This weekends creaking, bending trees and the exhalation of Mother Natures vast lungs have sealed the turn of the new year for me. Coming off the back of ten days of walking the woods and fields of the Norfolk hinterlands, returning to work in an office is going to be hell on Monday. Yet perhaps it’s that purgatory that makes being in the wild so special? Since New Years Day I have been wandering with camera, hound and (yes, I’m a hunter and proud) my gun. I’ve walked the hoar-hardened plough and trodden the glistening leaf litter of forest and copse. I have stood and watched the early rise of the yellow orb burn away the chilling morning mist and bathe the meadows in sunshine. In another place, at an opposite time, I’ve stood to watch her descend in orange glory beneath the water-splashed fen. I’ve watched the descent of rook, crow and jackdaw into the fields before dusk and waited, breath held, for them to rise en-masse and whirl in a crackling maelstrom before spiralling in their tens of thousand into the overnight roost. I’ve had my heart pulsed at the sudden rise of the hen pheasant from her cower and I’ve been startled by the snap of the woodcocks escape as lifts beside my boot at the foot of the frosted escarpment. I’ve stood in the dense wood amid the cascade of low winter sunbeams to watch midges dance in the shafts of light and waken the interest of the robin and the wren. I’ve hunkered down to study the play of two hares on the unploughed stubbles. A union in the making these next few months, I’m sure. I was privileged to watch four red deer hinds sprint up the escarpment, through the conifer plantation and into the dead maize cover. Uneventful for some, special for me. We see too few reds around here. The old buzzard always looks me out when he sees me, knowing that my activity will usually gift him with some grey squirrel meat and rescue him from road-kill carrion for a time. I’ve watched the snowdrops push their fragile buds up through the mulch these last ten days. It could be pure, white carpet this year. Throughout all my walks I have been chastised for my audacity by blue, great and long-tailed tits. The wrens have tutted, the blackbirds have pipped but none compete with the sparrowhawks angry chime. He knows we compete, that spar and I. He would have my roost-shoot pigeon and I would have his squirrel. Two hunters in the same territory … yet there is ample for both. The turn from frost to rain to gale impacts on the wood in Mother Natures inimitable style. Ancient trees tumble and break my heart with their demise. Yet they will provide shelter for bird and beast, even in their decline. As I write this tonight, I have one day left of freedom. Tomorrow will be enjoyed, again, in the wild. Come Monday, should I choose to return to purgatory (and, after all, the choice is mine) it will be with my body between the walls and my mind out there in the wild, where I truly belong.
© Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, 2015