The Inner World of Migration

The new becomes routine. The unfamiliar becomes unnoticeable after a while, but once in a while an event occurs that makes me look at the familiar with a new vision and I wonder and I am thankful for the beauty of it.

I cycle to the sea two or three times a week in all weathers. We have had a very severe winter more so this year than previous years. As I cycle along the small country potholed roads week after week I forget to notice what is around me my mind is on other things and other people. I must think that journey boring as I do not notice it, yet if I had been incarcerated in a small 4 walled cell it must be like heaven to see what I see in those 3 days of cycling, I had forgotten to appreciate it. The winter cold makes me cycle hard and all I notice is how my sweat freezes and how the wind bites into my skin. But recently I have begun to notice the different bird life. At first it was the birds of prey, the Buzzards taking advantage of the air currents and floating effortlessly above the fields looking for prey, or just enjoying the gift of flight as they seem to be enjoying their experience hovering and gliding majestically without effort using what is natural to them and what is free to them. I have seen other birds of prey: a Kestrel had in its talons a small animal as it flew over my head heading for the next field to devour it; a Sparrow Hawk had what looked like a pigeon’s wing hanging down from its claws nearly as big as its own body. The birds of prey are easy to spot; they take my attention and demand acknowledgment.

More recently I have noticed smaller less unfamiliar types of bird doing beautiful and unpredictable things. Yesterday I saw a large flock of Black Birds in a farmer’s field all on the ground taking advantage of the worms as the tractor disturbed the ground. As the tractor approached the seated dinner party the front section of the flock rose in the air and flew obediently and in order to the back of the flock and continued to take advantage of the farmer’s fare but not as fresh and plenty as the front row. As the tractor came closer the next section of birds rose and migrated behind them, it was a constant movement a wave effect of rising and falling, a mass of blackness swaying with fluidity. It was beautiful, poetic, mesmerising and very natural; it was mechanical yet organic and although it seemed like it was programmed and fixed I knew it could reform and change, dissolve and fragment at any moment. I cycled on thinking of this apparition when I noticed a Buzzard perched on a fence post it slowly took flight and glided away from me unconcerned as though it was bored.

A while later I came to the hill where I normally get off my bike as my brakes cannot hold the descent and taking the bottom corner at full speed is not so wise due to the ever widening potholes that seem to get bigger each week due to the tractors that plough that country lane. By getting off and walking down the hill I noticed a tree trunk, the sun shone on its south facing bark but on the reverse side there was an exposed piece of trunk, bare except for a row of beautifully formed toadstools one above the other. It was so unexpected and lovely, the sun shone and I was taken by their colour and form. I felt happy to see it, not to own it or to cut it, possess it or to eat it, just to come across it and then leave it; leave it I did and continued around the bend. The road I have named ‘potholed alley’ for obvious reasons and after the recent snow and ice we have just had the small crevasses make the journey one of “find the asphalt”.

Before the village of Easton there are fields on either side of me I saw in one of these fields a large flock of Canadian Geese, the faded green field was a mass of dark browns and greys. I got off my bike and took out my camera to video the congregation, it reminded me as if they were waiting for their leader to give a speech at the annual ‘Canadian Geese Rally’ that is held in the dirtiest field at the north east corner of wintery England. Then I heard a sound of a small aeroplane coming towards me, the area is quite flat and it holds a few old aerodromes from the 2nd World War, as it turned away from that Geese filled field there came a mass cry and a beating of wings as the whole flock took flight. The Canadian Geese rose into the air on mass and criss-crossed each other away from me and then towards me, a mass of black shapes splitting into smaller flocks and then moving away from one another, splitting and dividing, then reforming again, chaotic yet repetitive. I had seen flocks of Starlings nesting before and it reminded me of them as they swirl and manoeuvre around the skies, but these were a lot larger and a lot noisier. The plane had also startled other Canadian Geese from other fields and these flew over from behind me and they were heading towards the others. They were regrouping, multiplying, and safety in numbers perhaps. They did not seem as though they were enjoying themselves, they were not like the Buzzard who loved to fly for the sheer glory of it; these bleating long necked birds were confused and were looking for a leader to reunite them to a quieter patch of ground; but they did not find it and they were still flying in circles when I left, they seemed to prefer fields a long way off from where I was.

The day was not boring nor was it lost in my own selfish importance; I took nourishment in its detail, in the fragments of not rushing, and I noticed other worlds at play and realised my life was as important as other lives even if I was think it is not. We do what we do without programming it, we think we make choices but we are regimental as the migrating geese or the relay of black birds or the sprouting of fungi, how arrogant to think we are any different.


Winter Mooring

The Sailing season is getting near. Taking boats from their sheltered areas, taking advantage of the warmer weather (if it ever comes) to put them back into the water. This winter has been particularly bad for us Brits and it is not over yet. People who had put their yachts in marinas have seen them smashed due to floods, tide surges and ice. I am not so rich and my small boat sits on the shingle of a beach, no protective walls for her! She has weathered the storms quite well I am pleased to say. The sea neutralizes most things and when the rivers burst their banks they flooded towns and villages but the sea absorbed the extra intake of water in its daily ebb and flow. When the winds threw the seas against the shore my boat got smashed around but was still able to rest when the tide drew shallow. When the cold weather froze the sea and I found her perched on top of a mini ice berg, the next day she was still floating even though her keel was badly scratched; the ice scoured her bottom like sandpaper the ice had rubbed away the protective gel that covered her metal parts. Salt water is very corrosive and in a few weeks there were signs of the rust starting to form on the bolts that kept the keel fixed to the hull.

They say having a boat or sailing is akin to being married, I think it is true. To remedy this particular problem I got on my hands and knees and tenderly and lovingly anti-fouled her where it mattered the most. When I had finished the new paint was vivid red as opposed to the duller pink colour that told of months being submerged in the sea. Love is something we do without really minding even though to others it seems crazy, it might have seemed crazy to any onlookers as I laid down in the wet sand and salt water, felt the icy winds blow on my back and hands, stones pushing into my ribs, paint dripping onto my hair and skin. All for what? When I had finished and stood back it looked like she was bleeding, the red paint was sliding down the keels. I had wounded her. I had saved her. Each time I leave the boat I miss her; I want her to have a good time, to be happy and content, is this love? Or is the boat showing I can love? Is it reflecting love back to me, showing me that I have love, caring, compassion within me? It is important to find ones environment, to experience this love in your own personal private environment. Environment is important for love to grow. In your own natural environment you can explore yourself with love, it seems effortless, easy, you feel happy and content there is no trying. Being away from one’s own environment is hard, it is destructive, and it is an illness. Sometimes I think society is sick, ill at heart.

So what type of environment do you live in?

Having this small boat has made me realize many things about who I am. It is a learning curve, a steep one. Recently I had the decision to buy a motor for the boat, there was a struggle within me of “how I want to live, how I want this environment to be like” I did not want to have or use a motor, after all the sails are my motor, but for safety I bought a small motor to push me to shore if the wind dropped. It is an electric motor and now I am thinking how to power the batteries that will power the motor! It never ends this constant buying to create our environment. I am looking into solar-powered battery chargers to let my need for natural energy poke it’s head through and to live alongside the mechanical. I want to charge the batteries with solar energy and by doing so I am choosing ‘the style’ of charge for my life style, to get the environment I want. It is a compromise and like all good marriages that last we have to learn to compromise.

I have been interested in solar, wind and sea power since I was quite young. My parents used to drive us to the sea at weekends and we used to pass a small windmill in a garden by the road that was used for generating electricity. Now I am planning to use solar energy to power my small electric motor so I can be safe on the sea so I can have the environment I am happy in, so I can work in, and love in. The path maybe a long one but I am sure I will get there in the end. I sincerely hope you find it too.