Queen of the May

This time last year I had to take a train to see one of the sights I make pilgrimage to each May

It is no place in particular – any English country lane will do but now I walk out of the house and up by the mill pond and the farm tracks, the Queen of the May is in bloom.

Cow parsley or Wild Chervil for want of a better name – edible too for humans but most of all a feast for the eyes. In themselves, the flowers are not so spectacular – umbrels of white frosting on ferny foliage on but en masse they grow waist high to the trees and mass in their thousands for a spectacle that blurs into distant clouds

” lanes chock full to the milky brim
late May days still peppered with fragrant aniseed
cherished chervil memories of walks to the high verges
new creamy calves lying low in cow parsley”

Dear Common Flower

Late afternoon sun over a field of seedy dandelions. It was one of those sights that made me wish I had my camera with me but despite the best advice, out on a jog is not the time to carry anything other than oneself. Still there was always the next day and so I set out…

but the light was more overcast and the weather windy so that many of the seedheads had already blown away. Nature did not even throw up the parachute seeds in romantic slow drifts but had simply decapitated many of them with a buffeting.

I was miffed! And eventually re-composed myself for some different shots at dandelions, seeking them in the more sheltered margins of the lane

Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May
James Lowell
As Nabokov wrote: “Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons
“It is not enough to photograph the obviously picturesque.” – Dorothea Lange
“While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.” – Dorothea Lange

I’d never noticed how much dandelion silk captures the sunlight spectrum until the macro enabled this view and so although I did not get the wide angle photograph I came for, I found as much in the details.

To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.” – Dorothea Lange

the theory of sparrows

Sparrows have all but left the city’s haunts
gone, along with houses, gutters, eaves and cavities
done roaming, they’ve vacated the metropolis
in droves, where once generations gathered
like cock-a-hooping Cockney boys
in dusty summer streets, grubbing off
heat and fleas, chirruping from tenement cages
and feeding from every crumb of affection
Londoners left in their wake

Perplexed we point to air pollution
diesel dirt, petro-chemical particles
farmers further afield, hedge grubbers
hunters with nets, crop sprayers,
cats that catch as catch can
egg-robbing chick-stealing corvids
the rise of the eponymous hawk that snatches
small hapless mouthfuls, appetisers
before fatter feathered game

All that is just a tale of the city, half truths
above and beyond the crass pancaking of concrete
the noisy, noisome networks of road and rail
Sparrows have grown partial to the provinces
seed feeders at the ready, fat balls, dried worm dispensers
here in domesticated pastoral peace their clamour
is a constant; a streaming cheeping social chatter
heard again and understood amongst each other

So common were house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in London that for East Enders, “Hello me old cock sparrow” was a form of cockney greeting. Greater London lost 70% of its sparrows between 1994 and 2001. This decline is levelling off now but the birds remain on the red alert list.
see All about the House Sparrow

The Theory:
Having left London, the crowds of chattering house sparrows in the garden made me wonder how much the noise of the city has effected their communications. I now find that several studies indicate noise pollution as a decimating factor – “constant city noise can disrupt the singing of birds and seriously affect the behaviour of sparrows and their chicks.” (CNRS News)

Sparrows are a sentinel species for environmental change – perhaps the poem is unrealistically upbeat but I was not writing a requiem as part of Merril’s challenge: Theories of Everything and Anything