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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.


Happy Imbolc, Comrades

Imbolc, by Danielle Barlowe

In Christian circles we might call this time Candlemas, or in my recently-departed home Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau: Mary’s Festival of the Candles in honour of the Virgin Mary. But this season of passing is also rich with connotations of candlelit preparations, purification’s, and hopes for the coming spring. Before the coming of Christianity it was the time to honor the dawn goddess, Bríg, whose provenance included inspiration, poetry, cleansing, smithing and fertility – arts of making and hoping.

I’m touched that in Cymru in particular, Imbolc marked the end of the period of time known as the amser gwylad – the time of keeping vigil through the dark months.

For my own Imbolc, I found myself walking in good company amidst bracing and challenging winds. Mud schlocked thick to my boots, and my head still felt heavy and dark with the amser gwylad. It’s hard to shake off the blanket of winter sometimes – perhaps that dichotomy is something that cultures older than our own knew, as February (in Roman times) was the time that celebrated both the Lupercalia – the festivals of springtime fertility, with the Feralia – the honoring of our dead, and the silent goddess Tacita.

A time of mixed blessings, honorings, and hopeful preparations then – an impulse I feel keenly as we dont so much throw off winter or give up the griefs and stresses of the dark…but instead give them their due, and ask them to move forward with us, into spring. In British traditions, Imbolc was the time that the divine hag and bird-lady the Cailleach, or Caillagh ny Groamagh, walked abroad to collect her firewood.

So, I hope I can be kind to the winter parts of myself, for it too is only seeking warmth.

Happy Imbolc, friends and comrades – i hope that the seeds and projects you have started grow strong.


10:22 Ravenswood

Confirmed. There are two Ravens in my neck of the woods.

Previous sightings have these much maligned birds along the edges of Ceredigion – notably where there are also wildlife reserves (Natur Cymru). I’d been seeing this pair around all winter, and, well, because they’re large and black and our resident crow-family The Gang of Three are also large and black I’d hesitated to call it. Also: I don’t live in the middle of a wildlife reserve, but traditional Welsh farmland (lowland).

But today I was rewarded with a direct overhead sighting, with the Gang of Three attempting to drive them away (it’s nesting season, so competition is fierce).

They’re bigger than you imagine, and look like Kings in their own sky.


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