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{ 27 } 17. TWO BUZZARDS Far, far away, two buzzards spiraled in sapphire sky. A hooting rook climbed from the valley and mobbed them. The buzzards planed upwards, mewing, becoming small, the tiny corvid laboring to the south. The east country has red kite too, both self-spread from the west, outdating bird guides, breeding on platform nests in craggy willow, and reshaping rabbit numbers. A planned bird introduction was canceled from Whitehall. White-tailed eagles hunt on Scotland’s rocky shore, once were here too. James Wentworth Day wrote of sea eagle over Geedon Marsh in the 1930s. The minister’s tidings: these birds will pounce on piglets. His other job: local pig farmer, big man. They take dead lambs in the Highlands, enough to worry but not yet a pig. Before dismay, delicious irony. Eagles might come without visas: a pair flew from Germany, staying six months in the Blyth Valley; another lingered up at Corton. Next year, they would settle at Orford and on the marshy coast near Shingle Street. Borders for birds do not bend to political will: Eagles may fly, perhaps some will stay. That politician has already flown his post. There was summer smog in the city, out here days and more days of sun. Bluebell had blossomed, nightingale yet to blow in. Rape splashed fields pepper yellow; in others wheat was a foot tall. Early oak were olive green, lacy parsley stitched to roads. Yet daffodil were still in flower, celandine too. In the garden, young delphinium so far escaped slug and snail. There were early signs of drought out on the heathlands, where free-range pigs slumped, arum lily were crisp as paper. This day last year was low, strong north wind, a wall of rain. Now, dew at night saves many plants. Mid-evening I drove to the station to wait for my daughter’s train. Gray-faced commuters staggered, others smiled to friends. Earlier, hanging baskets had been APRIL { 28 }     The East Country planted, and foxglove transferred to the garden’s shady edge. The brown bin was full with lilac wood, alive last year then suddenly dead. Honeysuckle and climbing rose by the front door were bright green. Then heavy work, carrying double glazing to the garage, a job coming around with greater regularity as the years pass. By the back door two nights in succession, a tawny quavered. Up at the timber yard, guinea fowl creaked at roost, wary of prowling foxes. 5 18. THE LONG NIGHT OF HOPE After cold came the glow of frozen stone. After heavy rain, gray skies and gloom. One long pause and another sober wait. A gale, a gust, the forecast watched with hope. Then sunshine and warmth, for nearly hours. More planting for the coming spring. Two hundred pots were now lined up, on bench and seat and table. Soil was on hands and arms, the back creaking. Shadow faded and cloud raced in. The rain speckled leaves again. For two nights pots were reclothed in plastic, by morning all crackled with frost. Doves wheezed; a green woodpecker cackled. But it was the alchemy of change. Continental air advanced northward, a froth of yellow-green appearing on willow. Late blackthorn burst icing in the hedgerow now lime with hawthorn too. A hare stood bold in the middle of a road, skylark hovered and pigeon squabbled. A single glossy bird crowed from a furrowed field of clods. Late April and no sign of dazzling fields of yellow. Bumblebees flew out of synchrony: There were too few flowers. Cow parsley was rising, Anemone dashing too. It would be a second summer Without a honeybee. On the train back from a long ride, there were beery sports fans in blue. The bike stand was by the toilet, a queue snaked the whole hour. There was loud singing, mostly at the enemy in yellow and green from over the county border. Parents wanted to cover children’s ears, tried not to display dismay. Confident were those in blue. Later, the score; they lost 5–1 at home. The greatest rivals are usually the closest neighbors. There is little worse than dashed hope, except perhaps no hope. It was briefly warm, twenty degrees by mid-afternoon, a taste of arid summer. At late evening, long after milling insects had departed and the last thrush had sung, there was aroma from wooden chairs and night-scented phlox. Magenta flowers were bright on the bottle-green camellia. Shoals of clouds...


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