April showers

The new Featured Writer is Kiran Millwood Hargrave whose latest collection Last March, published  by Pindrop Press, vividly re-imagines Captain Scott’s journey. This spring, here  and now the sky is a mass of action –clouds dashing by overhead while more are gathering into ominous cumulonimbus with fallstreaks, that look like distant tornadoes but are rain showers; sunlight coming and going; gorse casting its coconut scent to the wind; skylark songs filling the air. From a hawthorn tree a blackbird flutes; from a bare twig a stonechat calls like two pebbles kissing; bumble bees drone as they pass. As if weaving their way through the sun and showers, there falls a familiar twittering I’ve not heard since last summer which makes me look up as a pair of swallows flash by in the sunshine, long tail feathers trailing and tiny red dabs on their throats. They have made it back, having flown through the pages of an atlas – every tiny bone and feather in their fragile bodies wired to journey between their two homes. Not many of them here as yet.

Nearby is a ruined farmhouse. It is located in a time-warp I can’t quite put into words.  There are rumours or scraps of legend about the place: a farmer committed suicide after his gambling debts drove him to despair during the Agricultural Depression in the 1800s and that he left a wife called Nancy with young children trying to scrape a living there; one day they upped-sticks and left; a man lived in the ruins in terrible squalor; two very old ladies used to be dropped off by a taxi once a year in the 1950s and spend a day there – I have found their old folding chair filling a gap in a hedge.  In the spring there are millions of long-stemmed, late-flowering snowdrops and later there are small clumps of unusual and delicate yellow and white narcissi. There is a lime tree, a cultivated pine tree and horse chestnut trees. Not being Dartmoory trees this suggests to me they were planted when there was money about. Unusually, lilac grows in the hedge.  I think I have heard children’s laughter, imagined them swinging from rope swings.  Nowadays, the shell of the house is populated by trees which grow through the foundations and year by year grow taller and taller in their enormous granite-walled container.

A roe stag spends spring and summer evenings lying in the neglected orchard and recently he was there for the first time in months despite the cold wind. His nose is very black and his ears are tipped with white.  He has a distinct look of Bambi but I’ve seen him there for some years so he is no youngster. His fur is still winter-dark but he will become chestnut as his coat changes.  He doesn’t seem to mind my wandering about so long as he can pretend he hasn’t noticed me. I have sat there myself some evenings and watched a young fox walk right past me, seen a baby badger nosing through grass. If you sit still, wild creatures will come.

Last night I thought it better not to disturb the stag, so took my binoculars to search for him from the hill above. I couldn’t see him resting in the lengthening grass and swung my binoculars to scan the orchard and the adjoining fields. I had just concluded I wouldn’t see him if he were settled in behind a hedge until, in the exact spot where I was peering through the lenses, he jumped the bank straight into my view – to graze the grass growing lushly in the rain.  His neck was turning a glowing chestnut.

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About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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4 Responses to April showers

  1. elly says:

    Oh, Becky! Thanks for a great start to my day. I love the stone chat’s call like two pebbles kissing, your relationship with the stage and the old homestead stories. Back in the 1960s, my parents bought the “next door” farm after the owners died (an ancient brother and sister). There was a huge old barn and a once grand old house – both already in major structural disrepair and full of treasures (and/or junk) – because the old siblings had never thrown out anything. They were a source of mystery, imagination (and a bit of danger). Important to me, but like you say, in a way hard to put into words.

  2. elly says:

    p.s. I’ve shared your post with my Facebook friends 🙂

  3. I love this too, Becky, and funnily enough, I was going to comment on the two pebbles kissing! The whole piece is rich in evocative detail, but I particularly liked the house and fox bits.

    • Thanks, Lindsay. Nice to hear from you. I wasn’t sure about the phrase re two pebbles kissing but thought I’d give it a whirl and see what happened! So pleased you noticed it and liked it! Love Becky

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