Birds are what I want to concentrate on. Each day I walk out into their domain – the air, the space between trees, hedgerows and objects – and always return home with my head full of images and questions.
For example, today here in the north of England it’s extremely windy, there’s a gale blowing, trees are dancing madly as the gusts increase. Some of the taller trees are bare, stripped down to their plain sense, as Wallace Stevens observed, and have that stoic stubbornness about them. They’re just about safe yet their limbs are subject to tremendous forces as that howling, idiotically intense wind slams into them.
I should know. I just got back having climbed up one of those trees – an oak – to experience the energy of those phenomenal gusts. Hanging on to the thicker branches I got to feel the twisting sensation within the joint, where branch grows from trunk, the incredible swaying motion of that quercus and the crazy rocking frenzy of the smaller branches and twigs.
Such a refusal to crack and break, such resistance. I climbed down from that tree shaken not stirred, impressed by that inherent strength rooted in the soil of Green Balk lane.
But whilst up there about 30 feet off the ground I watched a single crow manoeuvring in that wind. It came out of the woods, Lepton Great wood, and with hardly a wing-beat slid at speed down over the field towards the swollen beck.
What that crow must have felt as it came hurtling on a rapid slide. How skilfully it used its wings to safely negotiate a path over the line of trees on the lane – opening and tucking, closing and extending those fingery black oars.
It reminded me of an experienced slalom skier descending a mountain course. Or someone in a hang glider not quite sure of the route back down to the ground. But the crow was far more graceful shall I say? The crow uses intuition more than conscious learning or training. The lone crow has to ‘feel’ its way through (or is it along) that mysterious element we call air and has no control over variations in wind speed and unpredictability.
The crow adjusted its wings according to the intensity of the blast, folding in a little, briefly, folding closer, becoming in essence a missile as it flew over and out of sight.
Wonderful. Being up in that tree I came a little bit closer to experiencing what the crow might have gone through. I got spits of rain in my eye, I felt as if I was about to fall off a branch at one point, I was taken by surprise by one massive gust.
But that crow seemed to be enjoying the thrill, the challenge of the open field after the relative calm of the wood.
On the way home a small flock of jackdaws were working their way past Low Fold farm. Again I saw the expertise of their flight, the way they adapt to the swirling vagaries of the wind. I’m sure they show off to one another sometimes;they must love to feel that pressure under their flight feathers.
It’s like they’re saying : Wind, bring it on.