Tag Archives: birds

12 June: Precious green spaces in the city.

venice.secret.garden1 (2)

Although we visited Saint Mark’s Baslica, I’m not sure a trip to Venice counts as a Pilgrimage. And it did not take so much preparation for just the two of us. Mrs T’s reading before going to Venice was the guidebook and Salley Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel. I’m not sure which was better preparation for our visit. My book made more sense once we were in the city, and helped make sense of the city. Ellis Peters, best known for Cadfael and all things Salopian, wrote Holiday with Violence soon after the Second World War, during which Venice escaped bombing but endured great hardship. There are glimpses of that poverty, of the rundown buildings, and also of the precious green spaces:

She saw in the drowned shade of the little waterways, narrow between high palace walls, the occasional green of trees looking out from secret gardens, in a city where all the rest of the spectrum was spilt recklessly, but green was jealously hoarded.

Such a secret garden can be seen on the background to this picture. Some of these plots had walls surmounted with a hedge of Canary Ivy, home to blackbirds which had their singing posts nearby to celebrate the dawn and dusk chorus, all the more audible with the lack of motor traffic.

If we make room for nature, nature will move in!

Laudato Si!

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces

26 May: Pilgrimage to Canterbury VI: a memory unlocked.

pilgrims way2

I was talking to Rupert, one of our contributors during Lent, at the L’Arche garden this morning. He reassured me that the walk uphill from Dover on the revised route is ‘doable’ if taken steadily, and he knows most of the potential walkers. It will be somewhat steeper than this section of the Pilgrims’ Way on the other side of Canterbury: use your imagination to see the Cathedral, tucked between the distant hills near the centre of the photo!

I have not walked that steep path since Easter some 40 years ago, when a few of the community were living in north Dover. On Maundy Thursday I was helping Sue, a Jewish assistant from Toronto, prepare for a community Passover meal, when we looked out and saw a thrush hopping around a snow covered lawn. (What’s that bird, Maurice? It looks like our Canadian robin but has no red feathers.)

By Easter Monday all was serene and sunny, so Sue and I decided to walk the footpaths to Barfrestone. We were not expecting to negotiate the construction site for the A2 road, but we got over that and arrived in time for our next shift.

At least this time we will be prepared for the busy A2, which carries traffic aiming for the ferries to the continent. The footpath is safely in a tunnel underneath. And it’s ‘doable’!

For Rupert’s posts, enter ‘Before the Cross’ in the Agnellusmirror search box and you’ll find his reflections and a few other people’s.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, L'Arche, PLaces

3 May: Edward Thomas and the swifts.

ceramic.swallow

HOW AT ONCE

How at once should I know,
When stretched in the harvest blue
I saw the swift’s black bow,
That I would not have that view
Another day
Until next May
Again it is due?

The same year after year—
But with the swift alone.
With other things I but fear
That they will be over and done
Suddenly
And I only see
Them to know them gone.

 

Dear melancholy Edward Thomas had great insight that speaks to our age – a century on from his death. The swifts, those fast-flying birds that truly earn their name, come screaming around our house over the summer, often after a couple of short spring-time visits, broken off when the weather turns too cold for their insect prey to fly.

This terracotta bird flies beside our door; it came from Pieve San Lorenzo, a Tuscan village where brown alpine swifts replaced our black ones, but the ladies who sold it assured me it was their look-alike, the swallow. Now there’s a bird we see less of than we did, and the house martin too. I fear that they will be over and done suddenly, and our children’s children will never have known them, only to know them gone.

I miss the martins that used to live in our street, but my children do not remember their nests. At least we can put up boxes for the sparrows and blue tits and leave the doves and pigeons to nest in peace in our trees. 

And we can watch and pray to discern how we can make our town and country a more welcoming place for these living pest controllers. The first thing is to acknowledge that we are all part of God’s creation, and not throw his gift back at him, but Laudato Si!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces, Spring, Summer

25 April: Sing Alleluia!

 

dec 23 pic birds in flightAs she was going out to choir practice one evening in February, Mrs T said, ‘While I’m out you can play any music you like.’ Temptation: I can’t usually get away with Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, for example. Mrs T says that’s fine for the Cathedral, but not for the kitchen or living room. But I was baking and did not want to be changing discs with floury hands, so opted for Through the Night on BBC Sounds.

