Life, death and the choruses of dawn

You don’t know how lucky you are.

In my head are two other blog posts, desperate to escape.

One about the futility of life, which features a waking nightmare. I was thinking my last thought, comprising very few words, which rattled around in the empty tin-can of my brain.

The other a tirade. About womanhood, rape, transvestites, transgender women and Grayson Perry’s Great White Male hypothesis.


You have been spared.

For now.

Instead, at Eastertide – that time of lambs, eggs and resurrection (no ‘bunnies’, sorry, they’re not part of my cultural Easter landscape and I prefer the topic of hares – a deep, dark, witch’s-familiar subject of its own) I think it is more appropriate to offer you something more – um – cheerful.

And I promise to try. But success is not guaranteed. Because I’m not feeling chirpy.

The birds, however, are – and the blossom’s looking perky.

As regular readers – well, those of you who don’t skim [I know who you are] – will have read, we suffered a bereavement lately which took my husband home to the USA to be with his family.

I was, therefore, home alone. With a little time to think. And, more importantly, time to sleep late in the morning.

When he’s away I sleep upstairs in our upside-down house, in the den, where we watch television.

In the morning I’m therefore next to the kitchen and can make a cup of tea and return to the sofabed and stare out of the window.

At trees.

Oh joy! Trees. In springtime.

View from sofabed with Zambian birds (wooden) observing British spring


The grass is not frosted, it’s a wealth of pearly dew

On sunny, blue-sky mornings, the trees can be a fretwork. Swiftly changing scenery on nature’s vernal stage.

At night, stars  scintillate behind their moonlit skeletons.

Upstairs I dare to open the window wider than in our ground-floor bedroom.

And there’s one overlooking the trees, which lets in only the natural sounds.

In the morning, birds and bees. At night, wind blowing in from the sea. And occasional Little Owl.

I don’t hear the bats flit. But flit they do.

There’s been much to-ing and fro-ing in my empty-can-of-a-brain these last few months about Nature.

Partly because I’ve been writing a further instalment of my first Mother Nature tale.

Partly because I’ve been watching her. And reading about her.

Spring, I’ve learned, was for centuries the beginning of the English year. Till 1751, in fact.

The Roman occupiers, whose roads we still use, regarded March as the first month of the year. But that wasn’t the reason for the English Christian year-start.

No, March 25th was Lady Day. The day that celebrated the Annunciation – and thus the  conception of Jesus in Mary, his mother.

But. Wind that clock back a bit and it becomes a little less celebratory of motherhood (in my, currently dark, opinion).

The Venerable Bede (born 673 AD), ‘Father of English History’,  believed that 18th March was the date when God began making everything that is, or was, or will be.

Bearing in mind the creation story, this would mean that the sun moon and stars were made – and time began – on 21st March.

That Adam would have sprung to life on 23rd March.

And that the fall, the tempting by the serpent, the eating of that apple, would have been on 25th March. When…

… Mary ‘fell’ pregnant.

Oh, it’s been a long time in the making this woman-blaming thing—

Oops. sorry, wrong blog. Give me a moment.

But one thing I like about this little historical vignette is that it makes the earthly spring a much more cosmic phenomenon.

Set aside the God of the Christians for the moment.

In fact, set aside all gods, of all descriptions.

Flowering currant

We’re now in April, in England. How different the temperature, the weather, the trees, flowers, birds and insects – how different everything is here, from the equal latitude below the Equator.

But, any day now, we hope to see the first swallows. Who have flown thousands of miles from the other place where spring is autumn.

We already have our bumbling bees battering their poor little heads against our windows.

The baby blackbird is flopping around on the grass, being fed by Blackbird Daddy.

Three baby red squirrels have appeared and also – ominously – disappeared.

Periwinkle, winkling

The haze of apple-green froth that laces the trees grows frothier every day.

And on my lonely, somewhat sad and mourning mornings, as I tried to linger with Morpheus, a song would percolate through and serenade me awake.

The dawn chorus.

First a hoarse trill somewhere. Then the silken ripple of the blackbird, the gentle cooing of the (otherwise wretched) wood pigeon, the peeping of the robin, the chittering of the little-brown-jobs and finches, the cawing of the rooks and, occasionally, far above, the lofty wail of the seagulls.

But, there’s another dawn chorus, out there, waking celestial sleepers.

Mere mortals haven’t ears to hear it.

A chorus for a cosmic dawn.

A song sung in space.  Captured by soaring machines, spinning through the universe,  between potential worlds.

Rockets sent by Europe, to listen and to learn.

Here. Listen to the waking universe *

Hope, if not spring, or humans, is eternal.

Happy Easter, everyone.

*It’s actually a recording from the European Space Agency – if you can’t make that one work here’s a You Tube of it –  I prefer the one without pictures so my imagination is free to roam the cosmos 🙂

See the source page and other amazing sounds like the Wailing of the Leonids here     :

This entry was posted in Britain now & then, Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Life, death and the choruses of dawn

  1. MELewis says:

    I don’t generally scan, but I did miss the last post about your loss. ‘Suffered a bereavement’ is eloquent, and allow me express my sincere condolences to you both. I hope that your husband will soon be back to find solace in all that nature springing to view up in your aerie/den. There is so much birdsong at this time that I am often awake before 5 and listening to the concerto.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much, words of condolence mean a lot at such times and I will pass them on.
    ‘Our’ birds, too are awake early (I guess they don’t know about the hour’s difference between your world and mine!). I’m rather glad you have to have special ‘ears’ to hear the dawn chorus from outer space. My sleep is precious!


