Tag Archives: birds

27 September, Season of Creation: Joys not Promised in my Birth, Izaac Walton.

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A gallant trout

This is from earlier in the Compleat Angler. Piscator lands a trout, his protege, here still called ‘Viator’ or Traveller, is treated to more of his master’s observations and praise of creation.

Piscator: here is a Trout now, and a good one too, if I can but hold him; and two or three turns more will tire him: Now you see he lies still, and the sleight is to land him: Reach me that Landing net: So (Sir) now he is mine own, what say you? is not this worth all my labour?

Viator. On my word Master, this is a gallant Trout; what shall we do with him?

“But turn out of the way a little, good Scholar, towards yonder high hedge: We’ll sit whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn the verdant Meadows.

Look, under that broad Beech tree I sat down when I was last this way a fishing, and the birds in the adjoining Grove seemed to have a friendly contention with an Echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow cave, near to the brow of that Primrose hill; there I sat viewing the Silver streams glide silently towards their centre, the tempestuous Sea, yet sometimes opposed by rugged roots, and pibble stones, which broke their waves, and turned them into some: and sometimes viewing the harmless Lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, whilst others sported themselves in the cheerful Sun; and others were craving comfort from the swollen Udders of their bleating Dams.

As I thus sat, these and other sighs had so fully possessed my soul, that I thought as the Poet has happily expressed it: I was for that time lifted above earth; And possessed joys not promised in my birth.

(from “The Complete Angler 1653” by Izaak Walton)

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26 May: Love’s redeeming work is done

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Jackdaws soaring near Uppermill, Yorkshire.

While they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Acts 1:7.

Charles Wesley wrote many hymns, and this one fits the end of Eastertide, the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus. I like the image of us soaring where Christ has led: on high and beyond. Let us soar now by enjoying as much as we can of what life offers, as Jackdaws, Starlings, Swifts and Seagulls so often seem to celebrate the gift of flight together. Together may we soar when we are called to go above the cloud and the sunset. 

Christ has burst the gates of hell!
Love's redeeming work is done;
fought the fight, the battle won:
lo, our Sun's eclipse is o'er,
lo, he sets in blood no more.
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
death in vain forbids his rise;
Christ has opened paradise.
Lives again our glorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
dying once, he all doth save;
where thy victory, O grave?
Soar we now where Christ has led,
following our exalted Head;
made like him, like him we rise;
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given:
thee we greet triumphant now;
hail, the Resurrection Thou!

                                                   

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21 April: Safe.

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We don’t tend to recycle old posts but this one, from January six years ago, follows well yesterday’s reflection by Emily Dickinson on the forgotten grave. Mary Webb looked forward to her own grave as a haven from the sufferings of this life, especially from the unkindness of other people. Her face was disfigured by Graves’ Disease which can now be successfully treated and she was sensitive about this.

We began the post with another woman’s death and burial.

We buried our friend Mrs O a few days ago. She had a good send-off, the church comfortably full. I was comforted an hour earlier, to see a rainbow, arched over her house as the rain drifted away into the North Sea. A promise that she will not perish! And the thrush and blackbird were singing.

But here is Mary Webb, feeling downhearted as she writes. May she rest in peace and rise in glory!

‘Safe’ by Mary Webb.

Under a blossoming tree
Let me lie down,
With one blackbird to sing to me
In the evenings brown.
Safe from the world’s long importunity –
The endless talk, the critical, sly stare,
The trifling social days – and unaware
Of all the bitter thoughts they have of me,
Low in the grass, deep in the daisies,
I shall sleep sound, safe from their blames and praises.

That is one of Mrs Turnstone’s favourite poems.

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20 February: Over and gone with Edward Thomas.

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Last summer I spotted Helen, a colleague from L’Arche, standing near our gate, staring into the sky. She was watching for swifts, those well-named insect-eating migrants who scream around our homes when the weather brings the flies near enough to the ground. At other times they may be far away or high above the earth, gathering food for their nestlings, but generally in groups. I was able to tell Helen that I generally saw about eight birds flying together. Did I know where they were nesting? I had not observed this, but our neighbourhood has many late 19th Century houses with gaps under the roof sufficient for swifts to enter and breed. However it’s not easy to identify the spot where they get in, so a census is difficult to take. But there are roughly half as many swifts as there were 20 years ago.

Another time we met outside Saint Dunstan’s church, where there are swift nesting boxes on the outside wall of the church hall. In the few minutes we stood there, we observed no birds going in or out. Past experience suggests that a new-smelling box will not be used in its first year, so no need to despair there.

Other local birds are really ‘over and gone’, and not just for one winter; especially the house martin, another migrant fly-eater. To think: they nested in this street when we moved here, but one house had table tennis balls hung from the eaves to deter martins from building their mud-brick houses and, yes, dropping their excrement on the path below, but even so.

The RSPB tell how to make a swift box here. We are sharing this now to allow readers in Europe time to make and install boxes before the swifts return.

How at Once by Edward Thomas

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.

(from "Poems" by Edward Thomas)

Swift By Paweł Kuźniar (Jojo_1, Jojo) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=962740

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3 February: Winter Rain

A jolly, hopeful poem from Christina Rossetti. Laudato Si’.

Every valley drinks,
Every dell and hollow:
Where the kind rain sinks and sinks,
Green of Spring will follow.

 Yet a lapse of weeks
Buds will burst their edges,
Strip their wool-coats, glue-coats, streaks,
In the woods and hedges;

 Weave a bower of love
For birds to meet each other,
Weave a canopy above
Nest and egg and mother.

