Spirit

“There’s red deer up on Thornhill Head” he says.
“They’ll take a crop, a group like that. But beautiful”.
He offers cider with a mole-spread hand.
“I’ve seen more hares the last two years. And hedgehogs.
Things are coming back. Red deer on Thornhill Head”.
His eyes are very blue. He shakes his head.
“Now, starlings. They’re a bugger. What a mess.
What can you do?”. He leaves wide edges
on his fields, cuts hedges later than his father did.
He put up boxes for the swifts. He smiles,
straddling the wild and the farmed, holding
it all in balance, in these soil-stained hands.
Owned by the land, the ripe curves of it,
the steep-sided valleys, where the woods
shelter wild daffodils and bluebells,
and the gentler slopes for cattle and for maize.
You have to make a living. Then again,
you have to love this place. He smiles again.
“Red deer on Thornhill Head. That’s wonderful”.

This is for Brendan at earthweal. He asks us to think about the spirit of the place we live in.

This weekend we went on our village Scrumpy Stroll. It’s an annual event, though we haven’t held it since before covid (BC?). It’s a 4 mile walk, with several stops on the way to drink cider delivered by a 4-wheel drive. The local farmers organise it, and it’s a chance to see bits of land you wouldn’t normally access. I got talking to one of the local farmers, Steve, and when this challenge came up, I immediately thought of him. His family have farmed locally for many many years – like all our local farmers. He knows this land. He tries to find a balance between his needs as a farmer, and the land’s needs. He doesn’t always get it right. And he’s right about the starlings – they gather round his barns in the hundreds for weeks on end. Quite a sight from a distance, not so much fun for his wife putting out the washing.