by Stephen Moss
 Sparrows dominate the feeders but where are the finches? 
"It's murder out, the milkman said.
'Crows worrying the sheep.  Swans frozen in the lake.  And tits dropping dead in mid-air.'  He drank his tea while his eyebrows melted, slapped Dorothy's bottom, and left.
 'The poor, poor birds,' Mother said." ~ from Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee.

Friday, 20 November 2015

When The North Wind Does Blow . . .

Autumn Bench:

You listen to the wind,
How it howls and rumbles round the house.
Wild and savage.
It whines and moans,
Wheedles its way through nooks and crannies,
Rattling doors and windows,
Lashing trees and tossing branches,
Blowing leaves into a flurry.
Look out of the window blurred with sheets of rain,
Sluicing down like a river.
Step out and it whips your hair into a frenzy.
Loud and elemental, exciting and scary,
Chasing black clouds swiftly across the sky.
You close your ears to its fury.
Night falls.
But sleep is impossible.
You wait,
'Til it blows itself out.
Then you notice the quiet.
The storm has passed.
You breathe a sigh of relief.
Close your eyes,
and sleep
last . . .

Autumn Rain.

Friday, 13 November 2015

November is like Marmite - you either love it or hate it

I used to be of the 'hate it' persuasion.  But now I have come to appreciate it a little more.  Still not my favourite month but I am trying to find the positives where I can.

Toasted crumpets for afternoon tea,  dripping with butter and golden honey.
The gossamer threads of a spider's web.
The number of different fungi to be found.
Log fires and tartan blankets.
Warm scarves and gloves.
Knitted sweaters.
Apple pies and crumbles.
The smell of smoke drifting from chimneys.
Crisp mornings and  scarlet sunrise.
Fir cones and chrysanthemums.
Thick socks and boots.
Candles and firelight.
The texture of November is immediately different.  I feel it.  I see it.  The wind is sharper and more determined: it rips the remaining leaves off the trees with a savage bite.  And, in the woods, the leaf matting underfoot is less vibrant - oranges paling to yellow, then dying into browns and blacks.  The rain, too, is colder.  it sticks leaves together, clogging to shoes, slimy, loathsome.  Pathways are unclear - everywhere littered, as the month progresses, with the discarded coats of trees.  The root of the word 'bereft' means 'to be shorn' or 'torn open'.  The November landscape feels bereft to me. - Barney Bardsley

Snatched moments in the garden, working against the dying of the light; in the blustery wind; booted and coated; attempting to put things to rights before the harsher weather sets in - so many jobs still to do.

November is a messy month.  The leaf fall clogs path and pond.  I skimmed the water's surface with a rake, hoiking out thick layers of weed and dead foliage, but taking care to leave some protection for any slumbering pond life - and to decapitate as few frogs as possible.  The light is dying quickly now.  Even by two o'clock the afternoon starts to dim.  I feel less and less incentive for being outside.  There is plenty to do, but decreasing willpower and energy with which to do it. ~ Barney Bardsley

Moving shrubs that have been languishing over summer; giving them more light to thrive.  Staking broccoli plants that are leaning precariously after the gusts of wind have loosened the root balls.  Raking and sweeping leaves - an endless task.

As I worked on the ground at the base of the plants, and dug the neighbouring beds to 'air' the soil, a satisfying bareness emerged.  I love the look of this fallow earth.  It is full of potential.  And restfulness. ~ Barney Bardsley

There is no stopping this relentless march of time.  Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.  Now we look towards a new season starting.  Winter.  Adapting to the difference each season brings requires adjustment.  Working to a new, slower, rhythm; where different routines will occupy our days.

My very heart faints and my whole soul grieves At the moist rich smell of the rotting leaves, And the breath Of the fading edges of box beneath, And the year's last rose. ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson 'Song' 
That's all for now
See you next week
same time
same place

Friday, 6 November 2015

Of Mists and Transformation

"Fog in November, trees have no heads,
Streams only sound, walls suddenly stop
Half-way up hills, the ghost of a man spreads
Dung on dead fields for next year's crop.
I cannot see my hand before my face,
My body does not seem to be my own,
The world becomes a far-off, foreign place,
People are strangers, houses silent, unknown."
 -   Leonard Clark, Fog in November

Sunday was so lovely - sunny and warm.  I took my book and a cup of tea and sat on the bench at the top of the garden.  I held my face up to the sun, and saw the light shining through the leaves on the apple tree.  I stayed there a while soaking up the autumn warmth; not knowing that by the next day it would all change.

Fog; thick fog; all that day, and the next, and the next.  The sun tried desperately to break through - unsuccessfully.  As we walked, trees loomed out of the gloom; ghostly, with their branches like witches fingers clawing into the murk.  Everywhere dripping; leaves soggy under foot; just a few leaves hanging on.

But, then the fog dispersed, leaving a rather damp bedraggled world behind. 

Et voila. Decorating finished. Transformation almost complete. A light, bright room.   Just waiting for replacement curtains and blinds to be finished.  I hardly recognise the room; well worth all the time, work and chaos.  No packing cases, everything stowed away and back to normal.  Whew! It's been a long  job.

Oh, and one more thing - I don't know if you remember but this time last year we had our willow tree pruned - this is what it looked like when it had had the chop.

This is what it looks like now - amazing what a difference a year can make.

That's it for now.
See you next week
same time, same place.