 But for fattening rain
We should have no flowers,
Never a bud or leaf again
But for soaking showers;

 Never a mated bird
In the rocking tree-tops,
Never indeed a flock or herd
To graze upon the lea-crops.

 Lambs so woolly white,
Sheep the sun-bright leas on,
They could have no grass to bite
But for rain in season.
 
We should find no moss
In the shadiest places,
Find no waving meadow-grass
Pied with broad-eyed daisies;

 But miles of barren sand,
With never a son or daughter,
Not a lily on the land,
Or lily on the water.

(from "Poems" by Christina Georgina Rossetti)

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31 January: Do we really make new ‘discoveries’?

I turned the corner into our street; at almost 4.00 p.m. dusk was falling, so why was a woman crouched down outside the piano workshop looking through her phone towards the dental surgery? Surely not to capture their new paint job, which needs a few brush strokes where the scaffold had stood.

A jerky movement in front of the photographer revealed a pied wagtail, rather whiter about the head than this one, maybe three metres away from her. She will have gone home happy for having seen this trusting creature up close and personal, and at least having tried to take its picture.

And so did I rejoice in bird and birder! Well, I had discovered something of human nature as well as having a good look at the wagtail.

Father James Kurzynski in his blog for the Vatican Observatory, questions the use of three verbs in this short piece: capture, take, and discover. ‘Capture’ and ‘take’ both have hints of violence and taking possession of something. ‘Discover’ – did I dis-cover something or was I made aware of it? Was it rather revealed to me? My smile was real enough.

You will smile more than once reading Fr James’s article, I promise.

Pied wagtail by Charles J Sharp, Sharp Photography

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12 December: A Minor Bird

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I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

Robert Frost.

Photo by Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons, male Eurasian Blackcap in Staffordshire, England.

Down at L’Arche Kent’s Glebe garden the other day it was coffee time. My friend said that he hadn’t seen our robin for a couple of weeks, only for the redbreast to burst into song a few metres away in the cypress tree. No chance of spotting him in there.

More than a few years ago my brother became frustrated with the collared doves, billing and cooing right outside his bedroom window; since they were in a yew tree there was no spotting them either. Relief came when the black silkie bantam took her brood to roost in the yew. All attempts to bring them down simply made them hop up higher, as they would have done in the jungle. But they displaced the doves, and my brother could sleep on those light summer mornings.

Too many songs have been silenced as we have desecrated our Mother Earth. Could you buy or make someone a bird nesting box this Christmas?

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November 17: There’s nothing like the sun.

Sweet last-left damsons.
There's nothing like the sun as the year dies,
Kind as it can be, this world being made so,
To stones and men and beasts and birds and flies,
To all things that it touches except snow,
Whether on mountain side or street of town.
The south wall warms me: November has begun,
Yet never shone the sun as fair as now
While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough
With spangles of the morning's storm drop down
Because the starling shakes it, whistling what
Once swallows sang. But I have not forgot
That there is nothing, too, like March's sun,
Like April's, or July's, or June's, or May's,
Or January's, or February's, great days:
And August, September, October, and December
Have equal days, all different from November.
No day of any month but I have said—
Or, if I could live long enough, should say—
"There's nothing like the sun that shines to-day."
There's nothing like the sun till we are dead.

Edward Thomas.

Edward Thomas challenged his melancholy by getting out of doors, with friends such as Robert Frost but often enough alone. November sun in England, especially against a south wall, or south cliff, is warming. Mid-November last year we went walking and foraged damsons, sweeter than they would have been a month earlier, but recorded that in prose, not poetry.

‘There’s nothing like the sun till we are dead’, and then? Why then we shall learn who the sun is like.

And there shall be no night there; 
and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; 
for the Lord God giveth them light: 
and they shall reign for ever and ever. 
                                                                                    Revelation 22:5.

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29 September: Autumn at the car park.

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We are moving slowly, gently, through Autumn into winter again. I passed this spot the other evening: it’s no longer a car park, but has been adopted by skate-boarders and roller skaters for practising their skills. The trees and bushes behind the railway fence are as inaccessible to humans as ever so provide safe roosting for little birds through the dark nights. Even our messiest corners can be used creatively by other creatures.

Last year we had the sparrows in residence, last week it was the starlings, chuckling away in chorus as I walked by. They were close at hand but out of sight in the gloaming, so here they are getting together one afternoon before flying off to gather in greater numbers on their way to the roost.

Follow this link for a previous reflection from this car park.

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20 August: A little cool air seeps in.

It’s the feast of Saint Bernard, one of the founding fathers of the Cistercian reform of monastic life. Our reflection is from Thomas Merton, writing in 1952. The celebration of the Eucharist has changed in religious communities as much, if not more than in parishes; there is one Community Mass each day, but there is still room for silence with God.

Our picture is from the trailer for Outside the City, a film by Nick Hamer about the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard’s Abbey in Leicestershire. Read on for Thomas Merton’s reflection on this day.

This week it is my turn to say the brothers’ Communion Mass, Our Lady’s Mass. It is always a Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin, always the same. I like it that way.

In the summer time, this Mass is said at three o’clock in the morning. So I leave the choir after morning meditation to go and say it while the rest of the monks recite Matins and Lauds. I generally finish the brothers’ Communions by the end of the second nocturne, and then go off into the back sacristy and kneel in the dark behind the relic case next to Saint Malachy’s altar, while the sky grows pale outside over the forest and a little cool air seeps in through the slats of the broken shutters.

The birds sing, and the crickets sing, and one priest is silent with God.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, Hollis & Carter, London, 1953, p336.

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