I’ve come to discover that every day and each and every experience contains a handful of gifts but my walk the other morning felt like it contained so many fistfuls of them that I had to laugh, not least because many of these took the form of interactions with a whole menagerie of creatures that were out and about reveling in the glorious spring weather.
The morning was gloriously sunny yet there was one of those therapeutically warm, so deceptively powerful, winds that feel like they are cleansing and shaking-out and clearing everything and the trees were making such music in response. As I turned the corner into the lane where I park my car by the old churchyard, I was forced to slow to below walking pace to allow two plump partridge hens to scurry to the nearest gateway, then while I was paused patiently behind them, waiting for them to make that final turn into a safe corner, a snowy-tailed baby bunny hop-alonged into a gap in the hedgerow. Nature’s early morning show was underway before I even left my car.
As I rounded the corner by the stile into the meadow down by the river, three disengaged heads were sticking out and seemingly gliding above the long grass quite some distance from the water’s edge…one white, two dark; such a comical sight, these were three ducks taking advantage of a pool of residual floodwater in the field for their early morning bathe. The sky was full of the first house martins of the summer, ducking and diving with all the exuberance and gluttony of their airborne feast upon river insects, then I caught my very first sight, this year, of an iridescent turquoise dragonfly; he was encouraged onto my hand for just a second but wasn’t going to step out any further in this blustery wind and so I left him clinging determinedly to his grass blade and walked on.
Rudi led the way to our usual bridge stop-off (where I always sit with feet dangling over the water) and, as soon as we sat down, we were treated to a show of someone riding a chestnut horse leading another white one by the rein in huge circles around the field. Like a petulant unicorn, tossing its stunning yellow-white mane with haughty swings of the head, this horse clearly wasn’t up for being brought into anyone else’s line…and even though, by the end of twenty minutes persistence, he was running along in huge graceful circles, you could tell he was only doing this because he wanted to; was enjoying the feeling of cantering side-by-side with fellow beast in that wonderful, exhilarating wind and glorious sunshine around a meadow full of grass that was undulating like the waves on a choppy sea.
Then we were back on the lane where the hedgerows were just teeming with bird life and reverberating with rhythmic cheeping, along with the distinctive up-down trill of a wren somewhere nearby. Suddenly, with a flash of yellow, there was a goldfinch in a tree directly above me, trilling an announcement and tilting his head to peer down at me as though expecting a response. So, just as I used to do when I was a child, I started to mimic him in whistle-speak…and he spoke back…and so we took turns (and all the time I was thinking “if anyone comes round the bend in the lane, they really will think I’m the mad woman of the village…”). We kept this up for five minutes or so as this little bird continued to engage with me in what felt like some sort of incredibly meaningful communion that went way beyond the need for making any sense at all.
To finish off, as I walked past the house with two donkeys in the paddock, one of them was upside down on his back, kicking his legs around in the sunshine with such obvious glee that I had to stifle a hearty guffaw as the owner (who couldn’t see what I could see) came out the house and gave me a positively wary look. A first sighting of an orange-tipped butterfly led my eye towards the second farmhouse with its small duck pond where a lanky grey heron was standing right there by the water’s edge and took to the sky on seeing me; like a huge grey pterodactyl flying directly overhead and so incredibly low to where I was paused on the lane, he cut such a striking silhouette against the clear blue sky.
Back in the car, having admired a nearby copse of bluebells dancing in the wind (and, I imagined, tinkling their little sound for those close enough to hear) and the great elephant trunks of blossom bobbing around overhead, my car windscreen was suddenly confettied with a great snowstorm of white petals as I turned on the engine so that I also had to use my windscreen wipers to see my way. This exuberant gesture on the part of the tree only mirrored my own exuberant mood as I drove down the lane, past a field full of ewes standing around with their frolicking lambs in the sunshine, and headed home to get on with the rest of my morning.