The new Featured Writer is Daphne Gloag whose new poetry collection is published by Cinnamon. Beginnings is a like a spiritual and scientific quest in which she looks back at her experiences – her loves, travels, reactions to art – and places them in the context of the cosmos, often in heart-aching dialogue with her late husband.
I should’ve asked Daphne if she has been keeping an eye on March’s Comet Pannstarrs. I haven’t managed to catch a glimpse of it yet but read it is “a speck and not a spectacle”. It was closest to the sun and therefore, for some scientific reason, more visible to us around March 10th. Pannstarrs has taken millions of years to arrive here from the huge Oort comet cloud that surrounds our solar system and having rounded the sun is travelling, degree by degree, to the outer solar system. I read, “It’s getting fainter, but, ironically, its visibility might improve in the last couple of weeks of March as it appears in darker skies.” Not to worry if you miss it, Comet Ison is on its way from that Oort cloud and may yet prove to be the most spectacular of comets and be brighter than the full moon in the autumn…. unless it is burned up by the sun before that.
Today is the Spring Equinox when the night and the day are equally balanced on the scales of the year. The energies of spring seem to me to be surfacing only slowly this year though the light doesn’t mind the cold and the dawn starts early and all that accretion of minutes of light to each succeeding day soon accumulate.
After the frogspawn my first sighting of spring was the pair of ravens who inhabit an old pine forest out on the moors. They were getting themselves ready some weeks ago and even on wet or foggy days I heard them calling each other as they circled the group of trees where they always nest. Unusually, a huge flock of several thousand starlings settled in the fields on the edge of the moor as they carpeted the ground looking for worms. ‘Settled’ isn’t the right word because they rise as one at the slightest sense of doubt in any one individual and whirl like a plume of smoke in the sky before settling in another field, or they gather to sing in tall trees while they decide where to go next. I have not seen so large a flock in this area before and it makes me wonder if perhaps starling numbers are growing. Such beautiful speckled and startling plumage! They have moved on again since then.
On dry mornings I now wake to short bursts of blackbird song though he hasn’t quite got going yet and is maybe only rehearsing his full throated arias. When the sun shines the chaffinches have started to trill their lovely phrases which always seem to end with the words “……its raining”. A blue tit has either decided to do battle with or to court the reflection of itself in the wing mirrors of the car so I have covered them over. Last weekend larks started singing out on the moors and on sunny days they are up there in the sky (though not very high at the moment) with their tails cocked and looking for mates.
Is it my imagination or is the garden full of tiny bits of brightening colour – the pink on the long-tailed tits, the fiery chestnut on the chests of male chaffinches, little flashes of yellow on the siskins, the red face and yellow wing of the goldfinches, the blue and yellow on the tits, the bright beak of the blackbird, the gorgeous orange and blue of the nuthatch with its striking eye stripe, the crimson on the woodpecker’s tail and head. Once or twice, a flock of starlings was singing together in the large sycamore tree sounding just like an orchestra tuning up and it made me feel they are blessing our house with songs from their Scandinavian home.
Here are two signs of spring for you: the red on their fleece is not blood, but red marker pen as each ewe and her lambs are numbered so that Sam, the farmer, knows at a glance which goes with which. Ewes can lose count!