Country diary: singing in the green rain


A blackbird in the sycamore faces into what the poet-novelist Mary Webb might call “green rain”, this spring drizzle suspended in the trees that feels so enchanted it is “hung poised, forgetting how to fall”.

We are at the unfastening. Each bud, each syrinx, each wing undoing, freeing itself from the windings of isolation. Earth-queen bumblebees, hefty and matriarchal, cannon in cool damp air with the glimmer of damson, cherry-plum and blackthorn into the first white pulse. A peacock butterfly shaken out of its dream flies the length of a field hedge into the celandine sunlight of our own.

The green rain has hung since dawn; it draws out the leaves from branch and soil, drawing thoughts or, as Dylan Thomas says (in his poem Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines), “tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain”. Then the blackbirds, blown like burnt pages, vanish up the hedge end as if some panic of their own making, perhaps in the shape of a sparrowhawk, swept them away.

The gaps fill with quickthorn green. In a field, two herons stand watching flooded furrows, morning sunlight flashing over water. They are pale, tall and still, two ridges apart. On the old railway bank, a fistful of wild daffodils, as if a gift from a time before lines such as these scored the land through. And now in this time, what to do but return to trees, paying respects, not leaving or taking anything, but placing a companionable silence with them, a watchful breathing with the comings and goings of weathers.

The hunch of wet buzzards relaxes to stretch up new spiral stairs in the sky. The business of rooks and messaging of wrens, the oaring of ravens over the hill; what the birds bring we cannot use, but want them to make nests in our soul. There, under the sycamore where the blackbird sings, where you pulled out a jawbone with moss in its teeth, violets flower like moths, pale and lunar, and with a barely remembered scent, as Shelley says: “As like the violet to violet / When memory, the ghost, their odours keep / Mid the cold relics of abandoned joy.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here