There’s a big ash tree at the bottom of the garden, in full view from the bedroom window. When you stare out in winter before the day’s thought-processes have started to kick in, it’s possible to discern in the bare branches the bearded features of both DH Lawrence and Charles Darwin.
It’s a funky old tree and touch wood – note good choice of words here — no sign of chalara. Its big, wide elephant-coloured trunk — another good word, I’m on fire today – is about ten yards from the window of my writing-hut, so it’s a good target for blank stares between paragraphs.
When we first moved in I heard a treecreeper’s high, thin call trickling down from high in the ash tree’s thin branches, and I put it on the house list. I felt – not exactly guilty about it, but as the first certainties got a little eroded by time, I wondered just a little. Then last summer in the same tree, Eddie and I saw a treecreeper scurrying up the trunk in the merry mousey way that is part of the treecreeper’s inheritance. So that’s all right then.
A day or so ago, in the final frenzies of the book I’m writing, I gave my eyes and brain a break and turned to that gloriously inviting window. Naturally I looked first to the vaster expanses of the marsh, but I picked up a flicker of movement from the tail of my left eye, and there was the ash and there once again was its bird.
There is a special sort of delight that’s reserved for the not-uncommon but seldom-seen. As if the man on the door had ushered you through, aware that you had been issued with an access-all-areas pass into the wild world. The stuff that normally goes on in secret is briefly open to you.
That flickering, jerky progress up the trunk, the parachute descent to the bottom so that it can make this climbing, skittering feeding-run all over again, the startling white of the belly, the busy probing of that sharp curved tool of a beak… its sudden vanishing was a call to duty. I turned back to the screen and my book.
Call it research. The book is to be called The Meaning of Birds. There’s a meeting in my hut tomorrow to discuss illustrations. I hope the treecreeper will attend but if he’s busy, I’ll understand.