Nature’s fountain pen

For most of the year the field is like a sheet of writing paper covered with invisible ink. Words indivisible from the page. Blank every morning save for brown-blot molehills. But the overnight snow has rendered the lines for all to see. All at once. An animal track heat map, only cold. Footsteps frozen in time and place. 

Much is indecipherable. Unknowable. But some is observable. Or deducible.

The ink is barely dry on the sheep paths. Close up, the freshest, once-trodden tracks are, in fact, two closely-spaced furrows with a distinct ridge in between right and left ploughshare hooves. No such distinction in the oft-trodden lamblines where the front leg dots and hind leg dashes have worn through to the grass beneath. Feint blue becoming bright green.

Other writers have left strings of single letter words and flown. The Y Y Y of bird feet. Serif here. Sans serif there. Upper case. Lower case. Bold buzzard prints. (I know they were left by a buzzard because I saw it fan down from its perch in the snow-shadowed oak – gracious in flight, but grounded, stamping cold feet like an angry child in oversize wellies). Italicised wagtrails. Barely more than scratches on the crusted surface of the snow. Spokes leading to the stock feeder hub. Hay for the sheep. A meagre harvest of flies for the birds who’ve been forced down from their usual haunt on the clay tiles of the barn roof. 

By the brook where the flood water has congealed then dropped to leave a glass dance floor, there are the arrowheads of a pheasant. Pointing back from where it came. And ending abruptly. Mid sentence. With a tail-dragging smudge and a silent squawk. Only to start again somewhere else. In another field. The other side of the stream. On another page. 

The writing paper field.

Freed from the conventions of verse form, I find prose poetry easier to compose. So it’s my go-to style. That said I hope this latest piece in the Field series still has poetic qualities in its use of imagery, metaphors and symbols.

A Shropshire Symphony – winter

Taking pictures forces you to look at the world more carefully. You see things through the viewfinder that you might miss with the naked eye. And yet more detail resolves itself in the taken image.

So it is with recording sounds. You hear things through the headphones that might otherwise be lost in the background noise. The squeak of freshly fallen snow under foot. The scrunch of that same snow after a hard frost. The splashing of drips. Drips becoming trickles. Trickles becoming streams. Melt water tumbling over stones. And listening back, the source of each sound can be clearly “seen.”

Ears have eyes.

Crunch, scrunch, slosh… the sounds of a lockdown winter walk.

Ridiculously pretentious I know, but like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, The Shropshire Symphony will eventually have four movements. You can listen here to the Spring movement I recorded during the first lockdown in April 2020.