Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Land gulls

Two 80-acre fields at Cookley, near Halesworth, with winter wheat
(shades of yellowish green, blueish green)
on clayland, undulating, empty - just the crop, the soil, the flint.

Setting for a cold wind.

January the last.

Beyond me in space: white gulls.

Gulls in flight, over the field's face, roving. A few standing, breasting the sun.

White owls over a green sea.

A skylark sings, aloft. 

The gulls think downward. Raised on ocean-space and sprats, they turn to terrestrial matters: beetles and worms. 

All beneath a milky blue and infinite sky.

They flutter to and fro: staring, stopping, turning to drop and rise - a mere second or two. Focused then refocusing. Steady meditation. Body thinking. Time.

How many are there – forty or fifty? 

But who watches gulls - those dustbins of the bird world!?

One could map their delicate trajectories: a script of white on green. Their nodes and lines, objectified. 

Instead, each bird enters my vision, enters my thoughts. 

In this moment each one enters my heart.

Their wavering flights criss-cross my sight in a ceaseless, white-winged ballet. 

They catch the sun, like dew on wheat and roof-lines in distant villages. 

Land gulls.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Norfolk Island Pine

There's a Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) sapling on the 6th floor at County Hall, Norwich. 

It is not looking particularly happy, but I'm told it is a lot happier here than in its previous location downstairs in the foyer. A gift to the County Council from a well-wisher, it was given a home by the Environment team last year when a decision was taken to remove all potted plants from the foyer.

I am delighted to make the plant's acquaintance. It is a member of the Araucariaceae, a family of primitive conifers with their evolutionary roots over 200 million years ago, in the late Triassic period. The Araucariaceae once thrived around the globe, including Europe, but since the great extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous, about 65 million years ago, they are only native to the southern hemisphere. Members include the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) which makes spectacular forests in Chile, the towering New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) which produces kauri gum, and the extraordinary Wollemia nobilis, a living fossil discovered in a remote Australian ravine in 1994. They are thought to have diverged from a common ancestor in the early Cretaceous period.[1]

The plant has an upright stem covered with pointed, scale-like leaves towards the top and bristling branches that emerge radially. It has an aromatic, resinous smell. I can imagine a small Composognathid dinosaur hiding behind it.

I'd like to have a specimen of A.heterophylla. It is not hardy in the British climate, so it would have to be kept in a plant pot then brought indoors in autumn. However, it is said to be fast growing and can reach a height of over 50 metres. I may have to think twice about the idea!![2]


[1] - Kunzman, Lutz (2007). Araucariaceae (Pinopsida): Aspects in palaeobiogeography and palaeobiodiversity in the Mesozoic. Zoologischer Anzeiger. 246 (4): 257–77. Online at [accessed Jan 2018]
[2] - Araucaria heterophylla. Wikipedia. Online at [accessed Jan 2018]