Sunday, 17 August 2008

Watching Bats

After an afternoon and early evening of rain, some heavy, some just a light drizzle I walked out from Titley to brave the elements. Did I want to go out or not? Would I get absolutely soaked? With only about an hour and half of daylight left I was cutting it a bit fine but decided to go out and make the most of the first evening of our holiday.

The rain gently clears and I walk down the puddled roads and through rain-soaked fields. It was warm but still very overcast. I walk alongside a wooded, disused railway line behind me - I am on the lee-ward side, sheltered from the evening breeze that ripples through the high branches. Whoosh! Something flies right past me about six feet away at waist level. A quick dark shape. Too big for a bat I think - perhaps a sparrowhawk? The evening darkness approaches and I can barely see to write in my sketchbook. I sit under an oak tree at the corner of a field. I see bats darting above me against the heavy grey sky, flitting here and there - so fast. How do they see their landscape I wonder? Are they roosting in the old trees around me? They fly past with just a faint flutter. All is quiet, apart from the breeze and water drops falling off the wet branches above me.

Learn to observe, even in the most mundane places. I am in a simple corner of a field and yet surrounded by so much.

A light appears on a hill a couple of miles away. Why so bright? Why do I need to see it?

How is my perception changing of the way I interpret the landscapes I am in?

I walk back down the tiny country lane. I smell the bracken and honeysuckle. I notice the movement of the hedgerow leaves against the sky. The song of the breeze. The sound of my boots crunching on the loose road stones and swishing through the puddles; the rustle of my coat, the flapping of my wet trousers around my legs and my breathing. The distant thumping of music, probably from a car. A pale moth flutters past in front on me.

As I approach the stream and the road crosses over the old stone bridge, I slow my walk to a silent meditative pace, making as little sound as possible. I stop on the bridge and acknowledge the presence of the water below me; from it comes and where it is going. I listen to the sound textures as the water tumbles over the stones - different either side of the bridge. I bow and thank the river.

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