The osprey nest in the Highlands of Scotland continues to thrive. The father catches and delivers copious amounts of fish for his wife and three babies. The chicks are now over a month old and have mostly lost their down and gained their pin feathers. They’re tentatively stretching and, on occasion, flapping their prototype wings. It’s such a happy family. The mother still broods them if the weather is bad, but they’re really far too big to all fit underneath her now. Sometimes they just manage to get their heads under her body leaving the rest of them sticking out in the rain. My insider knowledge of the Scottish nest helps me imagine what’s going on with my resident blackbird pair, who are currently raising their second brood in a bush right next to the house. I watched in delight as both parents brought worms and food to the nest in April, and now I have the pleasure of watching again as they bring up their second lot, mid-June. I can clearly hear the cries of the chicks. There must be three or more. The nice thing about it is that the father blackbird and I have reached an understanding. Every time a magpie comes close he releases a loud alarm call which I always hear since our back door and windows are permanently open, and I immediately rush outside and clap my hands. For some reason this terrifies the magpie but not the blackbird, who doesn’t even blink and stays exactly where he is. We exchange a knowing glance and stand for a few seconds in mutual satisfaction — he on a branch, me on the grass — before I go back inside and he resumes his business collecting worms and defending his territory. Sometimes he sings a beautiful, varied song which totally delights my soul and I stop still and listen in rapt attention. I try and get the kids to pay attention and listen too… but that’s a rare victory. They’re usually glued to their screens, headphones on, unwilling to even press the pause button.
Today, as we walked along a river in the evening sunshine, I realised that the older I become the more fanatical I am about nature and beauty. I complain loudly every time I walk past a tree that’s been pollarded or ‘severed’ as I like to call it. It pains me to see how humans are always seemingly randomly hewing off tree branches, denuding and emasculating them, turning them from magnificent, sweeping, tangled structures into stubby, frilly amputated shapes unnatural in every way. It disgusts me. My eye longs for thick trunks to swell upwards and outwards narrowing gracefully into twisting squiggles, ever smaller and thinner until they naturally end in a leaf. Instead, we find thick trunks callously sliced off, and sprouting out of them like nasty, pathetic hair, lots of thin, leggy twigs where proud branches used to be.
“UGLY!” I’ll shout as I walk by, scowling and staring. “THAT’S THE UGLIEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN.”
My children don’t flinch in embarrassment yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long. Out of respect for them I’m trying to hold in my comments, but occasionally they blurt out, such as this evening when we came upon a once beautiful weeping willow that now looked like a human hand with five fingers, stumpy, stubbed, bare, and subjugated. No leaf or bud, no light green shoot, nothing. It looked like a dead thing. And this is spring!
I honestly can’t find enough words to express my outrage at this human interference, no doubt carried out solely for the reason of saving money, in case in the distant future an aging branch just so happened to fall on someone’s car and the owner sued the council (or whoever owns the land we walked on).
Today Amy had a rehearsal for her Grade 4 ABRSM singing exam at a private mansion. The owner will be Amy’s pianist tomorrow. She’s in her eighties and is absolutely terrified of getting coronavirus. She had all sorts of precautions in place, including a footprint she’d drawn on the floor where Amy should stand – there and nowhere else. I realise singing is classed as a dangerous activity in these crazy times, but I was surprised at how worried she was. I wasn’t even allowed in the building.
It was a nice day so I sat in a chair in the enormous garden. After a few minutes I decided to go for a walk. The garden was large, disappearing invitingly into the distance. A manicured lawn with wavy edges and dwarf apple trees dotted here and there. I noticed an overgrown path leading around the edge, and followed it all the way to the bottom of the garden where it was overgrown. There were piles of grass clippings, dead branches and nettles, and several other trees, one of which was a walnut, laden with fruit. I reached up and gently loosened one from it’s green-brown husk. I’ve had walnuts straight from a tree before. They’re oily and soft, nothing like the dry, dusty specimens you get at supermarkets. When the rehearsal was finished and the pianist and Amy emerged, I mentioned I’d seen the walnuts. I was secretly hoping she’d offer to let me have some, but she seemed almost annoyed that I’d discovered them. She said that they weren’t ripe yet and she’d be collecting them later. We showed ourselves out.
So much bright, warm beauty. It gladdens the heart. I’d love a garden like that. But I’d share my walnuts.