Richard Jefferies and six legged friends

picnic For those of us who are on the fringes of warm weather, we are now compelled to open the windows and usher in the new day with gentle breezes. And as we welcome the longer days of sunshine we also may find that the beauty of spring comes with a small price. For some, the mornings may welcome the chirping of birds or there are those who may turn over and wish them away for though the term, “getting up with the birds” may look good on paper, it is not always something we wish for ourselves.

The quiet of winter is replaced with a more noisy spring for along with the lovely carpet-like lawns comes the droning noise of the mowers. And from under the ground that was formerly dormant and hidden has awakened with the budding of flowers, leaving us once again sharing our homes and gardens with insects and other small critters. Try as we may to keep them at bay, the little devils are with us again, bringing havoc to the most civilized of picnics.

So, open your hearts and oil your bicycle chains, warm weather is here with all its glory and all its pesky six legged friends. And just think… summer sunburns are just around the corner!

Richard Jefferies 2 Today’s post brings back English writer, Richard Jefferies, (1848-1887). An author who was noted as being a compassionate man that found and wrote about the esthetics of nature. His popularity as an author has gone in and out of vogue; however those who are drawn to the writings of rural life will surely find his work appealing.

I now bid you to take a bit of time out from your hectic day to walk among the flowers with Mr. Jefferies. From his essay, “Some April Insects” we are invited to share with him his observations about “the bee”.

“…Any one delicate would do well to have a few such flowers in spring under observation, and to go out of doors or stop in according to their indications. I think there were four species of wild bee at these early flowers, including the great bombus and the small prosopis with orange-yellow head. It is difficult to scientifically identify small insects hastily flitting without capturing them, which I object to doing, for I dislike to interfere with their harmless liberty. They have all been named and classified, and I consider it a great cruelty to destroy them again without special purpose. The pleasure is to see them alive and busy with their works, and not to keep them in a cabinet. These wild bees, particularly the smaller ones, greatly resented my watching them, just the same as birds do. If I walked by they took no heed; if I stopped or stooped to get a better view they were off instantly. Without doubt they see you, and have some idea of the meaning of your various motions. The wild bees are a constant source of interest, much more so than the hive bee, which is so extremely regular in its ways. With an explosion almost like a little bomb shot out of a flower; with an immense hum, almost startling, boom! the great bombus hurls himself up in the air from under foot; well named—boom—bombus…”

First image: F. Graetz, 1884. India ink over pencil on bristol board

William Cobbett and observations

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The mind is truly amazing and one of its unique abilities is the way it filters extraneous information allowing us to function uninterrupted unlike an overloaded circuit breaker that abruptly shuts down. And although we are constantly bombarded both internally and externally, our minds ability to sort allows us to carry on. However, as we sort we are also apt to miss certain things which do not always take a prominent position of importance. Traveling in a vehicle requires us to look forward, as when we are the driver of car in contrast to times we don’t look around at all but rather stay to ourselves, such as riding in a subway. Here wondering eyes that happen upon another may be considered nosy or even rude.

There are specific moments however when observing one’s surroundings is initiated with a more than a casual interest; when something is new, when we are lost, or when we reminisce; otherwise many are quite content simply getting to and fro from one destination to another without taking additional time out for the sights. For example our observations become enhanced if we are in a location that we have never ventured, such as on a vacation. We are more relaxed, allowing our minds to examine the new, the different, and the picturesque. Our senses are heightened; we permit curiosity to take over and our adventurous spirit to be released.

When we are lost our observational skills resemble those of Sherlock Holmes. We look for clues, familiar sights, locations, people that may lead us back on to the correct path. The physical beauty of our surroundings are irrelevant and no matter how much the sun may be shining upon the landscape, our observational mission is primarily directed to uncovering where we have gone astray.

Then there are those of us who return to places and locations after so many years away; here we find that our observations are directed into comparison mode. We endeavor to find a street, a house, even a tree that once existed and when it is not there we try to make sense out of the new thing in its place. We rummage through our mind comparing our yesterday with today.

How quickly does the day go by. How often have we arrived at a destination and the very act of traveling was like a dream since we are so preoccupied with matters at hand or matters that are weighing on our mind we don’t even remember the act of getting from one place to another. How curious is it that one can go through a season and not remember seeing the buds awakening on the winter trees, or the migration of robins returning, or even the full moon against the black sky even when it was directly over head.

Perhaps all this filtering is like censorship and we have managed to censor what may be the most remarkable part of our days. Perhaps we need to turn off our “auto pilot” just so we don’t miss the show.

William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: William Cobbett (1763-1835) English born political reformer, writer, and editor. Although he is not widely read today, he is not a man to be dismissed. His outspoken editorials and mouthpiece for the general population during England’s Industrial Revolution, one finds him dodging prison and “escaping” to the United States for a period of time. His ability to connect to people may have originated from his innate and keen ability to observe. From 1821 to 1836 Cobbett traveled on horseback through rural England whereby he documented his observations of daily life and surroundings.

