Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Little Life.





Yesterday, in the sudden warmth, a puffed-up infant blackbird crouched on the bird-table, fluttering, quivering, squawking at its resigned-looking parent. There was still the remains of a yellow gape in the infant beak, and the seemingly smaller parent wearily pushed food into the demanding mouth.
The parent bird flew off, and the fat infant decided to feed itself, which it could do perfectly well.
Then a couple of sparrows landed nearby, and the infant reverted into a fluttering, beseeching, gaping cushion. The sparrows turned their backs, and rightly so.

This morning, in a cool mist that presaged considerable heat by afternoon, I went out to fill the watering cans. On top of the clipped bay tree beside the shed lay a large, fat, speckled infant blackbird, claws curved against the cool air, eyes filmed, life over. It must have flown into the glass of the summerhouse window and broken its neck.
Such a little life.

All over the garden there are miniature dramas and tragedies as young creatures learn to live independently.
My neighbour's adolescent cat, whose name is Frank, spends a lot of time hanging out here.
A few months ago, in very cold weather he learned that no one can walk on thin ice, and more recently he decided to  have a little look in the nearby badgers' sett. He exploded from the tunnel, looking twice his  normal size and barely made it over the fence in his frantic rush for home.
But he is back, and in his wake are the tiny corpses of two baby field-mice. They have ventured away from home and been tortured, played with and killed by a giant with scimitar claws. Or perhaps they died of fright on meeting Frank, as Frank could well have died meeting the badgers.
It's all learning by experience. We all have to do it, and sometimes the cost is very high.

In the pond a few tiny newts are dicing with death as they may or may not evade the one surviving goldfish, who in turn is the sole survivor of a very harsh winter and repeated heron attacks.
Baby birds flutter everywhere, and I know the sparrow hawk is visiting daily, but he/she too has infants to raise.
Yesterday a friend and I watched a newly emerged dragonfly dry its crumpled cling-film wings in the sun, and I wonder who has eaten it for lunch today.

This really sudden heat has galvanised life in the garden into a frantic action, or perhaps the warmth has made me sit out there, just looking. Every time I spend more than a few minutes out here I see something remarkable, something unexpected, something sad, something beautiful. So much of  my own admittedly little life is being lived out here.

I  am sometimes made to think that I should get out more. I should be doing more sociable things with 'U3A' as so many of my friends do. They are always off somewhere, doing Tai Chi, visiting Provence, learning a language, being taught to use Photoshop.
But I am here, in my garden, marvelling at growth and life and death.

9 comments:

marigold jam said...

And what's wrong with that - why should you have to do anything at all if you don't feel inclined? That is the joy of being retired we can choose whether to be manically busy or to do things at our own pace. I think you have probably learned more from seeing the cycle of life in your garden than any amount of calligraphy/photography/cookery or whatever lessons could have taught you.

Jane said...

My husband teaches a U3A class of 12 and they all do at least one other class and several do many as one every weekday (although not all class happen every week). I'm not a joiner and I haven't time to do most of the things I should like as it is. It depends hw happy you are with your own company- I should like the house to myself so I'll send everyone else to U3A (ha, ha!)

Zhoen said...

The most new discoveries of new species is in our own back gardens. You have the world before you, with all it's drama and lessons. Including the lessons that cost everything, which are the most valuable kind.

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold, Jane and Zhoen: thank you for your comments and understanding! I mention U3A because it is such a prolific part of retired life in this area - hugely successful and enjoyed by many. And you probably all know that I don't just sit in the garden - but when I do the rewards are profound.

The Elephant's Child said...

I loved these tales of life and death in your garden, in my garden, in every garden. Having the time to watch and attempt to understand these small lives is one of the best things retirement has given me.
And gardens are magical places. Hard work often it is true, but when things bloom or grow often the pain is but a memory.

Relatively Retiring said...

Elephant's Child: you and I completely agree on this. I am always aware that, although I am officially living alone, I share my house and garden with so many others, seen and unseen.

Leslee said...

Just being observant where you are (and you're obviously not addicted to a smart phone observing nothing but the small screen...) yields so many wonders. But to each his or her own stimulation! Whatever keeps you alive and enjoying life.

Mrs A said...

Sounds lovely, i see the weather there is warmer than here for a change!

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: I become a bit fed up of being walked into by people looking only at their tiny screens, but, as you say, to each his or her own!

Mrs. A.: I'm spending today in the great oven of London, but it's wonderful to have sunshine all over everything!