Over the last ten weeks I have been watching for signs of spring and this movie records the beautiful emergence and celebration of life. I can't think of a more fitting and uplifting piece of music to play than Vivaldi's 4 seasons - spring - this version by Max Richter.
Every year the Canada geese return in late February and begin the messy business of staking a claim to the territory. This year I recorded some of the skirmishes between the dominant pair and intruders. I think o this occasion it might have been three young males who had a go at trying to take over the pond and garden. It's another sign that spring is here.
This year has been unusual because the battle for the territory has been sustained for over 6 weeks. Even now there are two pairs of geese in the garden and everyday there are confrontations. However, One pair does appear to have established themselves on the pond, which means they will soon be nesting on the small island.
Over the last few days I have caught the squirrels and pheasants having breakfast on and off the bird table outside our kitchen window.
I don't often write about the wider context of my garden, although the sunrises and sunsets I have been describing sets it in the wider context of the sky. Following the snow it has been very cold but the sun is shining and it is the first mild day for a week so I was feeling the pull of, ‘the exercise will make me feel good’. But I also had a purpose – someone on the Whats Ap village forum was inviting people to take photos for the village online photo gallery and I had been intending to take some photos for a few days so I thought I would use the opportunity to take my barely worn hiking boots for a walk to take some photos.
I adopted an ‘explorative’ approach, forcing myself to find a footpath I hadn’t trodden before. The fact that it turned out to be a foot deep in mud didn’t matter in my now muddy boots, and neither did the muscle I pulled in my thigh as I climbed over a fence to escape the mud, because, looking back I saw views of the hills behind my house that I had not seen before. The steep white face is the most striking feature for miles around. I have lived here for nearly 16 years and I always look for this feature as I get close to home because it triggers in me a sense of ‘I belong here and not somewhere else’.
As I walked along the muddy track across the fields, I began to reminisce. I have always found any sort of movement a great stimulus for imagining and as I thought about belonging, into my mind came images of some of the places I had grown up and lived in – some more vivid than others but all had been part of who I am. This sort of knowing stays deeply embedded in who we are.
As I walked I listened to the sounds around me – the heavy earth moving equipment in the sand quarry I couldn’t see, dogs barking, rooks squawking and more. I took photos of things that meant something to me. I passed the village school where my youngest daughter went when we first moved here. I looked back along the track to the hills one of my favourite views and one I have tried to paint. I walked through the graveyard where my wife’s first husband is buried and walked along the ’coffin road’ which had carried the dead from the next village to the church before the village next door had a church. This small but ancient village was mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1086) and a church has stood on this spot since Saxon times. The present church St Michael’s was built in the 13th century and I am conscious from the eroded tombstones that I am sharing this space with people who lived centuries ago.
I passed our local pub where, before the pandemic we would sit and chat next to the open fire in the winter and in the garden in the summer. This has been a public meeting place for centuries.
I walked down to the river whose banks were covered in snowdrops. I noticed a World War II pillbox overgrown with ivy and being reclaimed by the landscape. I wondered, as I always do, why would anyone build one here? Was it a psychological fortification?
I heard running water and was curious to know what lay behind a high wooden fence. I found a hole conveniently at eye level and saw that a large lake had been constructed with a weir. I had never seen it before in all the time I had lived here. I am sure if I had been a boy here I would have known every inch of this place. When I got home I assembled the photos I had taken into a short movie and found some music to accompany me on my virtual walk. I noticed how just watching my movie made me feel happy.
In a Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005), Rebecca Solnit wrote of the places in which one’s life is lived: ‘They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you, and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and in the end what possesses you.’ I am a Mancunian by birth but the twists and turns of my life brought me, through my history of events and travels to this place in the Surrey Hills.
I know, at least for now, I belong here, sandwiched between Chalk Mountain and the River Mole. But we have talked about ‘down-sizing’ and eventually the time will come when the reasons for moving will outweigh those for staying. I know from past experience that giving up a place where you feel you belong is not an easy thing to do. It is associated with a sense of loss and sometimes identity if a role has been lost too.
Learning about a place and developing a sense of belonging is a complex thing. It takes time and it involves lots of experiences, and the development of a history of being in a place which is entangled with the history of the people we know and care about in that place. It is a mix of knowings and feelings that is not something that can be learned easily or quickly. It is something that has to be lived and experienced through the ups and downs of life and through particular events that make up our life in the landscape of a particular place. The muddy walk I have just taken is one of the ways I have come to know what it means to belong to this place.
This one is a cracker. My brother said it reminded him of the bushfires near where he lived in Australie.
The skies are as much a part of the garden as the plants and animals in it. The sky sets the mood and provides a backdrop for the trees. Its dynamic especially at sunrise and sunset when in the space of 30 to 40 minutes the light and colours continuously change.
The following Sunday my wife decided we were going to have an arts & crafts afternoon so I got out my photo and had a go with some oils and kitchen towel.
I spent the morning on a walk with my grandson who has all the makings of a natural scientist. Its the half term holiday and he has decided to make a project around studying mushrooms. Hemade himself a notebook and over the week on many walks he has found and photographed over 20 different mushrooms. Today he taught me what he had found out during a walk around bluebell woods. I learnt a lot and I was inspired to turn my photos into a movie. This weekend I'm going to hunt for them in my own garden.
For a long time I have been trying, without success, to observe a dragon fly emerging from the pond as a nymph and turning into an insect. This weekend my 7 year old grandson spotted this magical act and I made a movie to celebrate the event.
This weekend also saw the departure of our wild Canada geese. A only saw them fly once but that was enough and after 6 months of living with us they flew off without saying good bye.
But as one animal leaves another arrives. Since the new fence along the railway was constructed I was worried that we wouldn't have any deer but this week a beautiful doe arrived.
In his book "The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks.", Joshua Ramos
talks about a seventh sense, “the ability to look at any object and see the way in which it is changed by connection.” This sense is entirely dependent on our ability to see through our imagination. I find the idea of imagination as a sense to help us transform the objects and materials in the world around us really exciting. Perhaps also the seventh sense that JR refers to is also "the ability to see the world as any object sees and experiences it."riences it and see the way in which we are changed by connection.”
I think my garden videos are about me trying to see the world from the persepctive of the living things that are my subject. In thelast few weeks we have been blown away by tye beauty and grace of the oxeye daisies that weem to sprout from the lawn if I do not cut it.