Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On Birds and smellsS

(Originally written yesterday)
It’s about half past seven in the evening, the cicadas are already out, the sun has just this minute set behind the mountain and there’s an all pervading smell of cut grass in the air. One of the finest perfumes known to man in my opinion. Very strong. It’s a quiet evening and like every balmy evening in this season the cows roar and bellow and moo as they come home from the fields. Standing on the balcony which overlooks the wood there is a robin sitting on a bouncing branch. Within five minutes I see a redstart, a wren, a chaffinch, a bullfinch, nuthatch, long-tailed tit, blue tit, coal tit and what looked like a tree creeper in the distance. I don’t know if it’s just today or if it is something that happens often because I’ve never noticed it before but at a certain point all the little birds that have been tweeting like crazy all day shut the hell up for a while leaving only the blackbirds calling out merrily. There are always blackbirds here but when all the others birds are silent you notice more how they sing loudly for a minute, then are quiet. In this moment another blackbird will sing and then be silent and another and another until you can pinpoint quite accurately where the various birds are and therefore presumably, how large their territories are. You can still see the little birds flitting about but they are not making any noise. Another interesting sound in the evenings is the buzzing made by the solitary bees as they hover around their holes in the stone walls. The front of the house, with it’s old plaster gives them plenty of space to occupy and the walls after having the sun on them all day are radiating heat which they seem to like. I don’t like bees in general but these mind their own business and seem quite friendly.
Somebody obviously has a bonfire going somewhere because although I can’t see any smoke an occasional waft of burning grass arrives on the breeze
There aren’t many flowering bushes at the Vignassa as the place was uninhabited for 30 years and anyway the owners probably had more practical things in mind like food.
We only have one little lilac tree, smothered by a blackthorn. There are only about 6 or 7 blooms on it but they are really perfumed blooms and when the breeze changes direction the beautiful perfume gets wafted around a considerable distance.
As the sky starts to get darker the little birds, as if there were some kind of tacit agreement, start up again and the blackbirds move into clucking phase. There’s a lot of life going on but things slowly wind down and the Tawney owls starts calling. At a certain point I’m sure I heard the cuckoo way off. It arrived the afternoon I was spinning. Spring ladies and gentlemen!
Though the changes from day to night are quite gradual just as the village clock strikes eight, which for years always meant that it was quarter to, but they seem to have put it right at last, the breeze changes direction. It does this twice a day, up during the day and down during the night. It’s quite odd if you’re not expecting it because it happens in the space of only a few seconds. One second it’s wafting the smell of cut grass and cows up and then next you get thyme coming down from the field behind the house and then as the breeze gets stronger the smoke from the chimney is wafted down over the house putting an end to the evenings magic.
Then the moths come out, the cicadas get louder, the temperature drops a little and I have to go into the kitchen to throw out ‘Small’; the ground beetle in Winnie the Pooh which has strolled in through the open door.
When I used to live with my semi-daughters, we lived high up deep in the woods. Because the house was always full of critters to stop the wee’uns from fretting every time they found a spider or a beetle in the house we gave everything a name. Albert the slug, Marjorie the mini spider, Massimo the maxi spider, Small the ground beetle and so on. Kids are so trusting (read gullible) that for years every time there was somebody in the bathroom it was ‘Who’s that? Is that Bob or Henry?’ It may sound funny but it worked. They got to know them and their presence became almost normal and no longer frightening. It also got me looking really closely at insects to see if Bob was in fact different to Henry in any way. Kids see great detail and funnily enough they taught me a lot about insects just by their asking ‘Who?’ and telling me that ‘no that was Barney Mcgrew not Bob because Bob had a dimpled carpace’.
Anyway, as I carefully drop Small into the leaves and hear him rustle away the smell of basmati rice and seitan, (wot, again!?) draws me into the kitchen putting an end to countryside musings as stomach filling reality sets in again. Light and noise and colour and a couple of episodes of Little Britain with Italian subtitles for the wife.

No comments: