It is late afternoon and I decide on a final walk through Badgers Wood this year. Binoculars in one pocket, some Cadbury’s Heroes in the other, I skite over the iron hard mud that makes up this path. The air is still and a weak sun apologises on the western horizon. Half way along the beech lined boundary I am drawn to a series of bright whistling trills from a family of stonechats perching on the leafless dead stalks of nettles. They wear smart red jackets topped with velvet black hoods, laughing as they flit ahead of me, keeping my company into the trees. Past the derelict cottage I see an old jam jar half buried. I dig it up, tip out the frozen earth and placing the Heroes in it I ram it into my duffel coat pocket. That will come in handy, for what I have no idea, yet. The sun is beginning to set and a few flakes of snow fall in silence.
On my way back I hear a gentle tap on a tree and through the binoculars I see it and smile – my favourite bird this year – a tree creeper and then a little further away, more tapping, and to my surprise a great spotted woodpecker in all its magnificence, nodding, pecking its way up a larch tree. With my eye now in I see other small birds – chaffinches, blue tits and long tail tits, while at ground level a wren sings its heart out, competing with the raucous rooks in the tallest pine.
The wood has become an important place this year. Yesterday I watched a short film about a man who is drawing the contents of his grandads shed, every nut, bolt and piece of baler twine. Thus far it has taken him five years and over seven thousand drawings. He believes there to be over one hundred thousand items and that this will be a life times work. I was staggered by his determination and integrity to this project, as a way of honouring his grandad. I started to wonder if it would be possible to draw everthing in this wood. Of course not, how could you ? The contents of this wood are not inanimate ( save the odd jam jar ), every single living thing is at some stage of its own cycle, somewhere between birth and death and then beyond as compost and food. The wood is in constant change and can never be archived. All one can do is be present here, witness to this flux and this is enough, more than enough, although I will continue to try, now and then to capture some of its essence, pour it into my jam jar, cover it with a waxed paper disc before putting a lid on it.
A very happy hogmanay to everyone.