Friday 10 May 2024

One Morning in May

Two hours after the dawning of the day, in an unregarded corner of Oxfordshire frequented by no one but me and the occasional dog walker I stood in silent awe. Before me as far as I could see lay Spring in an abundance of multi hued bright greens from Hawthorn and Willow to giant Horse Chestnuts billowing  like green clouds under a cobalt sky and below which the river swept in broad majesty to curve around a triangle of water meadow  towards Pinkhill Lock and the idyllic lock keeper's house.

This an Oxfordshire normally only conjoured in imagination and fantasy by writers and artists, now become reality.The river flows silent and powerful, its opaque green depths erupting with mysterious eddys that swirl to the surface and disappear as soon as they appear in the mass of moving water. White is the predominant counterpoint to the greenery, the intricate tracery of the countless flowers of Queen Anne's Lace forming delicate undulating friezes of froth alongside both track and river bank. May blossom, the flower of the humble hawthorn bursts from buds into blooms of white that cast an over-ripe sweet and sour scent on the air, presenting an irresistible attraction to countless insects.

It is as if an unseen omnipotent figure has cast a mighty sweep of a magical hand across the land and pulled aside a curtain to reveal a paradise, released from the constraints of the cold and rain that is now but a fading memory. Spring has truly arrived, it really has and now there is no looking back, the force and power of  regeneration is on the charge.

This helter skelter of impatience to renew is, for us with the capacity and time to wonder and eulogise, a luxury denied to that which we admire.It is one mad hectic rush to procreate and secure the next generation, Nothing more, nothing less. I stand back and wonder at how this could all have come to be without divine intervention but know that it is no more than the result of evolution.

This morning I notice the lone male whitethroat that arrived here a week ago has, overnight, acquired company with at least five other males setting out their claim to a territory. Each bird loudly projects a cheery, hurried short warble into the still, fresh, morning air as it sings from a prominent perch atop a favoured hawthorn or bramble. Hey! it says. I am back and rejoicing. I have survived the perilous journey from my winter home and now want to get on with why I am here.

In a rapture of energy and ardour they throw themselves skywards on chestnut coloured wings. Singing loudly they ascend in bouncing flight to jitter about the sky like a feathered pinball before descending to the perch they had left just seconds ago.

They seem to be singing everywhere, doubtless stimulated by so many rivals and I stand close to one that cares not about my presence but is determined to sing no matter what. His bill opens wide in his grey head and the white feathers of his throat swell and distort as he repeats the same rapid jumble of notes, over and over as if time is at a premium.

I marvel at this tiny fragile creature that has flown unaided to an unexceptional corner of middle England to sing so lustily. A few weeks ago he was in the heat of Africa, south of the Sahara, before one night, prompted by who knows what, he flew up towards the stars and headed north, following a compass unknown to humanity that brought him across, desert, mountain, sea, forest and cities to land on a particular speck of land that was probably where he remembered coming into being.

It is a marvel that never eases to move me. For whatever is happening to our world, the cruelty of human to human, the disregard for our fellow inhabitants of this planet be they flora or fauna, this returning is as if a signal is sent by nature that all is not lost.There is hope so long as the whitethroat and his like return.Do not give up it says but the migrants return in ever decreasing numbers and I feel a growing amxiety.

But for today and all other days like this I will enjoy and take solace from the simple pleasures brought to me by the natural world.


  1. Thank you Ewan. Have not been able to get out much of late You have brought the magnificence of a Spring morning to me. A time to stand and wonder in a sometimes dark world

  2. Greetings Steve. Hope to see you soon out and about.Take care of yourself