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{ 35 } 23. THE OWL AND THE SUN Let us speak of a gray day. Even as the sun tore a hole in the flat morning, A little owl was on the road, Pecking at an ounce of rabbit. A waxed utility vehicle raced on regardless, clipping the carcass. The pocket owl staggered, swerved into the hedge, and flashed across the field. It shrank above the dusty soil, was gone. The next morning, Tall cow parsley shivering at the same verge, A pheasant rose and clutched at air, And flew at another car with a thump. It was gone. These were the weather signs that particular spring. Satellite maps said it might rain. Unlikely: all had forgotten what wet was. On the solar panels was a carpet of red silt fallen from the Sahara. The data were still fine, the house registered as a power station. How good if every roof had solar, selling to the grid, emitting nothing to the air. We joined a social enterprise in the village, now installing eighty-four panels on the school roof. The next generation may know what to do. It had been the hottest April on record. Lawns were scenes of scorched summer . The garden wanted water, a time for watching allium appear, the delphinium stronger than any year, Japanese anemone also racing up. But a pittosporum shrub blinked after the bone cold: every leaf fell in two days. Then the camellia crisped off. Buckets of water were rushed out before a dash to speak at a spring festival. It was a mardle in a dusty barn, a coastal celebration of place and food, the audience sitting on sofas and farm chairs. MAY { 36 }     The East Country On return, the red moon was hanging huge over dry dark trees. Driving slowly with the windows wide, the warm country night cried and called. On the long road north, Bashō wrote: Heard, not seen The camellia poured rainwater When it leaned. 5 24. THE BAT AND THE WILD The bat did come back. Each evening that week, a pipistrelle put a spell on the garden. It banked in silence, trawling insects, slipped away. Once a bright moth labored over pepper broom: pop, it was a shower of dust and cell. The bat flew on. At the time, robin was at evensong, blackbird chip-chipping alarm calls at prowling cats. From a nearby garden came shouts of laughing children, outdoors instead of in. Tonight, heavy clouds hurried from the west, yet the gibbous moon was bright. Each night, it migrates back by eighty minutes. Full moon in four days. One night like this, The moon waxing so, A bat bit through my bloody thumb. But the bat was welcome wild. In a domestic garden, scarlet rose and tall foxglove shiver together, the land so managed yet the weeds and wild still come. Sixty species of bird in or over the garden. The leading twitchers tick off four hundred, but still, not so bad. This lovely land, both wild and managed, side by side and interweaved. Along the valley floor are creamy Charolais and brown South Devons . There are ridged plots of Maris Peer and Charlotte potato, far fields of onion. Farms in Suffolk and Essex shooting game have on average 7 percent of land under woodland; farms that do not have just 1 percent. Many are the pheasants and partridge . Our choices on garden and farm management matter. Two plans were the talk of the valley: one to drop a theme park with wrecking retail on the Essex tops; the other, to extend this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty west and north up-valley. Constable would have approved the latter, local villagers were up in arms about the former. Bright posters appeared in front windows and on lampposts. There were meetings in front rooms, strategies for planners at the borough council. The developers set up Suffolk Punch horses by their pub, but trying to be traditional did not hide destructive intention. They believe they are being good. { 37 }     May But the land was in more immediate jeopardy. The bat took the moth, the sawing buzz of stag beetle awaited. The fields were parched, clay soils fissured. March was the driest and hottest on record, less than a twentieth average rainfall. Barley and rape were in torment, thin and discolored. It was the same in northern France. The Mediterranean climate was marching north, it seemed. Outside two bats flew across the moon. The garden welcomed the grace...


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