13 October 2013

Water under Bridges

The calls caught my attention first - the characteristic zzt zzt zzt (well roughly, it's so hard to write down a bird call, but with the wonder of the web, you have a listen here) - a flock of long-tailed tits chattering their way through a willow tree over the stream. It was early morning and a walk with Izzy to get the Saturday newspapers was enlivened by this treat on the way. They're great little birds and I don't see them that often; they're tiny, about the size of a goldcrest or wren, but with the eponymous tail that looks all off balance, their black and white heads, and the hint of a shell-like pink on their bodies, they're unmistakeable. Lovely.

Earlier in the week, just before sunrise, Iz and I wandered into the field to the surprise of one of the local foxes. It did that watchful thing: it stares at you, watches every move you make and then if you turn away for just a second (to check where your mini-schnauzer is, for example) it's gone, as if into thin air. A handy trick for anyone, but foxes seems to do it best.

In the garden the asters are looking wonderful. The verbena (V. bonariensis) is still looking great and now that my tall asters are out, they echo it very nicely farther up the garden. But as some plants come into centre stage it's exeunt stage left for others, and as they do, there's beauty to be found. The hosta leaves fade to ochres and greys, curl, and their quilted texture comes into even greater relief.

And autumn leaves from a morning walk filter the mid-morning sunlight to present me with a stained glass light moment on my desk and at the same time remind me of the changes outside the walls of the seasonless office.

Office leaves and chestnuts
Asters seen through a haze of Molinia caerula 'Transparent'
Beauty's where you find it: a hosta fades in the garden
After musing over the blog a bit in the last few weeks, and going public with some of those musings last week, I thought I'd get back to basics today - quotidian beauty, there for all of us, in ordinary surroundings... Many thanks to those of you who encouraged me to keep going with the blog -- here, on facebook and even (gasp!) in person. I'll certainly finish out these few weeks and after that I may make some changes... we'll see!

Out in the heart of autumn this week, it's mushroom time. In the park, in the field, on trees, in the Devil's Glen--where we went today--the fungi are doing their thing. I'd been hoping we might find chanterelles, but the Devil's Glen is a mixed woodland where we were walking today and when I've found chanterelles before it has been on the floor of conifer forests, so maybe another time. The Vartry river flows through the Devil's Glen, in fact we crossed over it as we drove to the forest, over one of those tiny old narrow stone bridges that has a V cut into one of the parapets to allow a person to stand in should a cart/carriage/car be passing over the water. We walked along the river, under a mix of trees (oak, rowan, hazel, field maple, beech, sweet chestnut) from which the leaves fell as slowly and silently as painted snow. At one point some movement caught my eye on the other bank of the river; it was a small mammal, flowing like black ink over and under rocks and fallen limbs of trees. A mink: not a welcome sight, but impressive in its own way. Along the way, sculptures blended into the woodland and quotes from Seamus Heaney's poetry were carved into benches or stone. It's quite the beautiful spot and we had it mostly to ourselves. I hadn't been there for many years and it was good to be back. We shall return sooner the next time.

Park fungi
Unknown fungus in Devil's Glen
Xylaria hypoxylon, Candlesnuff fungus
Quercus petraea, Oak,  in the Devil's Glen
Sorbus aucuparia, Rowan, only the gorgeous berries remain

'Wound' , made with Sequoia wood, by Cathy Carmen, 2002
One of the Heaney quotes: "I have to clean the steps"
This is also a spot the schnauzer (it has been a while...)
 Another Heaney quote (phew, that's a relief)
Okay, two things to end this week. The first is an unfinished drawing of some chestnuts from the local park (the chestnuts this year have been amazing, as have so many fruits). I did the drawing this afternoon, as a break from the lovely Yew tree.

Chestnuts, done with coloured pencil
(phone pic, so not great quality)
The second--given that we spent the morning by a river--is a beautiful song 'Water under Bridges' from Gregory Porter: a singer with a voice you could listen to all day and all night (thanks for that B.).

Have a good week all.


  1. Fantastic as always, although I'm wondering why minks aren't welcome? I love the photos... especially the hosta and those glorious leaves! Have fun with the drawing! Sxx

    1. thanks shevaun. you'll have seen Frances' answer re. the minks ... not great beasties to have around at all.

  2. Wonderful Erica xx glad you are continuing with the blog. This has to be my favourite time of year.

    1. Thanks Claire. I love autumn too, except that we're losing the daylight! This autumn is particularly abundant, isn't it, after the summer we had...

  3. graineweile15 October, 2013

    Loved the mushroom pikkies...What IS it about mushrooms that makes them SO fascinating. I was looking at some up in the Phoenix park the other day - everyone different and everyone fascinating - buit like us I suppose!!!