Monday, 27 August 2012

exploding moorhen...?

This title came about because I couldn't think of a title - so I pulled out a book at random. Now that is not as easy to do as you might think. Having moved from a flat to a narrowboat, my library is a fraction of what it was. All the books I thought I could live without are to be found in various charity shops between Bristol and Devizes. The book that came to hand was, appropriately, Roger Deakin's Waterlog and I just happened to open it on a page containing the words "moorhen"  and "exploded". I liked the idea of the exploding moorhen, a sound I have become familiar with in the last few months. Quiet, nervous birds, if surprised they let out volley of sound.
  The transition from land to water has not been a smooth one - engine failure after the first week meant that our plans for the summer did not work out in the way  I imagined. I thought  I would be writing flowing, lyrical poetry inspired by dragonflies and kingfishers as we drove our green boat through the green, whispering reeds. And yes, there has been a little of that. But mostly I have been watching and learning from the less colourful, more mundane. Like the moorhen. I have grown to love these birds for their persistance and diligence. They can raise up to three broods of chicks a year and I have watched a lone moorhen spend hours tugging at reeds she needs to repair a nest. They are tough plants and don't yield easily to a small bird. I say "she" but it could equally well have been a "he", since moorhen couples share the chick-rearing. The first few chicks to hatch are cared for by one parent, while the rest are cared for by the other.
  And then there were the rats. Now these are creatures that I have considered to be pestilential abberations of nature in the past. But having spent time watching the ones behind Wadworth's I have come to admire their ability to adapt to their environment, their versatility. Essential qualities for this new life that I have begun. They are excellent and graceful swimmers and agile enough to run along a bramble stem, barely moving a leaf. I found myself looking out for them each day, feeling disappointed if they did not appear.
  I may not have had the summer I envisaged, but instead I have experienced something more real and lively, finding in myself qualities I didn't know I had.

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