The Black Dog Gnaws

The water spirit has its true revenge. Or perhaps the wind-spirit has dug into me and placed a curse. Or perhaps the penetrating heat and light of the desert has stirred something in the darkness. Rheumatoid arthritis has come on me like a black dog, out of nowhere. It pulls apart my limbs and gnaws on my bones. The colour has drained  from my world.

For the moment.


Spied on a beach: two angry lovers asleep in each other's arms.

Sitting on a remote Orcadian beach I listen to the water roll over the stones on the beach shushing them to sleep. Bit by bit the larger stones are ground into the smaller stones. Bit by bit the smaller stones are ground into gravel and sand. Bit by bit the sand is ground to silt and clay. Captured by the water, the still-sleeping still-dreaming rock is turned against itself and grinds the land away to fall to the bottom of the oceans. Water and Earth, two angry lovers asleep in each other's arms.


The Revenge of the Water Spirit

I sometimes write a post and then delay publishing it while I edit. I haven't often regretted that but I do today and I wish I'd published yesterday's post before the events of the evening.

Water did indeed reclaim the fens. A mass of humid air pushing down from the North Sea and moving slightly eastward as it travelled, arrived at the first rise in the land and exploded. A supercell unveilled its wrath on the narrow road that leads up from the river just east of here. It tore limbs from trees and felled at least three. As it crossed the main road it took down another two trees and blocked the road. As it passed over the Night Planted Orchard it delivered its payload of liberating water in a storm the like of which we have never witnessed. A miniature tornado blow open the windows of the house, soaking Lady Snoutingdingle's boudoir from wall to wall. It tore down willow trees all along the road. It borrowed a summerhouse from one garden and moved it two doors down. A child's trampoline was spotted chasing a murder of excited crows. Lids were sucked from parched water-butts soon to be filled in the blink of an eye. The storm cleared the guttering in a filthy, mossy overflow. The rain made a laugh of my carefully dug drains, overtopping them in a heartbeat. The Admiral mercifully survived the onslaught but seems to be the only willow that hasn't lost at least a major branch. 

But the Night Planted Orchard? It wasn't damaged in any way. Even the broken branch on the grand Old Lady which we had left attached by the thinnest sliver because it's bearing fruit, was left intact. Half of her plums and fully half of the apples in the orchard were cast into the dusty grass. If we get more rain, I suspect that our harvest will be smaller than normal. But the hard, small fruit that we have left, crammed full of nascent sugars by the weeks of burning sun, will be perfect.

Yes the water spirit has returned and has won her long, bitter battle with the sun, as she always does in these haunted wetlands.



Nine weeks without rain and the fen seeks liberation. Outriders of rain came for six minutes mid-afternoon yesterday, hissing into the ground and vanishing. Within three hours the weeds in the dead grass have formed flower-buds, ready to liberate their patch of earth from the tyranny of the lawn. Night falls and long barrages of thunder in the distance signal the start of the invasion. The water wants its waterland back. They work all night in the fen fields to gather the crops before the rain comes, like resistance fighters making secret runways. The distant thunder continues all night and not a drop of rain falls on the Night Planted Orchard. The sun has parched the earth to the point that there is no added moisture to hold up the wet air coming in from the sea. The low ridge is not enough to trigger the upsurge of air. Dawn comes and the barrage ceases. The sun breaks out and a curious haze like diluted milk blurs the distance, a mixture of crop-dust and yesterdays pitiful rain evaporating. But the armies of wet air are regrouping over the North Sea. Re-enforements are brought in. They go again at sunset. There is a total lunar eclipse tonight, perhaps they will come then, under cover of darkness, paratroopers of rain come to save the dying garden. The garden quivers in anticipation.


Amber Waves of Grain

The wheatfield near to the house is like the lounge wall in some forensic procedural: faded beige, pale as sand, spattered with poppies in sparse swathes, waiting for some agricultural pathologist to decode its secret tale. The Mighty Hunter snuffles his annoyance at the cut stems in the path, sharp as scissors and pokes his nose into the crop although he knows not to enter. Lady Snoutingdingle suddenly expressed sadness that she had seen and not been able to capture the crop weeks ago, lush green and waving on a day of stiff and restless breezes. I realised that I had captured precisely that scene on precisely the same day. So here they are, the wheat in the green, stirred by rain and a motile breeze, and the same field still as a rock-face, thirsty as the desert, begging for the blade to set it free.