Going out with the tide.....
This morning I rose early. Yesterday it rained, miserably, soaking my hopes of a useful BioBlitz at Wild Ken Hill, but today dawned well, despite the wind.
So I determined to walk to RSPB Snettisham to see and photograph the Whirling Waders before walking on to see (my wife) Amanda in her Home at Heacham.
I was underdressed and the northerly wind was brisk and chilly, but eventually 32,000 Knot rose from the rising tide on the Wash, together with a large number of Oystercatchers, and whirred overhead to the shingle bars in the safety of the tideless lagoons behind.
Every day is different, but when the conditions are favourable, the human observer on the shore may see shoals of birds flinging themselves up and overhead. The RSPB promote these as "Snettisham Spectaculars," or "Whirling Waders." Many visitors confuse them with "Murmurations" as in the great flocks of starlings that fall to roost in many places. Locals may refer to them as "Tangles of Knots".....
It doesn't matter.
Bird watchers, twitchers, photographers and others (including me) gather early in the mornings to see these wonders. Over the winter thousands more Knot will join here from their breeding grounds in the far north, so they can feed from the rich mud of the Wash.
Behind the Sea Wall there are lagoons of safety, protected from the rising tides, and it is to these that these canny waders retire when the waters become too difficult.
Spooked perhaps by the turbulent winds they take their time to settle, but in their thousands they do eventually find a tiny space of sanctuary until the tide begins to fall and they can return to the muddy spaces where they can sift and forage.
But I have to make tracks. I have miles to walk, to visit Amanda in her Care Home, where the tide of her life is going out. I walk nine miles overall and my knees and feet are tired and bruised. Nothing really. The upside is that as I enter the Home I think that perhaps she recognises me and brightens..... There is no way of telling, as she is non-verbal now, but it heartens me to imagine that perhaps she knows who I am.
She would love the clouds of birds. She would be delighted to walk the shingle paths and see the watchers by the water. But, we have to genuflect to the ghastly truths of life.....
Then, in the evening, alone in my capacious home, I tune the radio to a Promenade Concert and a young man (Alim Beisembayev - born in Kazakhstan in 1998) plays Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Number 2. How does he do this? His fingers dance across the keyboard, his mind controls the pressures applied, but he has memorised the work and doesn't leave the orchestra behind..... Not only dazzling, but beautiful.
Romanticism is not (yet) dead. Tears come to my eyes as I wish Amanda could enjoy this too....
Although this is not connected to the flowing music of Rachmaninoff, Chapter 30 of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield rises in my mind:
The probability of his ever doing so, appeared to me, when I saw him, to be very small. He was lying with his head and shoulders out of bed, in an uncomfortable attitude, half resting on the box which had cost him so much pain and trouble. I learned, that, when he was past creeping out of bed to open it, and past assuring himself of its safety by means of the divining rod I had seen him use, he had required to have it placed on the chair at the bed–side, where he had ever since embraced it, night and day. His arm lay on it now. Time and the world were slipping from beneath him, but the box was there; and the last words he had uttered were (in an explanatory tone) 'Old clothes!'
'Barkis, my dear!' said Peggotty, almost cheerfully: bending over him, while her brother and I stood at the bed's foot. 'Here's my dear boy—my dear boy, Master Davy, who brought us together, Barkis! That you sent messages by, you know! Won't you speak to Master Davy?'
He was as mute and senseless as the box, from which his form derived the only expression it had.
'He's a going out with the tide,' said Mr. Peggotty to me, behind his hand.
My eyes were dim and so were Mr. Peggotty's; but I repeated in a whisper, 'With the tide?'
'People can't die, along the coast,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'except when the tide's pretty nigh out. They can't be born, unless it's pretty nigh in—not properly born, till flood. He's a going out with the tide. It's ebb at half–arter three, slack water half an hour. If he lives till it turns, he'll hold his own till past the flood, and go out with the next tide.
With love from North-West Norfolk