Goldfinch Pond

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Friday 19th November 1999

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goldfinches on the pondheron THREE GOLDFINCHES are feeding on the seedheads of a sprawling Knapweed that each year spreads out into the pond.

A Heron comes in to land by the beck, it is going so low over the top of one of the Crack Willows that it has to lift its legs to clear the branches.

Cerebus of the scrapyardJapanese knotweed The resident guard dog greets me with a chorus of barking as I head for the riverside path. The automobile scrapyard owner once told me that this German Shepherd didn't quite make the grade as a prison guard dog, acheiving a score somewhat below the necessary 100% in obedience.

I'm glad I'm on this side of the fence.

Just like the last time I was here, the barking dog and the roar of the traffic only serve to make the riverside path beyond seem more peaceful. Now the leaves of the Japanese Knotweed have mostly fallen. The bare brown canes, catching the afternoon sun, look like a detail from a Japanese pen and wash drawing.

larch and pine Creative writing tutors are fond of asking you questions along the lines of the one that occurs to me today;
'If this landscape was a piece of music what kind of music would it be?'

Landscape has many parallels with music, and often the opposite is true. This afternoon, as a low sun silhouettes the pines and larches, the dramatic contrast brings a Mahler symphony to mind. The gold of the low sun provides the main dramatic theme - sunburst rays shining from a swirl of cloud would be the equivalent of Malher's spiritually uplifting set pieces - but the same colour is picked up in the intimate, gentler passages, in the close-up detail of the birch leaves, something which you can reach out and touch. Mahler isn't all towering stuff, he includes forest murmurs and children's songs, intimate details that make you feel you can just walk right into his imagined world.

One movement from Malher is fine but, like a landscape, you need to experience the development of his music as it unfolds through time to appreciate it at its deepest level. Like the everyday landscape, it has cycles of growth and contrasting moods. The everyday, the funny and the (apparently) banal are as much a part of it as the drama, the sadness and occasional spiritual insight.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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