The new Featured Writer is Gill McEvoy and her award-winning poetry.
Rebecca’s Dartmoor Diary March 6th
As the sky lark is to the sky over moorland and rough field, so the dipper is to the river. Not ornithologically of course but poetically perhaps – a riverlark? Because like the skylark, you hear the dipper before you see it. With its white chin and chest and its dark feathers it remains almost invisible on a rock, looking like the current spilling over a stone. Its call of zit zit is what alerts me to its presence, or the way a splash of white suddenly detaches itself and darts upriver. Or the way it dashes under the surface of the water and pops back out again like a trick of the eye. That’s why it reminds me of the skylark, in and out of its element. Like the dippers who have just started calling while they bob and curtsey on a rock in the middle of the river’s hurley-gush, the skylarks are now taking to the sky over the high moors and singing their up-and-down song.
A pair of crows sat in the old ash tree in the lane. They were preening themselves quite noisily, flapping their flight feathers open to get at their wingpits, spreading out their tail feathers to give them a good shake. They didn’t hesitate at my passing underneath nor at my staring at their purple sheen for a minute as I did so. They are after all in charge of this area and I am not considered a threat: it’s really buzzards they keep watch on and will attack with claw and beak. The crow’s nest last year was in a beech tree at the top of the hill and it was a veritable crow’s nest affair because the tree is hammered by wind like a ship’s mast and yet the assortment of twigs held together without falling apart. Carrion crows mate for life and these two have been there as long as I can remember (or ones very like them). One evening recently just as the stars were coming out even when the sky was still blue I heard them calling each other as they tumbled about together in the sky. I imagined romance in the air. The moon was bright by then and they didn’t seem at all inclined to go home to roost.
The surface of the bog water was twitching and bulging. Wet skin emerged and disappeared again. Frogs were frantically mating and the pool was bursting with frog spawn. Frogs’ eggs are fertilised externally so the male frog clasps the female from underneath and then climbs on to her back. They stay in this embrace or amplexus as it’s called for several days. Out in the bogs on the moor the spawn overflows the small pools. Frogs usually choose still water so the emerging tadpoles aren’t washed away. This does sometimes lead to the frogspawn becoming trapped in a puddle that dries out in a rainless spring. I’ve noticed that almost all the early frogspawn this year has gone white because it was caught in the severe frost and this probably won’t hatch. But much more has appeared in the last fortnight. That’s only one of the many hazards tadpoles have to contend with before any of them reach frogdom.
Feb 29th is a Leap Day. What might you do with the extra day in your life? Perhaps, as you’ve earned it, you can do anything at all that you like…..
I’m going to mark the day with making a phone call to my brother who lives a long way away. I hardly ever see him, and we often forget to talk to each other. But then we do and I remember how much I miss him – my childhood friend, until busy lives got in the way. I might also do a bit of jumping too. happy leap day, Anna x
I would like to leap into the cosmic unknown with my intrepid alter ego – Space Ship Captain Jony Kane and write a piece of flash fiction or a prose-poem (perhaps Captain Jonny will meet up with Major Tom). Elly xxxx
I would like to see the most amazing sunset ever, and linger over it, as I never do.
I would like to put on a wet suit at dawn and swim down the river Dart from the source high on Dartmoor, past where I live, and all the way to the sea, preferably accompanied by a family of wild otters.
To go back in time and be with my now-grown-up children again at all their younger childhood ages. Just ordinary things: holding them until they fall asleep; or sitting at the kitchen table drawing pictures together; or going for walks on a sunny day in nearby fields, to spot dragonflies and butterflies, and have our picnic lunch. Seeing my son’s pride after he got his Explorers badge at Cub Scouts; my eldest daughter dressed up for the school leaver’s ball; my youngest daughter from about age 5, choreographing and perfoming dances for us to watch. All of them as babies. I have travelled to some wonderful places in my life, had all kinds of unique experiences, and have met the most interesting people. But these moments I have described are the ones I would have again. No contest.
If magic’s allowed – I’d like to be someone else for the day. Obviously, I’d like it to be someone nice, but the whole point is to experience the world through completely different eyes. As writers, we try to see the world from other perspectives, but what would the reality be like? We say to people ‘I understand’; we think we know someone else’s experience, but how different is it looking out from a different perspective? I’d love to know. Or would I? I might be desperate to get back. But what if I wanted to stay?
Lindsey Stanberry Flynn.