April seems to be the month that nature really begins to emerge from the “quietness” of its winter shell. Plant life responds with new life and the budding process abounds. Bees visit early blossoms and birds sing out their varied songs.
Last year in early April, at the start of lockdown, I began the practice of sketching one emerging bud in the garden each day.
Sketches of emerging buds - Pencil with watercolour wash
This year I have been busy listening to the range of sounds that fill the air. Some, that really represent this month, have proved difficult to capture. I didn’t have my recording equipment the day I sat quietly by the fence and heard the sound of cows munching on fresh grass, having returned to the fields with their new calves. Next time I went out with my recorder, the cows were far away in the valley!
I did, however, create a small soundscape, in an attempt to encapsulate some of the other sounds that typify April. Listening on headphones will give you the full effect, hopefully immersing you in the sense of Spring.
A regular occurence in March – a gang of frogs appear from nowhere and, for a few weeks, “occupy” the pond in front of Studio Hundy. Their characteristic “croaking” can be heard from afar, as you walk down the garden approaching the pond. As they pick up your presence, this transforms into a multitude of “plopping” sounds as all the frogs dive below the surface. For a few minutes, until they gradually emerge again, the only visual evidence of their presence is the large clumps of spawn laying on, or just below the surface.
I managed to capture the croaking chorus by placing my field recorder on the edge of the pond, hiding in the studio, and using a remote extension. It also captures other characteristic Sounds of March in the background!
As the snow and freezing temperatures from the East gradually subided, melt water filled the local brook – the Eden water – bringing some beautiful sights and sounds. A short composite of two field recordings captures the richness of those sounds:
Icicles formed on Alder, growing in abundance on the banks, dipping their branches into the undulating currents of the now fast flowing stream.
Frozen pools on the valley floor created the unique patterns that only nature can offer.
The sound and movement of the water, in the quietness of a cold February day, inspired me to make a short video.
I have experimented here; bringing together the video footage with a multi-layered voice recording and nature sounds. The latter being recorded in situ with my hand-held Zoom H5 audio equipment.
We are very close to the midwinter solstice and the shortest day. Physical darkness predominates at this time of year – often during the daylight hours as well. We frequently encounter grey, overcast skies. What a delight it is when we see the winter sun, or perhaps an occasional rainbow.
Even the sight of the full moon’s brightness brings joy.
We yearn for the light in winter and as advent advances, I find myself more and more enjoying not only the warmth of the fire, but also the heart-warming orange glow of the embers.
Irrespective of our religious beliefs, this time of year is very often a time of preparation, and perhaps also reflection. For me, certain activities enhance the sense of anticipation – the printing of a Christmas card in Studio Hundy or cutting greenery from the garden for a garland or door wreath; these are all part of what makes the lead up to Christmas special.
The earth feels as if it is somehow “slumbering” now, but there is still a lot of activity in nature, particularly amongst the many birds that visit our garden.
What a fantastic treat I had earlier in the week when I was refilling the feeder on the tall birch tree. Just before I came down from the ladder, a Long-tailed-tit perched itself on a branch just inches away. A few minutes later a “flock” of 8 to 10 of these beautiful birds arrived. The message was out!
Such synchronicity, given the lino-cut print I had prepared earlier in the month as my Christmas card!
My partner Clare and myself shared our recent creative processes at a small Open Studio event in August this year. Plays were performed, words were literally woven, stories were threaded together and Studio Hundy opened its doors exhibiting a series of 4 artworks, “memory fragments” created out of paper.
These “Paper thin memories” were the culmination of a personal transformatory journey following the death of my father in October 2016. Working with papers and other related materials cleared from the family home, I was inspired to transform these “objects” – so tangibly full of meaning – into artworks of some kind.
A synopsis of the 4 pieces that arose as part of this creative process can be viewed by following the Exhibitions link – Open Studio 2019
September is well underway. Harvested golden fields shine out across the landscape. Early morning mists and dew fall on cobwebs like glistening jewels.
Bird song has changed – the robin and the blue-tit seem to sing a different tone; or perhaps I’m just noticing them more? An occasional skein of geese fly over our house, with their evocative calls, echoing in the still cool air. And the fruiting process in our garden abounds.
The abundance of summer is gradually drawing to a close – so wonderfully depicted in Keats’ poem:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
And fill all fruits with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.
Verse 1 of 3
John Keats 1819
Rowans are often stripped of their berries by this time of year, but those that remain “glow” against the gradually turning foliage.
And the late flowering Rudbekia shines out in the darkening evening light.
For me autumn flowers bring a sense of hope and promise of the Spring to come, as the days grow short and the earth prepares to “close down” inwardly for winter.