It was long after what is technically classed as lunchtime before I got home. It had been a busy morning in spite of playing with the camera in my son’s garden. The day was sunny but windy… a perfect day for a long walk and I had promised the small dog we would have a proper wander when I came home. First, however, I needed bare feet for a while and a coffee. I uploaded the pictures of the flowers, wiped the memory card and put the camera battery, almost dead, on charge… and thought I might as well set about clearing the inbox while I was at it. I had journals to respond to and I wanted to get them done too.
Except, the power went off. After checking the fuse box and the meter it was apparent that it was a power failure… nothing I could do but wait. I drummed my fingers and twiddled my thumbs for ten minutes. I hadn’t even had that coffee yet. The solution was obvious… walk now, coffee later. Ani was ecstatic. I grabbed the camera, hoping the battery would hold out just a little while longer, and we headed off into the spring fields.
Of course, we hadn’t gone more than half a mile or so before we came to the pond and The Incident with the mallard duck. Common sense would have dictated that I head for home, a shower and a change of clothes at this point. But common sense wasn’t walking through an English spring with a laughing dog. You had to see it… I could squelch a mile or two longer. I husbanded the battery on the camera, kicking myself for not buying another spare… hoping it would at least last long enough to capture a fragment of the magic through which we were walking, the small dog and I. As it happened, the battery would not die until I had taken a picture of the final gift of the walk.
American visitors always comment on how green the landscape of England appears. Today the colour of spring is impossible to render … the fields are velvet carpets bordered by frothy white hedgerows full of blackthorn and early cherries. Carpets of celandine gild the borders, punctuated by swathes of dandelions and daisies. Toadflax and bugle, dead nettle and periwinkle… tiny splashes of blue and purple amid the green.
From this magic carpet butterflies rise with almost every step. Tiny brown ones, impossible to identify as they fly and disappear, peacocks, brimstones and orange tips stand out against the green and last year’s vegetation. They are everywhere. So are the bees… a constant humming, almost subliminally playing the soundtrack of summer.
The hills are low here, no more than the gentle curves of the body of a goddess; her perfume the incense of new-mown grass, damp earth and pine. The fields stretch over the land as a counterpane, embroidered with silk and flowers.
Where the hedgerows give way to the tall trees, the next phase of beauty is being prepared. Sycamore are unfurling their leaves, chestnuts holding their candles to the wind… and a rare grove of black poplar provides a stunning backdrop to the white of cherry blossom; petals showering confetti upon the vernal bride. From every tree the birds sing. The whirring wings carry them in search of nesting material and you cannot help but smile at their beaks stuffed full of grass, twigs and feathers.
And then you look up. Above you, the red kites soar in silent beauty. There was a pair of buzzards too. I have almost given up trying to capture them in flight. Almost, but not quite. With a tripod and patience, perhaps I would get that shot, but with a small dog running full pelt on the end of my arm, that is not going to happen and her joy is worth more than a photo.
As we approached the final corner of the fields on our way home a kite flew in low, circled over us and came to land in the pine tree where I know there is a nest. The camera battery was almost gone… almost, but not quite… and once again I came eye to eye with these great birds of prey whose wingspan is far greater than my height. And once again, they saved the best till last.
How can I explain how it feels when these great birds glide down and fly around you? Are there words for that feeling when you are walking with kites, attended by their presence and graced by their wings? If there are, I can find none. Something within rides the wind with them; you see the world through their eyes and their keening pierces your heart.