online: 9 june 2002

8 june 2002 water birds, trees, and poetry

19:25 After a picnic at the Vale of Health pond...

I came to see if the three cygnets have survived - and they have! I didn't expect to see more than two (young water birds often fail to survive here).

This evening, after two weeks away (and after having been active and absorbed all afternoon in editing and putting online the eight entries I wrote while travelling) I am enjoying the complete peace here - beneath a grey sky that is not moving.

Not a ripple on the water but for those made by a large fish which jumped twice in the last few minutes. The only creature I can see is a duck - and now I see a coot and I can hear a bird twittering nearby...

I pause to look about.

A magpie arrives. Another fish jumps, making a smaller splash. I brush ants off my trousers.

I am enjoying looking at some birch trees by the water. Why do they attract me more than almost any other tree?

Is it because of their straight pink-white trunks with eye-shaped markings?

Or is it because they are more transparent than other trees, their small leaves don't conceal the structure of their trunks and branches, even in summer?

Or have I absorbed some of the Celtic or pre-Celtic tree worship in which the birch* is said to be particularly sacred? I feel like going to touch them - but I don't.

* Robert Graves, in The White Goddess (Faber & Faber, London 1961/1984) states that the birch was perhaps the first tree of the Irish sacred grove and is associated with B (the second letter and the first consonant of the Celtic tree alphabet), with Sunday, and (sadly) with the chastisement of women, children and lunatics!... (see index)

The water surface is now almost completely still. I've been sitting here for about half an hour. The swans and ducks and coots have gone to the shallow end of the pond behind the birch trees.

Now a coot swims to the floating island leaving a straight track on the water surface... Two tall young men in similar clothes walk by - I wonder if they are brothers... I decide to walk also.

22:40 Resting after an omelette and salad - and after a being active for about ten hours, but enjoyably so - apart from trying to juggle my bank accounts while waiting for some money that is owed me...

...and when I got sick of that I just abandoned it and sampled a book chosen by chance. It was W B Yeats, The Poems, (most informatively edited by Daniel Albright, J M Dent & Sons, London 1990).

A random number took me to several poems about roses - and, believe it or not, to his best known poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree (that I once memorised). Reading those poems, and a few others, released me completely from tiresome struggles and reminded me that he is to me a perhaps more fascinating poet than any. I like so much his choice of what to write about (the most profound mixed with the most specific, with the most timely, and with the most demonic?) and I like also his often amazing choice of unexpected but ordinary words - unpredictable to all but him, I imagine?

Can I now find some examples?

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(from The Second Coming, 1919)

Perhaps that one is enough. It is past midnight.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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