Nature Notes

The Moon and the Goshawk.

These are strange and unsettling times for us all. I head for the high tops, to clear my head with a clearing storm. I can see it coming; great grey brush strokes drawn down with a broad sweep over the wet page of a lemon-yellow sky.

I decide to cross the unsheltered expanse of the arable field to the wood. I might just make it, but it is hard going. The surface is layered in rocking, ankle-twisting flints the colour of a storm surge. The soil has washed away from under them by a winter’s worth of persistent rain. There is no discernible earth, only knuckle-bone rubble. And nothing between me and the sky.

I stride out as best I can and the field comes alive. Fifty linnets lift, bob and twinkle in the storm-light. Woodpigeons the colour of the approaching sky, clatter up and are joined by a whir of red-legged partridge and a pheasant, coughing alarm – but the latter have come from behind. It is not me and my shingle-rattling progress, then, that is spooking them. I look up, just before the sun is eclipsed by the towering cumulous, and oh! Slicing through the air, a goshawk! It comes right over my head, perhaps twice the height of the trees we are both heading for and is gloriously, breathtakingly unmistakable, all hip heavy and graphite-barred and large. It draws its gliding wings in, picks up speed and dives over the wood.

I look about as if there might be someone to share my excitement with. But there is only me and the sky. With an approaching hiss, the curtain of rain and hail sweeps me into the wood.

It passes quickly and I watch it walk its downpour to blot out Newbury, leaving lights pricking on in its wake.  The storm leaves an extraordinary light behind it. The big cumulous clouds sail on like wet sheets, their backs gilded by the sunset.

The moon has risen into the gold-infused air above the little hidden valley. It is a magical place at the best of times. But tonight, I could imagine white harts and wild horses.

I clump back over the field, cold, wet and exhilarated. With a whoosh that sounds like another sweep of hail, a flock of golden plover come in to roost on the field, fast, low, crying, spinning me round and dropping in like broadcast seed, finding sanctuary here in all this bleakness.

In the wood, winter thrushes are gathered in large numbers, prematurely leafing the trees in silhouette. They babble and chatter like a rushing stream; a sound that seems transmitted on by the telegraph wires – and the satellite moons of the communication tower, to the moon in the sky they might navigate by.

Later the night is full of them leaving. Tomorrow, I will be planting trees at school. Green, hopeful, for the future.

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8 thoughts on “Nature Notes

  1. Wow. That’s some walk, & captured in a lovely piece of writing. Thank you for sharing your excitement so eloquently. And the goshawk! Amazing. (I’ve never seen one).

  2. Hi Nicola, Wonderful to read one of your posts at this surreal time. Not just the clarity of your prose and the rare scenes it conjures, but for a reader, a reassuring sense of normality in receiving a post through e mail and savouring the read. Thank God for nature. It gives us a sense of everyday stability beyond the weird, uncertain fluidity of our human world at the moment. Good for you planting trees. Yes to the future. I’ve an assignment to write at present but can’t wait when I’m done to get out into the garden and plant things too. Very best wishes,

  3. Thank you so much Genny, for such a cheering comment of encouragement. You’re absolutely right, thank God for nature and that stability and feeling of continuity. Hope you got out into the garden to plant! Best wishes, stay safe, Nicola.

  4. Beautiful, wonderful, exhilirating and full of the sights and sounds of the downs in spring. Struggling to cope as we most of us are, it is the telling of stories like this, immediate and atmospheric, rainstorms and moonlight, birdlife and hard flint which help to ground us, calm us, stop the world spinning and quieten our minds. Thank you so much for sending us these delightful messages of life and hope.

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