Nature notes.

In contrast to the general locked-down trend, we’ve spent less time, not more, on gardening lately. We decided to focus on vegetables, and have allowed the flowers, shrubs and hedges to do their own thing.

I’ve heard garden designers say that nature doesn’t have colour clashes, or create disharmony. They clearly haven’t seen our spotted laurel. Earlier in the year it was a lovely splash of green above the snowdrops and daffodils.

Bulbs, of course, are the perfect garden inhabitants, so uncomplaining, and polite. For a few weeks, they’re bursting with joy, and brightness. After that, they quietly fade into the background. They’ll put up with a lot of neglect. But in fictional terms, that makes them passive garden characters. They need a heroic gardener to step in and prune back the big bullies who would otherwise crowd them out, and take control.

Enter me, (tadah) with my trusty secateurs. Within an hour, the offending spotty villain has been calmed, and controlled. No story here, folks, nothing to see.

Except, as I step back to view my handiwork, I can’t help but notice the rest of the border. Up close, it’s clear that my actions have only presented a flash of the whole story. That verdant greenery we’ve been admiring from the kitchen window, is undergoing an invasion. There are as many weeds trespassing as there are lawful inhabitants.

The intruders are vigorous, heavy with young seed. Antagonists like these need an active, focused protagonist, willing to expend muscle, sweat and time: someone driven by the desire to win.

I’m already thinking about making dinner, and spending the evening with my feet up. ‘Mañana,’ is what I’m thinking. I repeat it throughout the evening.

The next morning I’m conscientiously standing at the window, pulling on my gardening gloves and thinking about the importance of timing, when a movement catches my eye. Are there more birds in our wildish garden this year, or is it just that we’ve taken more notice? I don’t think we’re the only people who’ve asked that, over the last two months.

Maybe we’ve recently been more diligent about topping up the feeders, and our guests can feel confident about the quality of our hospitality. Though one at least, it seems, is now opting for self-service. There, on the weeds I’d planned to remove, is a Goldfinch, pulling out a beak-full of fluffy seeds.

Now that’s what I call an active character. Nothing distracts this bird from the job in hand, not even me, opening the window to snap some photos. There is a determination, a drive, that I can’t seem to emulate. If only I’d introduced the Goldfinch to you earlier it could be the protagonist, but it’s too late. Besides, I’m confident that we’re viewing those seeding heads from different perspectives.

So this isn’t that simple kind of story, where a character is presented with a problem, that they then solve. Unless, of course, I’m still not viewing this situation from the correct perspective. Could it be that the key character in this is bigger than me, or the bird, and has only been mentioned indirectly?

Recognising the end point when telling a story can be tricky. I’m convinced enough to put my gloves back on the shelf, and settle down to admire the blackbirds, feasting on the Juneberries, the wood-pigeon swooping in to the big seed-dispenser, and the spotted woodpecker attacking the peanut feeder.

27 thoughts on “Nature notes.

  1. We’ve just installed a bird feeding “hotel splendide” ~ and are spending time pursuading the squirrel that he is unwelcome ~but with 6 restaurant areas that’s tricky. He does, however, add to the list of characters and possible plot developments ~ what a villain😉

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    • If you manage to solve that problem, I’d be interested in the solution, Mike. Our local grey villain has started on our strawberries, and they’re not even fully ripe.

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  2. Delightful! My eyes were racing ahead in anticipation of what or where your focus would go next Cath! A joy to read on this grey, wet overcast morning. Thank you for sharing your wordsmithery! Blessings always, Deborah.

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  3. I love this analogy as it´s so, me. Your garden is like my writing. I tend to go with the flow, characters just show up as do ideas and situations. I do a bit of trimming and tidying, and other things pop up!. I must admit I prefer a natural-looking garden.

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    • Oh, yes, that moment when the story seems to unfold as we write is magical, isn’t it? Yes, we’re definitely going with the ‘natural’ look, this year. Possibly bordering on wilderness.

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  4. What a lovely glimpse of your garden, Cath. A sublime collection of characters!
    Wildness certainly abounds in mine, and the birds and other creatures are taking full advantage of it (especially the villainous squirrels).

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  5. Lovely, the goldfinch. Clever you. I’m rarely manage to focus my camera on the fast little ones. Certainly more birds than ever in my garden, even though I don’t have a feeder. There are too many cats and wood pigeons visiting. Still, there’s plenty morsels in my wild plot.

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    • Thank you, Ashen. That Goldfinch was a gift, so busy at those seeds that I had at least five minutes to find the camera, track down batteries and take several shots. The birds are a gift, at this time, aren’t they?

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  6. What a charming post, Cath; you had me smiling broadly throughout and afterwards feeling slightly smug and slightly envious. Smug because I always knew there was a good reason why my garden has so many unkempt areas/is deliberately left as a wildlife haven, and envious because despite all the delights on offer ‘my’ goldfinches have never allowed me to watch their thistle gorging. What a treat it must have been for you to watch – and for the goldfinch to gorge!

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    • Thank you, Sandra. I do feel that I was privileged, and although there are still seeds left on the thistle it’s attracted no attention since that morning – though I may just have missed my timing.
      No doubt you’ve other delightful visitors in your nature-controlled areas, too.

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