Return from greatness

Orchis morio Majella
Back behind the screen after two days away in the company of some of the Greats (with a capital “G”) of nature conservation in Italy. Just a few metres above me is a stubborn layer of dripping cloud and some of it has seeped into my head. Spring drizzle, warm and dark. It is from this that light will come, light and the growing of green things and flowers. And me? What about me? I have an urgent need to dance rock and roll barefoot to the canned music in a supermarket aisle between the frozen ready meals and canned peaches. I’m off now to have a word with the sodden stratus to see if together we can’t whip up a cumulonimbus worthy of the name.

Attenti che pungo!

Se fossi una di “quelli” fotografi della natura, presenterei questa foto con qualcosa tipo: guardate che carina l’apetta biondina pelosetta e coccolosa che fa “ciao” con le zampettine. Invece, vi presento Anthophora plumipes (famiglia Apidae) in atteggiamento difensivo/aggressivo, chiaramente infastidita dall’attenzione troppo invasiva della fotografa. Insomma, più che “ciao” con la manina, il messaggio è: statemi lontani che pungo una meraviglia. Un po’ come me in questi giorni di cosiddetta “festa”.

Before dawn

I love these moments before dawn. Waiting. As the roe-deer and wild boar slip away into the woods, just me and the birds, early risers staking our claim on the day. The tingle in your skin tells you anything could happen, although that spoilsport left hemisphere tells you it won’t. But it could, it could. Good morning day, shall we be off?

After the wind

Two days, 48 hours, 2880 minutes and a few more besides. When the stubborn south wind sets in to buffet the house, every nerve-jarring second counts. There is nothing elegant about this wind, nothing that suggests the least remorse for its incessant battering-ram assault, stripping leaves, shattering branches, hammering doors, pummelling windows and flinging against the glass bemused drops of rain that really would much rather be elsewhere. That’s how it is and how it will always be when the yellow sand-laden south wind wheedles its way over the pass, slips into the valley and takes residence there. Opposition is useless. Better just to sit and count the raindrops on the window pane, praying to whatever gods you believe in that the roof tiles will cling on at least this one time more. And they have. And now the sun has come back, as you knew it would, sooner or later. A little tremulous and uncertain of what to tell of all it has seen from high up there where the clouds fear to go. Because the clouds, as everyone knows, are afraid of heights.

A tu per tu con la lucertola

Abbiamo molto in comune, io e lei (lui?). Temiamo il freddo entrambi e non chiediamo altro che passare il giorno crogiolandoci nel sole ed andando a caccia di mosche. Io Homo sapiens e lei Podarcis muralis, ma ci diamo del “tu” comunque.

The thawing of a slow worm

Anguis fragilisIt’s tough being cold-blooded in April at 1100 m in the Apennines. The sun comes out. It’s hot. You get crawling. Then the temperature plummets, along comes the snow again and you get caught out there, frozen on your way. Literally frozen. And that’s not a great way to be. This slow worm (Anguis fragilis) got lucky. We found it more than half frozen on the path to home, kept it off the ice in a makeshift shelter for a few days, then when the sun deigned to shine again, happily watched it slither away across the terrace. They are creatures of such beauty. Elegant, graceful, with a sheen of silver and russet in the soft spring light. Slow worms were a great love of my childhood. Hundreds of them (or so it seemed) frequent my memories of running wild in our dishevelled garden in Kent. I would meet them as we both slithered through the long grass on our bellies hunting for flies, or we would lie stretched out on hot summer stones together, them and I, as the sun seeped through the skin and into the blood. Far off feral days, so distant, so near. Stay out of the snow, slow worm. Happy slithering and a lifetime’s flies.

Spring snow

Cyanistes caeruleus blue tit cinciarella
The snow is back. Wet, sticky, stubborn spring snow and freezing temperatures that scorch buds and bring the birds back to the window sill hungry for sunflower seeds and peanuts. My mood is as sullen as the snow and if I only knew where the colours had gone, I’d be off following them to who knows where, anything to escape the relentless anti-colour of the snow.

Un riparo dal freddo

Phlogophora meticulosaFuori fioccheggia con 0°C. I colori fanno ciò che possono per uscire da sotto la coperta bianca, ma l’urlo smodato della primavera si è ridotto ad un sussurro sommesso appena percettibile. Chi non può sfuggire, subisce. Chi invece la “tana” ce l’ha, ne approfitta. E allora, eccomi qua a lavoro, guardando i fiocchi che scendono, felicemente condividendo la mia tana con chi cerca un riparo dal freddo. Come lui (o lei), Phlogophora meticulosa (fino a prova contrario).

Waiting trees

Stripped by autumn, it’s been a long time since you saw green leaves and crawling caterpillars. Just waiting. Winter ruffled you, mixed and stirred you with a dollop of snow, a pinch of ice. And then there was spring, although you’d hardly know it. That’s just how it is. The clouds pass leaving blotches of shadow and it’s cold without the sun, with an empty darkness on the horizon filled with echoes of the snow that has been and that which is to come. Soon. Just waiting.

Tempo di Pasquetta

Pasquetta, quando nel nome della tradizione si affaccia alla natura non in punta di piedi, ma calciando (una palla) e urlando (per farsi sentire sopra la musica). Eh ragazzi, parlo con voi che state preparandovi per la “scampagnata”: qui piove a dirotto, abbiamo 6°C e si vede appena la palma della propria mano. Rimanete a casa che è meglio… o se proprio dovete uscire, andate al parco urbano più vicino che lì ci sono dei bei tavolini e pure i gabinetti e puoi parcheggiare ad una distanza di due metri contati. Non vi bagnerete i trainer Adidas (ma si usano ancora?) ed io e la natura vi ringrazieremo calorosamente.