lavender

A wing and a prayer

It’s a time of winged things. Summer is taking flight and giving way to autumn. House martins are whirling through thundery air, stocking up on insects before their journey.

In the park, Finley, aged two, is swinging higher and higher – ‘I’m flying …’ Jago, five, is standing still staring at the ground where there is a seething mass of silver wings among the grass. The muggy humid weather has created perfect conditions for flying ants to hatch. The newly emerged young queens and males are spiralling up on sweet-wrapper wings to mate in mid-air. Afterwards the queen bites off her wings, which have served their purpose, and creates a new nest by digging into the soil. The males, having mated, die.

Finley blows the seeds of a dandelion – ‘two, three, six’ and hands me the bare stalk. We examine a stink bug (Coreus marginatus) which has landed on his jeans. A fly sits beside me on the picnic bench. The droning sound of bees blends with distant thunder. In the garden, borage and lavender are straggling everywhere, but I refuse to tidy up as the insects love these plants. Hoverflies, ladybirds, wasps and bees are pinned to every petal.

As we watch the shimmering wings of the ants disappearing into the shadows of the lime trees we hear a loud roaring sound and the Red Arrows fly over in formation. Later is the sad news of the Hawker Hunter crash at Shoreham.

Fragments from a notebook

A busy rainless week with glimpses of the natural world from car windows and between social activities – moments like static photos among the hectic movements of an old film.

  •  A huge Meccano-like dragonfly whirring in to land on a bent reed – all angles and joints
  •  The electric blue of damsel flies – migraine flashes in the corner of your eye.
  •  A pond skater making walking-on-water look easy.
  •  A grey heron, so still it could have been a fibreglass decoy – statuesque among the bulrushes, prehistoric, in a time lapse of its own, fused to its reflection.
  •  A tiny newt stubbing fiercely at my finger, unexpectedly strong.
  •  A comma butterfly appliquéd to a path.
  •  A large spider in the attic window – I left him well alone.
  •  Clippings of sage, parsley and lavender – pungently drying in the sun.
  •  Young sparrows chattering incessantly in the bushes.
  •  A green woodpecker on grass in the glow of a red sunset.
  •  House martins spinning high in the evening air.
  •  The smell of sunburnt grass, honeysuckle and warm tarmac while walking home at 11pm.
  •  A full moon drenching the village in liquid light that flowed everywhere.