After many weeks of dry sunny weather, we’ve now entered a more unsettled time – appropriate considering the political and economic climate. Then of course there’s the very unsettling thoughts of the elephant in the room named Brexit plus the shambolic state of affairs down south and the ever present concern of climate change.
So, the stormy weather – heavy rain and gales fits the current state of affairs. Looking out the other evening, the hills were completely hidden by a thick curtain of darkening storm clouds but the field just beyond our garden was bathed in the golden glow of evening sunlight. The farmer’s beasts seemed content and oblivious to the threatening sky.
Buddhism for Beasts
A leaden curtain masks distant hills,
while in the nearby field, cows graze
in warm evening sunlight –
unmoved by threatening storms.
Zen-like they enjoy the Now
until the one hand clap of thunder .
This is a year that everyone will have a number of reasons to remember. Not least Covid 19, the shambolic state of politics here and elsewhere and the dire state of the economy of so many countries. Then we have the ongoing tragedies of refugees, the rise of anti-semitism, homelessness, climate change – all of which are major problems that seem a long way from being adequately addressed. It’s no wonder that more and more people are finding the natural world can give some moments of joy.
During the long weeks of drought and lockdown, the daytime hours for me have been divided mostly between gardening and taking local walks. The garden has certainly needed the extra attention it’s had this year and it is now becoming more how we want it to be.
However, there are a number of shrubs and trees that were well established when we moved here nearly five years ago. One of these is a very healthy honeysuckle which is right next to the greenhouse. This is significant because apparently honeysuckle is a big attraction for certain insects and especially Elephant Hawk-moths. We have been finding them on our morning visits to check the plants. Presumably, when they land on the honeysuckle, they are attracted by the warmth of the greenhouse.
Deilephila elpenor –
Today, there’s one safely hidden
among strawberry leaves
another, caught in a web
Greenhouse spiders weave
lairs in corners, capturing victims
daily but one, was destined to live.
Largest of moths – caught by a tiny spider,
You free it from sticky tether,
it remains on your hand
Rhubarb pink and green markings,
soft majestic moth,
now on your shoulder, reluctant to move.
Trust from a moth,
a gift you savour.
Along with a group of others, I’m about to embark on studying Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Compared to Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Iliad, Metamorphoses seems to be an easier read. It differs from the familiar epic in that there isn’t one narrator and one main protagonist, there are many stories told by many characters, They are all linked however by the theme of metamorphosis.
In a way this is a good time to be reading this book. We are living through a very strange time – unprecedented is a word I have heard so often in the last four months. We have all been forced to change our lives in a number of ways. Many feel that they have been changed into hermits. Our towns and villages have taken on quite different appearances – once bustling streets are now eerily quiet. We have changed character in the way we relate to others – staying two metres apart, not touching. Yes, our world has indeed been transformed and we can only wonder how it will look in the future.
Even our country’s climate has morphed into a different guise. We have had the wettest February followed by the driest spring and now some of the trees have leaves that are beginning to take on the colours of autumn. Our seasons seem to have lost their distinctive characteristics – another change we are experiencing. At least we haven’t woken to find ourselves as cockroaches like Gregor in Kafka’s novel!
We are living in turbulent times – climatically and politically. We wonder when things are going to settle down, when life will become quieter in every respect. How long do we have to wait for that?
Now more than ever we need to get out and walk – walk amongst the trees and along footpaths and green lanes.
Here, where the mosses are a vibrant green and the paths are carpeted with leaves that glisten after the rain – russet, red, gold – jewels of the forest, the air is filled with scents that send us searching for late season fungi. No purple blewits to be found this week though.
The burns are becoming rushing torrents and only as we turn away into the wood do we experience the quieter peaceful sound of the rain steadily dripping from the branches.
A small flock of jays are disturbed by our presence and fly off calling loudly; guardians of the wood objecting to the rudeness of intruders.