The Lost Words, and Spell Songs

I recently received the wonderful book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane … And the beautiful Spell Songs that have been composed around those words, hard to believe these are words disappeared from the English dictionary, words of bird and flora, and it and I have found myself reflecting on the anthems of bird songs which have been the soundtracks to different chapters of my life …

Here it is the buzzards mewing to their young as they begin their first flight across the expanse of the marsh, wheeling, slowly spiralling across the space between the natural amphitheatre of hill and flatness of the land.

When I lived in Rye the seagulls anxious screeches, threatening and dominating the sounds of the town their stressful cries as their young lurched from nest to main road, often to come to a cruel end after all the effort the parents had bestowed on them during the spring … such a heartbreaking waste … But the wonderful pigeons which gather in great drifts in the pink evening light, waves of dark then light flashed with the sunโ€™s last colour as they turned in neat formation around the Landgate where they roosted and had made their own citadel, now left by humans …

In my motherโ€™s cottage it was the jackdaws cracking jokes at dusk, after they had gathered at some specified hour in the ash tree at the end of the garden until there were only two answering each other … Then silence. And the sparrows in the thick hedge next to my kitchen window, hysterically gossiping and competing with urgent stories of who knows what, and if I passed the hedge they would snap shut silent until I had moved away then begin again where they had left off …

The coloured doves too incessantly replaying their limited song as though caught in a never ending loop … Soothing and motherly, comforting … The wren insistent industrious and busy. But also the Magpies threatening clatter, so aggressive and cruel, and I remember hearing a commotion outside, a screaming and distress calling from the pigeons, to find the magpies had stolen the only child of the dove couple and torn it apart, only itโ€™s legs clawing at the sky … And bloody remains scattered over the yard.

As the children grew, on the edge of the forrest in Benenden there was an orchestra of bird song, nightjars, mechanical and unearthly rasping, nightingales in their particular spot every year, almost too beautiful to hear, often I would go and find them and stand breathing in the forrest pine scents and the beauty of the songs phrases would take my breath away … The woodpeckers and their children within a hollow tree.

And then in Spain where we would go for heavenly holidays in the Sierra Navada, in a friends farmhouse amongst the olive groves there were bee eaters and swallows darting over the water of the pool, the blue of the water reflected on their bellies … No other sound to interupt the bee eaters almost tropical sound …

As a child wondering alone in the large garden where I grew up, there were swallows in the summer, nesting outside my bedroom, blackbirds and song thrushes … And standing by an autumn bonfire with my father listening to the crows rasp, will we watched the sparks play and he slurped his whisky in an old enamel mug. No conversation was necessary just stillness, his moth eaten jumper perfumed with woody scents from his roll up cigarette and sweet woodsmoke …

But these theme tunes bring me immediately back to a place and moment and season, and I have been reflecting on nature’s music which continues to …

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