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Song Carrying

!! Ahhh, Emergence Magazine…

Foraging through the back issues and found this, David G. Haskell on Listening to the Language of Birds. Unsurprising to any solitary readers of this little corner of the webs, I’m a total fan:

The Language if Crows

The Language of Sparrows

Now, full confession: I’m no great twitcher. My human cloth-ears and dulled senses struggle to identify each call, but I dont think you have to be either, in order to start listening, attending, relating to Birdtongue.

Haskell outlines some of the ancient benefits; tuning into notes of alarm or excitement, messages about your surroundings encoded in nature’s twitter and chirrup. Birdcall and birdsilence foretells oncoming storms and the nearness of predators, for example. I remember their sudden, eerie quiet on the rare occasions of solar eclipses, as if the feathered too pay their respect to the moment.

But birdtongue isnt just an Early Warning System (albeit an excellent one)… For myself, it lifts me out of the Cartesian cage. It’s my way ‘in’ – in that David Abrams, Spell of the Sensuous way, into an acutely living and interacting landscape.

Yes, sometimes those birds really are talking to you. 

I remember clearly a sense of excitement and aghast humility when I understood that these beings actually directly relate; shouting for gardening too noisily, or stumbling too near their nest’s… It was like the whole world had been trying to get our attention for a very, very long time, and we had our ears stuffed with cottonbuds.

Paying attention turns the ‘what’ into a ‘who’. Not birds in the plural, but this Sparrow in the particular. This fledgeling Robin, those three Crows being bandits over there.

It turns my surroundings into our neighbourhood, our community.

When we truly envisage ourselves as living in a shared landscape, with all the other forms of being who are Right Now acting according to their own passions and motivations just as we are… Well, it seems only polite to listen. It puts a new perspective on how recklessly we tarmac everything, rip out hedgerows or bulldoze the trees without a thought to who might live there.


Tiny Garden 2020

solar futures

A little embattled with this years’ drought and weather conditions, but this is the latest little garden that I’ve been involved with. Everything is container grown given the patio space, with hastily thrown up pallet-shelves to try and add a bit of vertical gardening into the mix. We’ve got some truly monstrous Partenon Courgettes, Rainbow Chard, Kelvedon Peas, Purple Tee-Pee Beans – and this year also a host of wilder cousins; Yarrow, Vervain, Echinacea, Huauzontle ‘Aztec Broccoli’ and Orach purple salad-green. A lot for a tiny space – but not many plants of each, so requires a lot of tender (somewhat anxious!) care.

I love how particular every garden is, every year. Gardening isn’t just an exercise in optimism,  it’s also an exercise in attention.

Read More →

Earth Day, 2020

Happy Earth Day, from a wayward son.

It is hard to characterize my feelings for this weird little rock today, at a time when so much of our access to it has been curtailed, and so much of it is still so in danger from all of those ills we already know about; the habitat loss, species extinction, acidification, continued extraction, the list goes on and on…

I’m certainly no poet, but I’ve been thinking about this day in terms of belonging, of many multiple belongings perhaps, when I felt like I fitted into some part of this world as thoroughly as an ammonite in rock.

Home is the thick gloop of Estuary flats, sticking like plaster to my calves,

Home is the howl and bite of Irish Sea winds over Welsh hills,

Home is the cloud-scatter and brilliance of a brisk sky;

it is the insect-hum and the canvas of hills that make up the South Downs.

It is the towering countries of cummulonimbus, where a younger me fancied they could see distant lands, towers, mountains.

Home is the bustling (loud!) snort of the hedgehog, and the skitter of the fieldmouse that attended the bird table,

Home is the investigations of bumblebees on the eaves of my current house this spring;

Home is the stillness belonging to mossy boulders and crooked trees in an ancient woodland,

Home is watching and laughing with the coughing, miscreant crows through my window.

Home is feathers and pine-cones, rocks and seeds-to-be-planted. It is the ache of work-worn limbs, chapped lips, and cold ears.

Home is hearing the rains outside; and reading our favourite books, aloud in the dark.



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