Is there anything more calming than the gentle patter of rain?
The flautist on the branch had heralded the downpour with his trill repertoire. The cock blackbird is rarely wrong when it comes to forecasting precipitation. As the gun-metal grey clouds rolled across, I donned my wet gear and slipped a leash on Charlie the Cocker. After weeks of drought conditions, a stroll in a gentle shower would be a welcome change. Socially-distanced and within recommended protocols of course. And for once, we had the footpaths and tracks to ourselves. Self-isolation exercisers are fair-weather folk, it would seem. No lycra in sight today. No double trekking-poles or chihuahuas being carried ‘lest they sting their little paws’, poor things. I bet that wonderful old gentleman, Captain Tom Moore, was still lapping his garden. A hero of the time with his magnificent fundraising achievements. Happy 100th, Sir Tom? I do hope so.
You will see among the pages on this website that I’ve started a new photo-gallery and titled it ‘Lockdown Safari’. It contains photo’s taken while on my daily walks, local to my Norfolk home. For the first time since childhood, I also drew up a list of birds spotted or heard on my daily rambles. Confinement and restriction have conspired to amplify my senses and my appreciation of flora and fauna. Even in the shelter of the garden, the birdsong seems rowdier and the blossom more vivid than I can ever remember. I’ve never felt so lucky to have a garden. Of course, there’s less traffic noise, no airplanes, and few vapour trails. The air feels cleaner and the skies seem clearer.
The absence of my shooting sorties and access to some of Norfolk’s most secluded land has been lamentable but nowhere near the sacrifices being made by front-line staff (and their families) during this awful pandemic. The daily dog walk has become a challenge to look harder and listen more intently for the fauna and flora on my doorstep. To relish the sights and sounds that Nature bestows upon us. Things that we would often have simply passed by or ignored. It brings to mind the W.H. Davies poem ‘Leisure’. “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”. For this is why I now find the time to admire the world around me. The frenetic hamster-wheel of work and duty has been temporarily halted. It allows the mind to wash away the clutter of deadlines and tasks. If this is what retirement will feel like in two years time, I can’t wait … but there’s the rub! I need to get there first. There is a reason we should enjoy this sensory abundance now. Carpe diem – seize the day. It’s not morbidity to think that anyone of us could find ourselves lying in an intensive care unit within days. It’s a reality that needs to be embraced but not feared.
That’s why I want to be able to picture the orange tip butterfly on a bloom and hear in my mind that the first cuckoo of spring that stopped me in my tracks yesterday. I want to remember the scent of wild garlic in the wood and the vivid yellow blanket laid out before me; a field of oilseed rape. I want to carry with me the liquid warble of the whitethroat and the vision of buzzards, wheeling their courtship waltz in an azure sky.
Though rueing that the swallows have not yet appeared, now is not a fitting time to be impatient. Now is a time to wake every morning and be thankful. Not just for another day, but also in complete awe of the noble folk carrying us on their shoulders through this troubled time.
Keep the faith and stay safe.
Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, April 2020