Friday, 3 July

This morning I woke up at 5 to mild panic: I am supposed to write a blog today and I do not have a single idea. After a few minutes tossing and still not even a hint of a plan, I got up, made my coffee, and did what I always do when feeling uninspired. I looked at my photos from the last two weeks. They often help me find the thread around which to weave a story.

Not so this morning. There were a couple I'd posted on Instagram (if you like my photos you can follow me here) that I thought evocative...

Old windmill
Tasha's World (after Andrew Wyeth)

...but I’ve recently written about Tasha’s World and one tower doesn’t make a tale.

Mostly the photos made my last fortnight look like a litany of discrete events that had, en plus, left little time for reflection. As real life kicks in following our two month Covid-19 confinement, so too does a scattered mind. A few days in Paris were gobbled up by chores such as getting David's bike fixed and my fortunately still under guarantee computer replaced. Back here on Friday, we had an inspiring, fascinating meeting with an organic farmer but that’s a starting point for a future, longer story. We had our first visitors in months, my son William and his girlfriend Margaux, and that was pure joy, though how strange not to be able to embrace your own child.

Sylvain splendour

Resigned to blog failure, I turned to novel revision and got a good hour and a half’s work on that done before it was time for Tasha and me to take our morning constitutional. The blog would just have to wait, however inconveniently, until the 14 juillet/Bastille Day long weekend.

For quite some time Tasha and I have been walking between fields of tall wheat, barley and rapeseed with limited visibility. Even the corn, a late bloomer, is now growing like a class of teenagers and blocking the vista. It’s a bit like walking in a tunnel and though tunnel vision has its attractions—a good hunting prophylactic for dogs and a feeling of security for humans—it does contribute to the sense of nothing-to-report.  

But this morning we walked to the top of the rise and there was this:

The rapeseed had been harvested and the landscape had burst open. Everything seemed different, at once scarily exposed and exhilaratingly expansive. The air smelled of straw. I knew immediately what I needed to write about: the fact that the natural world is never still. That there is, if you're been paying attention, always a story.

Now that I thought about it, there had of course been signs. The rapeseed pods had become desiccated and the stalks brittle; they rattled in the wind. The wheat has gone tawny; it rustles like a grass skirt. The wild flowers that William and Margaux had picked were not the same species as those blanketing the edges of the lane, the floor of the forest in early June. The hay in our field had been mown and baled earlier in the week.

Happy couple

Yesterday I'd even heard the combine harvester, like a background instrument in the masonic symphony of hammers, drills and stone saws next door, where our barn is being renovated.

But I hadn’t considered the effect that its noise would have on the landscape. It was as if the season had changed overnight.

New look for my friend the tree

Even the animals seem to be aware of this evolution and are emerging from their baby-making spring hiding places. Two days ago Tasha, almost home, caught sight of a hare at the edge of a wheat field and disappeared for almost four hours (so much for my recently touting the taming of Tasha). Yesterday I spotted, thankfully before she did, two deer grazing, then watched in wonder as their silhouettes leapt in and out of the high wheat against the rising sun.

And this morning, needless to say, I wasn't the only one excited by new horizons.

It's so easy to let your mind and senses shut down, especially now that we are déconfinés and have busy, distracting days. Thank you, natural world, for giving me a good jolt, a reminder that there's always a story to tell.