Time rolls on, a relentless tide. The measurement of its passage is painted in the mechanical rhythm of the timepiece and the unmarked tide of nature’s cycle. The polar opposites of life and death are the compass of this plane’s existence.

     All spring long the business of life washes on the edge of awareness. The birds that come and go mark the current. Nests are built, eggs are laid and chicks are born. The naked skin sprouts eider and then feathers in mottled clumps that purport a life amongst the clouds.

     The distance between branch and sky is a greater one than most might think. We mark the first day of summer as determined by the Gregorian calendar and the position of the sun and moon. Birds mark the change from the raw green of birth to fruition in a perilous learning curve that leaves the young vulnerable and earthbound waiting until time and genetic memory induce the safeguards that perpetuate the species as a whole.

     The wheat is a golden glow spread out across the horizon. Impatient for the sky, the very young wait out their time nestled in its protective heights. Awkward and weak, they sit in false enclaves hidden from dire straights and natural selection until the gifts that buffer them from the harshness of their environment surface. It can not be called a game when the stakes are so very high. The price of failure to thrive, to survive, is glaringly displayed in the bright light of day.

     Covered in ants and advertised by the curtain of flies that buzz in a coroner’s cloud the fallen sing a mute chorus to the vulgarities of a black reality. For every feather that takes to the current, for every song that rises in the morning light, there is a voice that is stilled and wings that drain into the soil forever lost to the warm flow of the air.

     A small black mound of feathers lies broken in the rain nourished grass. Beetles dine and ants labour over and on the small dusky hill. Blank eyes stare upward to a sky that can’t be seen and therefore is no longer coveted. A delicate neck, barely covered in feathers, stretches out impossibly fragile and empty of song. The fledgling that lies limp and broken on the bright green of the summer grass has bet on a long shot and come up short. It is a wager that we all make and while we might run hot for a span in the end we all pay out.

     There will be no long days of summer and crisp autumn idles followed by winter’s push to warmer shores for the earthbound. There is only this silent testimony to destiny and the law that binds us all.    

Under the leaves and berries

The sun warms the earth and the days lengthen as we head toward the summer solstice. The garden has begun to give up its bounty. Mulberries, raspberries and currants hang heavy from the branches, laden with sun kissed sweetness. Every morning I head out, basket in hand, to compete with the other denizens of the garden for an equal share of the good stuff. I’m fighting a losing battle for the mulberries; between the husband and the birds we’re lucky if any actually reach the kitchen. Raspberries are a better bet. There’s enough for both the birds and the house, share and share alike. Currants are another matter entirely as no one can be persuaded to eat those fresh.
Currants are strictly for the birds (literally) and for making jelly. The currant bushes are heavy with red and white berries. A month ago I didn’t even know that they were there. The 3 day hedge marathon led to the discovery of the bushes nestled under the hedge and a lonely pine at the back of the driveway. Several days later I found 2 more bushes at the back of our acre, so 5 bushes in all makes a lot of berries. The bushes under the hedge are the most prolific, some of the berries are huge (for currants). The largest of those is absolutely dripping with red currants. The branches are so heavy that they’ve drooped to the ground creating a shady hollow beneath. The berries hang below and the branches have to be lifted to reach them.
The day was already warm as I worked my way around the currant bush. I had already picked the ripe berries from the top of the bush and had begun to harvest the branches hanging on the ground. I lifted the last branch to see a medium sized heap of feathers piled against the base of the bush. On closer examination I could see that it was not a heap of feathers but a dead black bird. It must have crawled away to die under the cool branches of the currant bush. I don’t know what led to its death. There were no obvious marks on it…no one appeared to have been dining on it (which is usually the case around a house with 2 cats). It was so lovely and cool under the branches of the currant bush. I like to think that maybe the bird found some small respite or easement of pain as it lay under those branches. I realize that it’s a subjective assessment but I thought the bird seemed to be at peace. I decided to leave it there. As far as I know it’s still there in the cool hollows underneath the branches; laying still, surrounded by busy beetles and slowly ripening currants.