Brahms was giving me music while I worked when I stopped and listened and paused the music. ‘Our’ blackbird – the one we had last year, with the white chevron on his head – was singing in a neighbour’s fir tree. I left the door open and enjoyed his repertoire until another blackbird’s alarm call silenced him.

I was reminded of my distracted thought at Mass. The image of starlings murmurating, flying in ever changing formation, merged into ‘O filii et filiae’ of Eastertime.  Here are the words. As for musical fireworks, I found the recordings below  – no need to choose between the blackbird and the choir, enjoy them both! And Happy Easter: Christ is risen, Alleluia!

1. O filii et filiae,
Rex caelestis, Rex gloriae,                     morte surrexit hodie, alleluia.

2. Et mane prima sabbati,
ad ostium monumenti
accesserunt discipuli, alleluia.

3. Et Maria Magdalene,
et Jacobi, et Salome,
venerunt corpus ungere, alleluia.

4. In albis sedens Angelus,
praedixit mulieribus:
in Galilaea est Dominus, alleluia.

5. Et Joannes Apostolus
cucurrit Petro citius,
monumento venit prius, alleluia.

6. Discipu lis adstantibus,
in medio stetit Christus,
dicens: Pax vobis omnibus, alleluia.

7. Ut intellexit Didymus,
quia surrexerat Jesus,
remansit fere dubius, alleluia.

8. Vide, Thoma, vide latus,
vide pedes, vide manus,
noli esse incredulus, alleluia.

9. Quando Thomas Christi latus,
pedes vidit atque manus,
Dixit: Tu es Deus meus, alleluia.

10. Beati qui non viderunt,
Et firmiter crediderunt,
vitam aeternam habebunt, alleluia.

11. In hoc festo sanctissimo
sit laus et jubilatio,
benedicamus Domino, alleluia.

12. De quibus nos humillimas
devotas atque debitas

1. O sons and daughters of the King, Whom heavenly hosts in glory sing,  Today the grave has lost its sting! Alleluia!

2. That Easter morn, at break of day,
The faithful women went their way
To seek the tomb where Jesus lay. Alleluia!

3. And Mary Magdalene,
And James, and Salome,
Came to anoint the body, Alleluia!

4. An angel clad in white they see,
Who sits and speaks unto the three,
“Your Lord will go to Galilee.” Alleluia!

5. And the Apostle John
Quickly outran Peter,
And arrived first at the tomb, alleluia.

6. That night the apostles met in fear;
Among them came their master dear
And said, “My peace be with you here.” Alleluia!

7. When Thomas first the tidings heard
That they had seen the risen Lord,
He doubted the disciples’ word. Alleluia!

8. “My pierced side, O Thomas, see,
And look upon my hands, my feet;
Not faithless but believing be.” Alleluia!

9. No longer Thomas then denied;
He saw the feet, the hands, the side;
“You are my Lord and God!” he cried. Alleluia!

10. How blest are they who have not seen
And yet whose faith has constant been,
For they eternal life shall win. Alleluia!

11. On this most holy day of days
Be laud and jubilee and praise:
To God your hearts and voice raise. Alleluia!

12. For which we humbly
dedicated and duly
Give thanks, Alleluia.
Tr. Edward Caswall, apart from vv. 5 & 12.

RSPB recording of   blackbird’s song

Choir of Notre Dame de Paris O filii et filiae

 

Picture from SJC

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter

February 6: And then comes what shall come— Brownings IV.

APRICOT.MAR2017.small

Robert Browning is writing to Elizabeth Barrett, his secret fiancée. She has told him of her dependence on morphine, as prescribed by her doctor, who is reluctant to take her off it, but agrees to do so, ‘slowly and gradually’. Robert is keen for her to get out and about, for she has been housebound for a long time, and offers her some encouragement. He writes this day, February 6, 1846.

