Thursday, 21 December 2017

WINTER SOLSTICE

I am out early with the dog and my head-torch lights up thousands of tiny water droplets - 100 per cent humidity,  There are beads of water suspended on stock fencing.  Mae'n niwlog.  There's a kind of geographical amnesia when walking in mist - the familiar becomes strange and it is possible to lose one's way, even on familiar paths.  There is a sense of being enclosed, like being on a small island.  The thick fogs of my Midlands childhood were legendary ('pea soupers').  My father would walk the eight and a half miles home from work because public transport had been cancelled.

Gradually the landscape comes alive.  A blackbird sets off its jincking alarm call, rooks start having a conversation in the sycamores at the edge of the field, in the distance I can hear wood pigeons - cooroocoo, cooroo.  Small brown birds flit ahead of us keeping close to the cover of the hedge.  The cockerel at the muddy farm has woken up - insistently.  Now the mist starts to lift - slightly.  Despite the murk I can see bright pinpoints of yellow on gorse bushes along the banks of the lane.  The lower slopes of the hills start to appear, and the low cloud just smirrs the top of Moel y Penmaen at 153 metres.

Traditionally the Winter Solstice is when we welcome (entice) back the light, just a few days before  we celebrate Christmas.

THE CONSOLATION OF LIGHT

Sunset flaring the winter sea
Crescent moon and evening star
Candle flame in a small window.

© Mary Robinson 2017




Sunday, 10 December 2017

Birding the landscape

The fickle British weather has proved me wrong (again).

In my last post I wrote 'There is no snow on the mountains' in my 'Little Egrets' poem.  Very soon afterwards I looked out of my bedroom window and saw that Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) had turned a glittering white overnight.

Yesterday all the surrounding hills and mountains were clothed in snow.  One of the most prominent from this direction is Moel Hebog.  Reading A Journey through Birds by James Macdonald Lockhart I was reminded that hebog is Welsh for a hawk.  This has puzzled me - did this mountain have more hawks than its neighbours?  Then I realised that of course it's because of the shape - its rounded shoulders are like a hawk mantling its wings.  Another name for Snowdon is Eryri.  Eryr is an eagle.  The dramatic triple-peaked ridge that reveals itself when the clouds part is like the outline of a soaring eagle.

In the back of an old Welsh dictionary I found a list of birds' names.  A coot is iâr y gors - 'bog hen', a jay (which I see frequently round here) is sgrech y coed - 'shriek of the wood'.  My favourite is  the dipper aderyn du'r dwr - 'blackbird of the water'.  I like the way the birds' names place them in the landscape.

By happy coincidence the Picador Friday Poem was Kathleen Jamie's 'The Dipper' set in 'winter, near freezing'.  She writes of the bird's 'supple, undammable song', that it 'knows the depth of the river / yet sings of it on land.'  Yes, blackbird of the water.

[You can read the whole poem if you google Picador Friday Poem 8 December 2017.
Apologies to those who know dwr should have a circumflex on the w - and advance thanks to anyone who knows the correct short-cut keys to get it on a Mac!]