"Ponderynge together yestardayes promise, and two-dayes doyng"
(Hall's Chronicle - 1548)

"Goronigl gwyr yr Ynys" (Lewis Glyn Cothi - 1450)

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Sunken Lane

Coming through the hollow ways
From open tracks across the hills
The path dips low beneath the trees
And, like a muddy river, falls

Between the banks of writhen roots
Clasping the walls of soil and stone,
The woven sides of a winding street
Roofed by leaves of dappled green

Shading out the distant sun
Of another world in the open air:
Here the gloom enfolds within,
There the gleaming light is clear.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Roman Burial - BATH

Did she come for the waters
of Aquae Sulis, to bathe or drink
from them? Did she come to the Goddess

of the springs welling hot from the earth?
Certainly she died here
far from her home in Gaul, though still

among her own people. Her memorial
a stone on the road beyond the walls
as Roman law decreed, tells us all

we know about her :"Rusonia Aventina
of the Mediomatrici died aged 58
and is buried here", ad fontes aquarum.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

John Cage, 'Metamorphosis of a Piano'- (On Sonatas and Interludes)- aTon...

Preparing a piano with screws and nails to play John Cage's 'Sonatas and Interludes'. The Atonal Hits YouTube channel also has performances of several of the pieces played by Illya Filshtinskiy. I met Illya and Katha on a walking holiday on the Isle of Skye two  years ago and  I have followed the channel ever since. Inspiring modern music!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Storm Over Vesuvius

Vesuvius as the storm clears from the hills above Sorrento.

After the heat of the day, the afternoon brings thunder.
After the glare of the sunshine , dark clouds gather.

Across the bay of the sirens Vesuvius looms
But the flashing fire and the crashing booms

Come out of the air not the earth through the mountain:
Today there is no flow of lava, no burning fountain

Of molten rock to bury the ancient towns below in ash
But a relentless fall of rain engulfs the ruins no less

For half an hour or so then passes as soon as it came
As the clouds disperse and the sun fills the sky again

With fiery light. I look across at the volcano where standing
Two days ago on the edge of the crater I watched steam rising

Through a fissure from the heat of the boiling brew below
So I knew that someday once again it would break and blow

Fire and thunder into the sky and transform the land as it did
When the Romans of Pompeii and Herculaneum, though they hid

In cellars and other shelters, could not escape its coming, its storm
Bringing them immortality, their towns dug from the ashes and reborn:

The empty shells of their houses displayed as snapshots of the past,
The empty shrines of their gods a testament to what was lost.

Monday, 25 May 2015

A Glimpse of Summer

Last night, in the late twilight, but before it was dark enough for any stars to show, Venus blazed towards the western horizon with the crescent Moon and Jupiter nearby. This brought the approaching magic of the Midsummer season in spite of the coolness of the day. Yesterday began with rain but by evening the skies were a clear blue with hardly a cloud. Later, in the half-dark, I heard a night bird calling : a single note followed by a double note. What was it? Not an owl, though their calls are frequent through the woods across the valley at night. It haunted me to sleep.

Today it is cloudy again. No rain, but the woodland soil is wet underfoot. The stream rushes down the valley edged along its wet banks and up the rocky sides with beds of golden saxifrage. I sit, as often, on the seat by the well and drift into summer on the sound of the rushing waters. The small garden by the well-side is in full bloom. The meadows are lush with green speckled with yellow buttercups. The wood greening to shade as the leaf cover fills the branches. The path from the well to the ancient yew winds through a deeper shade past the younger yew trees that surround it.

As I emerge from the yew bower back into the light, Summer steals surreptitiously out of Spring.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Ospreys on the Dyfi Estuary

To the Dyfi Osprey Project today. There has been a small nature reserve here for some time before the ospreys arrived and made it famous. Not far away is the larger RSPB reserve at Ynys Hir. But it was not there that the ospreys chose to nest but in this wetland reserve run by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. From the entrance a boardwalk traverses the wet ground where bog myrtle, cotton grass, yellow flag iris and ragged robin grow in and around the boggy pools. Among the high-growing reeds there are bittern according to the information board. I’d love to see - or even hear -one. No such luck, though a sedge warbler rises and then descends in a ripple of song. Beyond the reserve, along a water course, I spot a heron and follow it through binoculars as it drops out of sight into rushes.

The boardwalk arrives at a large wooden structure built with lottery money to provide an observation point for the osprey nest. The viewing area looks directly towards it on a flat platform on what looks like an old telegraph pole. The nest appears to made mainly of driftwood from the estuary, at least from the outside. The head of the female sitting on her eggs can just be seen. We are told the male is just out of sight on a fence post below. We wait. A dozen or so people stand around the viewing room, some exchanging bird notes and occasionally checking the nest through one of the telescopes trained on it. Then a sudden burst of activity! The male appears: binoculars are up, cameras are clicking behind tele-photo lenses. The bird disappears for a while behind trees, then flies back towards the nest, changing places with the female who glides away towards the river. For food? Apparently not. She returns with a large twig for the nest and the male moves out and drops down to his perch out of sight behind the trees.

Drama over. The flurry of activity subsides in the viewing room and gallery. We withdraw, lingering along the boardwalk to watch a pair of water buffalo that have been brought in to graze the wet meadow at the top of the reserve. You can watch the activity at the nest live on a webcam HERE. But there is no substitute for going there, not just to see the ospreys but to spend time in the wetland habitat that attracted them. They have been given names, but I prefer not to appropriate their identity in that way. They are wild creatures in a wild place and there are sufficient ironies in the structures we build to make such places accessible without adding to them unnecessarily.

Friday, 8 May 2015

An Allegory of Summer?

The path through the woodland was lined with bluebells just a few days ago. Now broken petals hang and fade: the promise of summer just a short while ago now unfulfilled as the cold weather, wind and heavy rain have struck it down. Back in the winter while walking this path I noticed a large nest in the crook of a bare tree seen from the high ridge path which is level with the tops of the great oaks growing further down the hillside. Now those oaks have lost their newly developed growing tips which lie on the woodland floor with partial leaf and flower like stunted sprays. The nest is not yet obscured by leaves, though the buzzard sitting on it is perfectly camouflaged to the naked eye, her feathers blending with the dry twigs of the nest. But with binoculars she is clearly visible, with one eye looking in my direction as if she is aware of my distant spying. Above the wood her partner circles in a wide arc, buffeted by the wind and the sudden squalls of rain.

So the season moves backwards from a promising start. But there is blossom on the trees and blown in drifts on the ground like snow. The grass is growing green with splashes of yellow, white, pink as the spring flowers grow up with it and dandelions are already seeding as they will continue to do through the summer. A summer that will come in its own time, so that, even on chillier days, the winter will be a distant memory, the long dark nights a remotely imagined past and future time. But just for now it is the wind and the rain that are our weather companions and we must walk with them as we will.