‘Slowly and gradually’ what may not be done? Then see the bright weather while I write—lilacs, hawthorn, plum-trees all in bud; elders in leaf, rose-bushes with great red shoots; thrushes, whitethroats, hedge sparrows in full song—there can, let us hope, be nothing worse in store than a sharp wind, a week of it perhaps—and then comes what shall come—”

Elizabeth (‘Ba’) had written of when the drug was prescribed:

I have had restlessness till it made me almost mad: at one time I lost the power of sleeping quite—and even in the day, the continual aching sense of weakness has been intolerable—besides palpitation—as if one’s life, instead of giving movement to the body, were imprisoned undiminished within it, and beating and fluttering impotently to get out, at all the doors and windows. So the medical people gave me morphine, and ever since I have been calling it my amreeta* draught, my elixir,—because the tranquillizing power has been wonderful. Such a nervous system I have—so irritable naturally, and so shattered by various causes, that the need has continued in a degree until now, and it would be dangerous to leave off the calming remedy, Mr. Jago says, except very slowly and gradually.

  • The drink of the Hindu gods, conferring immortality.
 from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846”, available on Kindle or online. 
The Apricot is also in bud now, and will soon flower, leaving us to fret about late frosts killing off the developing fruit. Comes what shall come …

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent, Spring, winter

The Great British Bird Watch 2019

sparrows.jn.2019moorhen.jan.2019woodpigeon.jan_.2019

We  had been looking forward to the Bird Watch since Christmas, so it was good to gather again at the Glebe to see who might fly in.

The moorhen walked in from the river alongside, otherwise the rest flew in. Four robins were twice as many as we might have hoped for. The bird table must be shared territory, but one of them was prepared to chase all comers – except his mate – from the feeder by the river gate. Even the bird table was only grudgingly shared and there were a few ruffled feathers when three or four robins were there together: rights to the table had to be asserted!

watch the dunnock

Watching the Dunnocks

There were at least seven sparrows, that being the most we saw at any one time. I think that was more than last year. The highlight for two of us was seeing a pair of dunnocks. They could manage the feeder but were happier pecking about on the ground. But two dunnocks were two more than last year.

What else? blue tits, great tit, wood pigeon and collared doves, blackbirds, and a blue-green Kubaburra bird flapping his wings and frightening the others away.

Having fed the birds, the humans fed themselves and looked forward to a new season of gardening. Watch the weather and watch this space!

. . .

On my next visit, the first bird I saw was a goldfinch, too late for the survey and too late for the other observers!

Our little contribution to the national survey was science in action. There was also wonder in action: you should have heard people marvelling at the subtle plumage of the dunnocks! And such wonder is prayer in action: Laudato Si! It helps to make it explicit sometimes, as at the end of the day. And to begin with a morning offering:

Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.

                                                                          W.H. Davies.

Photos: top MMB, below Przemek Florek

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry, winter

January 9: Butterflies in Winter!

butterflies at glebe

The village school’s reception class is called the Butterflies, and they brought a hint of Spring to a winter’s day at the L’Arche garden.

The four and five year olds came to learn and exercise a few gardening skills, to meet some of the community and enjoy the winter sunshine. Of course, the sun shines as brightly in the village as in the city. And it’s generally quieter there, unless a tractor or chain saw is on the go. The inner ring road runs roaring past the garden so it’s never really quiet. But we, sometimes grudgingly, ignore it and so did the children, though one boy noticed the trains accelerating from the station, something he would not hear at school.

Everyone noticed the sirens as the two fire engines raced past. Drama that does not happen in the village! I looked up from my planting to see three of the girls, arms linked, dancing in a circle, chanting nee-naw, nee-naw, taking pleasure from the sounds, taking pleasure from being alive on a sunny winter’s day in the youth of the world.

And my mind’s ear remembered the blackbird who lifted a telephone warble into his song, and the thrushes and starlings who also make music of our human racket, even getting me halfway down the garden path to answer a starling’s phone call, and I thought, why not? Why not dance when the world is young, and your friends are around you, and you have a day off from routine, and so much to be grateful for? Words are not always enough.

Admiring the River from a safe distance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, winter

12 December: Beautiful killers and the greatest love.

beach-rye-640x348

September had turned warm again, it was a good day to enjoy a sandwich in sight of the sea near Rye Harbour, and watch the world go by.