From his book titled Rural Rides I bring you a sampling of his work. Though it is but a brief passage, it is written with rich details whereby we too have become an observer. I present to you, Mr. Cobbett…

“This, to my fancy, is a very nice country. It is continual hill and dell. Now and then a chain of hills higher than the rest, and these are downs, or woods. To stand upon any of the hills and look around you, you almost think you see the ups and downs of sea in a heavy swell (as the sailors call it) after what they call a gale of wind. The undulations are endless, and the great variety in the height, breadth, length, and form of the little hills, has a very delightful effect.—The soil, which, to look on it, appears to be more than half flint stones, is very good in quality, and, in general, better on the tops of the lesser hills than in the valleys. It has great tenacity; does not wash away like sand, or light loam. It is a stiff, tenacious loam, mixed with flint stones. Bears Saint-foin well, and all sorts of grass, which make the fields on the hills as green as meadows, even at this season; and the grass does not burn up in summer.—In a country so full of hills one would expect endless runs of water and springs. There are none: absolutely none. No water-furrow is ever made in the land. No ditches round the fields. And, even in the deep valleys, such as that in which this village is situated, though it winds round for ten or fifteen miles, there is no run of water even now. ..”

Second image: National Portrait Gallery (London) William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith ,chalk, engraved 1812

Rupert Brooke and the night

sunset compressed No matter how familiar we are with a particular location or place, no matter how often we may have frequented or visited; when the sun goes down and the sky grows dark, a change appears. Go outside when the moon is up and suddenly one can hear curious sounds that were muted by day. There is a stillness in the air that is pushed along by the breeze, and as it travels through the open spaces of the canopies it flicks the leaves ricocheting back the most eerie noises. Insects call, night birds hoot, and any rustle by a woodland creature in a familiar bush or scrub becomes an uninvited intruder sending shivers down our backs.

But if this place you are familiar with is not a countryside, but rather the busy streets of a city; the hustle and bustle of day, which is accompanied by a constant flow of activity, the chronic din of the upward and downward pulley of elevators, and the zipping to and fro of traffic; the arrival of darkness ascends like the rise of the curtains at an evening performance. The city’s glow takes on a theatrical appearance of stage lights and a new vigor illuminates what was once quite ordinary. A frenetic passion overtakes blanched city blocks and as though a resurgence of a Renaissance of sorts has been resurrected, neon signs splash color every which way, music oozes out into the streets with the swing of an open door, and expectations soar.

At night we view things differently, and we often wear a persona that can be an extension or even a new conception of ourselves. For no matter how familiar, how recognizable, how comfortable we were by day… night stares back at us and smiles; it diffuses a blanket of darkness often hiding our clarity or removing our inhibitions…

rupert brooke 2 Today I bring back to you our esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke; English poet and author, best known for his poetry of World War I. Allegedly learning to love poetry from reading Browning at an early age, he belonged to the Georgian Poets, a term describing a romantic and sentimental style … a description of a group of authors writing between the Victorian and Modern era.

So take a moment from your day for a tidbit out of the young Mr. Brooke. From his essay “Letters from America” here are his lovely words about his observations of New York City.

“… Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night. There comes an hour of evening when lower Broadway, the business end of the town, is deserted. And if, having felt yourself immersed in men and the frenzy of cities all day, you stand out in the street in this sudden hush, you will hear, like a strange questioning voice from another world, the melancholy boom of a foghorn, and realise that not half a mile away are the waters of the sea, and some great liner making its slow way out to the Atlantic. After that, the lights come out up-town, and the New York of theatres and vaudevilles and restaurants begins to roar and flare. The merciless lights throw a mask of unradiant glare on the human beings in the streets, making each face hard, set, wolfish, terribly blue. The chorus of voices becomes shriller.

The buildings tower away into obscurity, looking strangely theatrical, because lit from below. And beyond them soars the purple roof of the night. A stranger of another race, loitering here, might cast his eyes up, in a vague wonder what powers, kind or maleficent, controlled or observed this whirlpool. He would find only this unresponsive canopy of black, unpierced even, if the seeker stood near a centre of lights, by any star. But while he looks, away up in the sky, out of the gulfs of night, spring two vast fiery tooth-brushes, erect, leaning towards each other, and hanging on to the bristles of them a little Devil, little but gigantic, who kicks and wriggles and glares. After a few moments the Devil, baffled by the firmness of the bristles, stops, hangs still, rolls his eyes, moon-large, and, in a fury of disappointment, goes out, leaving only the night, blacker and a little bewildered, and the unconscious throngs of ant-like human beings…”

* Night photograph:overlooking Biscayne Bay and Miami, Florida.