Painting by Jo Walter, The Chenille Tablecloth @jowalter_art
Daniel finds himself flying through tunnels of light, with tropical birds, memories with the lightness of feathers…
Birds are central to Daniel’s life. They are the most visible of animals, typically being in the open, out and about during daylight. And they are a key signifier, their reduced numbers indicating environmental decline. He is reminded of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the impact of that book as people faced the prospect of a birdless sky.
How light, fine boned, almost weightless…that day finding the skull of a curlew by the shore, the full length of curved beak, all bone, intact, in life so delicately mapped with hundreds of sensory cells, sensitively feeling down through the sand for buried sea-life, worms, exploring wormholes.
Tiny, fragile…the redwing Daniel and his brother found in nearby woods, one winter, shivering, not even trying to escape. How they nursed it by the warmth of the gas fire in their front room and fed it, or tried to, with egg mixed with crumbled digestive biscuit. How the next morning it was rigid.
Kestrels hovering beside the motorway scanning the verge for voles, mice, snakes, head nailed to the sky, wings gathering the breeze. Glistening domes of eyes, focused, focusing on the tiniest changes of movement in the grasses below.
He remembered fondly how, one spring morning, he’d agreed to rise early with his Dad, to greet the dawn, to be there ready, the playroom window open, letting in the silence before the sky began to lift, to identify the first birds to sing. They had a small notebook, and Daniel was prepared with a pen to write down the names of common birds he’d heard of but never really listened to, such as: blackbird, robin, wren. First, a single, solitary voice, then a reply, then a different species, until all three with others later on, sung between the lightening of the sky and trees.
Daniel tumbled on…
It was the last day of trekking the Inca Trail. They were standing by two upright stones with a gap between, known as the Sun Gate, waiting for the sun to rise. And as it did, it shone between the stones of the Sun Gate into the heart of the temple of Machu Picchu less than a mile away.
To enhance the dawn one of the guides played his Andean pipes, and at the same time, high in the distance, the black shadow of a condor came into view and circled closer and closer and lower, so close that we could see the splay of its wing feathers and imagined his naked, leathery muscled neck and head, eyes searching for carrion. And the spirit, the spirit of the creature was alive there in that moment, rising over the mountains, all the mountain passes, carrying with it countless years of evolution, interpreting the sky.
In the tunnel, he was awash in the light of ten thousand auroras…