Green Reprise

It is easy to see how these fens breed superstition. Even in the wet and dark of winter, life wriggles forth. Myths emerge like dark butterflies, but there is a rawer power than that at work in this deep earth. 

Learning to restore fruit trees in an ancient, restored orchard I came upon a grove of apple trees that might have stood a thousand years. Their boughs cupped out low over the ground, each as thick around as my thigh. Each dressed in moss so green that even in the grey light it seemed ablaze. That glow pulled me into the grove, seducing me. Leaf free, fruit free, but so obviously and deeply alive.  There is no darkness that can completely enfold the life force in these trees and I longed to fold myself up in those strong green arms and be healed.

Here is the source of a thousand religions, and I want our orchard to live as long.


Trapped in an Album Cover

Dessicated in mind and body by long flights I wake at 4.00am.  In my underlit hotel room in one of those endless urban spaces between Californian cities, I pace away an hour.  At the first hint of dawn I walk to the end of the corridor and look out of the window there, to find that I have woken up in the cover art of Hotel California. The morning light has a dusty haze, but one flushed with acid yellow, both sharpening and blowing out the edges of the leaves of the fray-leaved palm trees lifting their arms like some dust-washed street-corner messiah exorcising chemical angels on a hope-parched, car-washed intersection. Right by the window, where the dust cannot catch the light before it reaches me, the matt lime leaves of the old pine tree are washed with the colour of maple syrup. A little further still a maple in all its autumn majesty splashes red against the walls of the corrugated canyons like the uncleaned residue of a drive-by shooting. The muscular light seems to pause in every layer of distance, as though the entire view is filled with slightly unclean panes of glass. In the distance the sunlight lies like dried brown sugar on the tops of the small folds of the hills, but leaves the furrows dark, making the bald landscape look like the neck-folds of one of those good old boys leaning out of the windows of their trucks. Strange trees mark the skyline like straight-line cracks in a scarred perspex sky. Leafless citizens of the electro-magnetic forest, irrigating and eroding the long dead watercourses with data. I look, wondering why the scene seems strangely desolate. There are no people here. Every living soul, encapsulated in a metal box, from the tiniest cars, to the grandest malls like termite hills, is hiding from what remains of nature here, and well they might. The light remains but the legend of California sits cross legged in the malls with a cardboard sign around its neck, begging for cash.





Three Beautiful Things - fen autumn

A field of leeks in the dew, blue like molded copper.

Seeing the moon through the trees and realising that the leaves have gone and that it is dark at six.

The ash trees tossing their leaves in the gale, one side silver against a mounting black cloud



The Collective Noun for Dragonflies

I find that dragonflies often appear to me as half conscious cracks in my vision. Especially the neon blue damselflies which flash like halluciations. A still dragonfly on an apple branch is another thing. That was how I saw them for a long time: solitary, still or so fast that they barely register. Today I discovered another facet.

As I was persuading mortar, pointlessly as it happens, into the gaps between unruly slabs in the patio, I noticed that the flying ants had emerged from the lawn. Up from the lower parts of the garden, over the fence, the dragonflies came. Most were blood red, gashes in the air, some were bigger, black and yellow, some sky blue and green. Hunters on the wing, darting into the grass, performing impossible turns, a few at first and then dozens in the late sun, clicking and buzzing, flickering bronze. The collective noun for dragonflies is a cluster, which is just plain wrong. Some say flight, others a dazzle. They reminded me of the helicopters in Apocalypse now, coming in from the sea, and from there valykries flitting here and there over the battlefield, this way and that, plucking souls.

A valkyr of dragonflies. Now that fits.