  3. jilldennison says:

    I know the feeling … trying to write upbeat when your heart really isn’t into it, when you’d much rather write a rant! You did well, though … and I love the pics. Hang in, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jill – and thanks – yes, I’m clinging on by my fingertips! Just been over and read some of yours – excellent as always but, oh, how maddening this world is!
      Thanks for popping by and reading and commenting, much appreciated when you are so busy at all hours of the day and night keeping us informed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        Thank YOU for dropping by … my blogs are not typically the more cheerful, and I would understand if you only read the Monday morning ones! As for me reading yours … your posts always delight me … I just wish I had more time to read other people’s blogs. Sigh. I wonder if I could sue Trump for robbing me of pleasure, not to mention sleep and often meals??? 😀 Keep hanging on there, my friend … I need you to provide me a breath of sanity every now and then! 😀 ❤


        • jilldennison says:

          Tonight I came looking for a post from my friend “husk” … looking for a reason to smile …

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh no! Jill, I am so sorry to disappoint you!
            I saw your post just now… I think you need a spot of Shinrin-Yoku – ‘forest bathing’, Japanese style. Basically immersing yourself in nature… Here are some words I found on a website about it:
            “You didn’t come into this world.
            You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.
            You are not a stranger here.”
            Alan Watts
            I too need some fresh air and sky above and wind in my hair. I’ll wave at you as I walk or cycle later today. Hugs, M.

            Liked by 1 person

            • jilldennison says:

              No worries, dear friend! I survived and am feeling much more myself today! I recently read something about forest bathing … I shall have to check it out!

              The last sentence of the Watts quote … sometimes these days I do feel like I dropped here from some other planet! Thank you for your kind and inspirational words!

              Yes, I did get out for a bit of fresh air, but did not see you go by on your cycle, so I did not wave … kind of hard to wave across that big pond anyway! But I hope you got some wonderful spring air and had a great afternoon! Hugs, my friend!


  4. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    So sorry to hear about your bereavement. Thinking of you and your husband. (I think I missed that post too.) Your photographs are amazing, and I hope you find that Mother Nature around you does something to lift your spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Judy Barnes says:

    Once again, you set a thought provoking theme and take us (certainly me) with you along a new path of discovery and information…. with some beautiful photos. Thank you Mary. We were discussing yesterday why the timing of Easter is governed by the moon…..
    And am with you all the way with rabbits and hares! The three hares are very popular round these Dartmoor parts as I’m sure you know.
    Sorry about the references to sadness and your ’empty can of a brain’? Heaven help the rest of us. (well, certainly me)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Judy, yes, the timing of Easter is – to paraphrase a book I am reading about the seasons – monstrously complicated! When you add into the mix the various changes to the calendar over the years … I regret I started reading it!
      I shall look up the three hares… Am stumbling towards a post on Lancashire and her witches.
      Lovely to hear from you and hope you’re finding some time and space to channel the inspirations of Devon springtime into art.


  6. John Kemp says:

    Still catching up. Yes indeed, struck several birdsong chords, especially non-residents, in particular the nightingale, always the first migrant to arrive and soon present though unseeable singing in bushy patches everywhere. That was more than a month ago and was soon followed by the cuckoo, though its call of course can hardly be called a song. A few swallows passed through on their way farther north a couple of weeks ago and now the swifts have come to stay for the summer, scything through the sky, last, or nearly last to arrive, and first to leave. The last to arrive this year though has been the oriole, which I heard for the first time yesterday out walking; they perch high in the trees in the woods and are difficult to see unless you catch one in flight and follow it to its next perch, their ululating call echoes through the woods. Most years we hear, and I’ve even seen, a hoopoe, though not yet so far this year. The wooden birds outside your top floor window reminded me.
    Where ever do you find all those space sounds?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello John and good to welcome you back again. I owe you an email… I think I saw and heard a whimbrel at the weekend. But there are no witnesses 😉 You are so lucky, I haven’t heard a cuckoo in years. And as for an oriole let alone a Hoopoe – wow! I keep looking at the pictures in the book and hoping … Trouble is I am very slow at observing. Never mind, I am learning. I like the use of scything for a swift – I may have to steal that one day. The wooden birds are Zambian and are inside – I wouldn’t dare leave them outside – they would frighten the locals!
      I’m so glad you mentioned the space sounds, I don’t think anyone else has clicked on them – they came from the European Space Agency, I found them while searching online for sounds from space and the dawn chorus on the same occasion – perfect for my imagination.
      Larry’s back in Zambia, by the way, on a recce for his new 5 year project – I’ll send you a link to the blog that will be keeping tabs on his project when I email.


      • John Kemp says:

        I forgot to mention among the seasonal arrivals the redstart, which has no song at all, just a miserable almost inaudible little cheep, but on rare occasions can be seen chasing flies on our lawn. I look forward to reading about Larry’s project. I’ve more than one recent paper (2013-2015) that remarks on the importance of more genetic studies for elucidating the Tanzania – South Africa pastoral link.

        Liked by 1 person

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