There were fewer humans than the last time I was this way, which was in August, but there were plenty of birds, as always. What first caught my eye was a small group of sand martins, swooping and swirling, stirring themselves up for the long flight to Southern Africa. Not quite ready to go yet! Was it a family group, the parents imparting their final advice before taking off in earnest?

A cormorant passed by, purposefully facing the light westerly breeze. A different spectacle altogether: its flying looked like hard work, though we know the grace they acquire as soon as they are in their watery element.

It must have been the frequent sightings of fighter planes this Battle of Britain month that set me comparing the martins to Spitfires, all speed and aerobatics and the cormorant to a ponderous Wellington bomber: killing machines both. So are the martins and cormorant killers, but not of their own kind and no more than necessary to feed  themselves and their children.

We humans know better than that of course.

_______________________________________________

Redemption? Half a mile away is an abandoned wooden hut, the former lifeboat station. It was from here that seventeen men sailed and rowed to their deaths early last century, setting out in a storm to rescue the crew of a stricken ship. They did not know that the men were safely on shore before they set out. Their monument says they were doing their duty.

It was rather the greatest love.

(Another day at the same place.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces

28 July: The Beating Heart of Strasbourg

STRASBG.CATH.ENGRAVING.jpg

The Cathedral is a heart

The Cathedral is a heart.

The tower is a bud.

Have you counted the steps

that lead to the platform?

Every night they become more and more numerous.

They grow.

The tower turns turns

and turns about itself.

It turns, it grows,

it dances with its saints

and the saints dance with their hearts.
Will it fly away with the angels,

the tower of Strasbourg Cathedral?

Strasbourg Cathedral is a swallow.

The swallows

believe in the angels amid the clouds.

The swallows don’t believe in ladders

to climb in the air.

They let themselves fall into the air

into the air interwoven

with the blue of infinity.

Strasbourg Cathedral is a swallow.

She lets herself fall into the winged sky

into the air of the angels.

 

I don’t claim to know what the sculptor Jean Arp meant by this poem; it is a poem that he let fly away once written. I did see an interview where he spoke about the saints on Strasbourg Cathedral. ‘We cannot surpass the work of the old masters’, he said of the cathedral dominating his home town. I read it as a love song.

Mediæval Cathedrals are well-loved. One expression of this is the continuing schedules of works to preserve these treasures, Canterbury always has scaffolding somewhere about its sides. We were not tempted to launch into the air from the roof platform at Strasbourg, but to have built the place so high was an act of faith by the architects, a duc in alto, putting out into the depths of space.

We should imitate Our Lord at his temptations in not taking irresponsible risks to impress the devil in us or in other people, but we should also trust him to hold us safe as we fly, ever in danger of falling, ever seeking the infinite blue of heaven.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

12 July: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXX: His sermon to the birds.

The sermon that Saint Francis preached unto birds was:

“My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and alway in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple raiment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and the valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sew, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits ; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.”

Whenas Saint Francis spake these words to them, those birds began all of them to open their beaks, and stretch their necks, and spread their wings, and reverently bend their heads down to the ground, and by their acts and by their songs to show that the holy Father gave them joy exceeding great. And Saint Francis rejoiced with them, and was glad, and marvelled much at so great a company of birds and their most beautiful diversity and their good heed and sweet friendliness, for the which cause he devoutly praised their Creator in them.

At the last, having ended the preaching. Saint Francis made over them the sign of the cross, and gave them leave to go away; and thereby all the birds with wondrous singing rose up in the air; and then, in the fashion of the cross that Saint Francis had made over them, divided themselves into four parts; and the one part flew toward the East, and the other towards the West, and the other towards the South, and the fourth towards the North, and each flight went on its way singing wondrous songs ; signifying thereby that even as Saint Francis, the standard-bearer of the Cross of Christ, had preached unto them, and made over them the sign of the cross, after the pattern of which they separated themselves unto the four parts of the world: even so the preaching of the Cross of Christ, renewed by Saint Francis, would be carried by him and the brothers throughout all the world; the which brothers, after the fashion of the birds, possessing nothing of their own in this world, commit their lives wholly unto the providence of God.

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections