jennygordon: (Clock)
Yesterday was a Bank Holiday in the UK, and what better to do on a gorgeous sunny springtime Bank Holiday than go for a walk in your local woods?

Remember back in March, I posted some photos? The last picture was taken from the same spot as this one:

Valley May 7

What a difference, huh?

It was gorgeous walking beneath the green cathedral rafters:

Valley May 5

Where a Peacock butterfly was sunbathing (look away now, [livejournal.com profile] edgyauthor!):

Valley May 6

And leaf-shadow dappled the ground and trees:

Valley May 2

Celandine and bluebells flicked the ground with colour amidst the greens (although not the native British Bluebells, sadly, as these are the invading Spanish kind):

Valley May 3

And the hawthorn blossom was poised on the brink of bursting:

Valley May 4

*Sigh* Such perfect soul-food.


jennygordon: (Roe Deer fawn)
I went for a walk in the local woods yesterday. For the first time this year, spring felt like it was just a whisper away. Buds on the trees poised and waiting, birds filling the woods with their chatter and squabbling. (The squabbling was the jays!)

See how pretty it was ...

This is an old packhorse bridge, on an ancient pilgrim's route through the woods, leading to a sacred well:

Nightingale 1

And this is my friend the Oak Tree, spreading her boughs ready for a Big Hug! If you look closely, you can see a smattering of brave, early celandine flowers on the ground around her toes.

Nightingale 2

And this is another favourite tree of mine. I love how nimbly he is stepping down over the rock:

Nightingale 3

The woods were truly magical, filled not only with birdsong and dappling sunlight, but an early morning mist that created a haze over the stream.

Nightingale 4

"I believe in God, only I spell it Nature."  — Frank Lloyd Wright
jennygordon: (Naiad)





Meet the cat next-door.

Sassa

Her name is Sassa, and we’ve known her for almost three years, since she was a kitten. Sorry, no pictures of her as a kitten, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that she was the cutest kitten this side of ... well ... anywhere!

Also the cheekiest, nosiest and LOUDEST kitten I’ve ever come across!

See, while she is very happy living with her people, she really thinks she should also live with us. Since she was tiny, she’s happily wandered in through our open back door, cheerfully announcing her presence at the top of her voice. She knows she doesn’t live with us really, and we’ve thrown her so many times that all we have to do now is look at her, and she turns tail and head back out the door with a desultory complaint.

We always know it’s her wandering in, even if we’re not around to witness it, because as well as being very LOUD, she’s the only cat I’ve ever known who says, ‘Meow-ow.’ Seriously, ‘Meow-ow.’ It’s hilarious.

I decided it was high time I told you about her on Friday night when I arrived home in the cold and the dark and was greeted by her, pounding across from next-door, shouting at the top of her voice. She then squeezed past me to sit right by the front door. All the time, she was yelling at me, ‘I’m cold and my people aren’t home yet, and they don’t have a catflap, and I WANT TO COME INDOORS. Let me in, let me in, let me in!’

Needless to say, I didn’t let her in, and shortly afterwards, she was sitting on the back fence, so fluffed out it was like someone had taken a hairdryer to her, glowering at me through the kitchen window.

She’s a little cat with a very BIG personality, who provides us with such entertainment, I simply had to share.

jennygordon: (Angel)
This last week has heralded the end of autumn here in the UK, with devastating floods pretty much countrywide that have been the worst in living memory in many places, including the South-West where I live. On my journey to work, what are normally fields have been turned into lakes that even the ducks avoid because the rivers that have burst their banks are too fast-moving and dangerous. Tragically, two people have died, and many more have suffered terrible flooding of their homes. I live next to a stream myself, but fortunately it has coped with the extra water rushing through it, though it's been a nail-biting few days!

And it's all been such a change from a week ago, when I went for a walk in the gorgeous autumn sunshine and took these pictures (as ever, click on each to embiggen).

I'm dedicating this final collection of autumnal photos to Heather (edgyauthor) whose autumns are very different from mine. Hope you enjoy the colours, Heather!

Autumn 2012 5

Doesn't a path like this simply beg you to follow it?

Autumn 2012

I'm frustrated that this one is so blurry, but thought I'd share it anyway because of the incredible colours.

Autumn 2012 3

I'm using this one as my current desktop. The light across the fallen leaves was picture-perfect stunning.

Autumn 2012 2

If I was clever enough, I'd use this as a Christmas card!

Autumn 2012 4

I'm no great photographer, but I'm really pleased with how this one turned out; it perfectly encapsulates the morning of the walk. All that's missing is the hot chocolate my husband bought for me before we went home!

Hope you've enjoyed my Autumn Dreaming series. How has autumn been in your corner of the world?

jennygordon: (Red Admiral)
This autumn in England has been (and continues to be) utterly glorious, and I've been filling my soul up with great draughts of its beauty. I spent a few days leading up to Samhain in Glastonbury, which is one of my favourite places. Here's a wee dram of its magic ...



Glastonbury Tor.

Glastonbury Tor October 2012 033

Polden Hills in the Mist

Polden Hills October 2012 038

Chalice Well Garden in its Party Clothes

Chalice Well Garden October 2012 042
jennygordon: (Roe Deer fawn)

It's been a crazy year for spiders in the garden this year. Every October, out they come, web-spinning with joyful abandon, and little regard for getting in human beings' way, stringing zip-wires from unfeasible heights like daredevils acrobats, draping veils across the hedges to catch dew and raindrops like diamonds.


Autumn Spiders 1              Autumn Spiders 2


Autumn Spiders 3

And this - my favourite photo of all showing a raindrop-glistening web strung across a dying blackberry bough, which seems to capture the spirit of Autumn's end perfectly ...

Autumn Spiders 4
jennygordon: (Clock)




It was my birthday last weekend. I celebrated it by doing all of my favourite things:

  • writing my novel
  • reading someone else's novel
  • eating chocolate

I also spent some time working out where I'm going to keep the tiger my husband bought me. Seriously. Look ... TIGER! I'm thinking maybe the bathtub, or possibly the back garden, though I'm worried it might scare the birds away. What do you reckon?

Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while might remember that I've had a bit of a thing about tigers since I was little. I posted about it .... um .... ah-ha! Here ... So getting a tiger for my birthday really was the best possible present.

I was also lucky enough to be given Amazon vouchers by my lovely work colleagues and my family, so I spent a delicious morning perusing Amazon's aisles, and now have 6 books winging their way to me, which is so exciting I might just *EXPLODE!* And I still have lots of pennies left over, which I'm saving for books due for release later this year. Ahhhh ... guilt-free book-buying ... bliss!

The books I've ordered are a mixture of authors I've read before, and those I haven't read, but have been recommended to me, so I'm really looking forward to them arriving.

What about you? What books are you looking forward to reading at the moment?

jennygordon: (Roe Deer fawn)

Once upon a time, I would have said that Autumn is my favourite time of year.  It still is, especially when it’s an Autumn as glorious as we had last year.  Now, however, I really am going to have to be greedy and say that Spring is too. It's the low, gentle sunshine filtering through the new, fresh greens, and the parade of colours in the hedgerows as the trees explode into blossom.  It's the magic of bluebell woods, the carpets of primroses, and the sense of possibility that new new life brings.  My train journey to work has been glorious recently.  It truly is a joy to see such a stunning tract of British countryside on a regular basis; it makes me feel far more connected to the changing seasons, even if I can’t actually get off the train to feel the earth beneath my feet.

 

For the past two weeks, the hawthorn has been in blossom.  It’s a time I look forward to every year.  First the cherry trees, then the hawthorn, and now the wild Dog Roses are just beginning to come out in the hedgerows.  Yet it’s the hawthorn that really gets me.  A magical tree bound with connections to Faerie, and countless folkloric associations, it peppers the vibrant greens of the hedgerows and fields with its creamy flowers.  It’s as though they’re dusted with snow – or perhaps Faerie dust.  In the height of the day, the air is filled with its pungent, almond scent.  I remember the Glastonbury Thorn, destroyed by vandals last year (although experts are confident it will re-grow), and all the things it means to all kinds of people.  I have a particularly lovely hawthorn tree not far from my house, and I’ve been visiting it most days to say hello and tell it how gorgeous it is.  It really is, look ...

 

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, I’m also regularly seeing Roe Deer grazing in the fields between those hawthorn-scattered hedgerows as the train hurtles along.  Those Otherworld guides bound away from the train with effortless grace, and I watch them go, wishing they could take me away with them, through the doorways that surely lie hidden behind the thorn trees, into the Otherworld; into Faerie.

jennygordon: (Gargoyle)

I’m a big fan of all members of the corvid family (ravens, rooks, crows, magpies, jays, jackdaws, choughs).  They’re birds with such personality.  There are the magpies who squabble their way around the place with omens of sorrow and joy, the jackdaws who cock me a sideways glance when I disturb their latest no-good carry-on, the beautiful jays who sometimes visit the garden and the crow babies who dominated the neighbourhood last year with their bickering and ridiculous sideways bounce.  And even, although I live in a city suburb, there’s the occasional ‘ten-ton-balls’ croak of a raven on its way through.  Rooks are sadly lacking, although they were the ubiquitous corvids of my childhood in a different part of the UK.

 

I know I’m not alone in my fondness for the family.  Charles de Lint, for one, has used them, rooted in Native American myth, in many of his books, personifying them through characters such as the Crow Girls and Jack Daw.  And Tessa Gratton is such a fan she’s had them very fetchingly tattooed across her back.

 

Authors aside, myths and folktales the world over have countless tales of ravens and crows and magpies and jays.  Did you know, for instance, that while a single magpie in the well-known rhyme of the western world symbolises bad luck, in the Far East, it’s a fortuitous sign?  Check any book or website on folklore and myth, and you’ll find a hundred tales and more. 

 

It’s not just their personality and folktales references that corvids have got going for them, though.  Have you ever come across the collective nouns for each kind, and wondered why that particular noun is used.  I mean:

 

A murder of crows

A clattering of choughs/jackdaws

A tidings of magpies

An unkindness, or conspiracy, of ravens

A parliament of rooks

A party of jays

 

If those aren’t starting points for a story, I don’t know what is.

jennygordon: (Gargoyle)
The other night, I had a dream that I was standing on a quayside on an island watching a raft bearing 50 Siberian Tigers coming in to dock.  They were coming to live on the island where they would be safe.  It wasn't such a suprising dream as I've recently been watching the excellent BBC series Lost Land of the Tiger, which tracked, over 3 consecutive nights, the progress of a vital expedition involved in a project to save tigers from extinction.  Indian Tigers in this instance - there was no mention of their Siberian cousins.  The appalling facts are that, without major intervention, tigers in the wild may become extinct within the next two decades - and even typing that sentence makes me want to cry.  To think that this may happen in my lifetime is upsetting beyond words.  In the last century, these biggest and most beautiful of the big cats have gone from being widespread across the Asian subcontinent to surviving in tiny, unconnected pockets where inbreeding is adding to the crisis by weakening the gene pool.  Hunting and poaching for the Chinese medicine market has decimated the species.  Did you know that there were once 9 subspecies of tiger, 3 of which are now extinct?  All of those remaining are critically endangered.

The project featured on the BBC programme has been attempting to create a corridor across the hem of the Himalays in which tigers can roam freely and safely, and it is widely believed that this is the only sure way to safeguard the future of these beautiful creatures.  The trio of programmes featured the team's exploration of Bhutan, chasing down rumours of a tiger presence there, as the country had been the missing piece of the puzzle in the corridor.  To the huge joy and relief of the team, and I am sure of everyone watching, they did indeed find a significance tiger presence, and it seems that, thanks to Bhutan's remoteness and to the strong Buddhist conviction of its people, this may indeed prove the salvation of the species.

So anyway, that's why I dreamed about a raft of tigers.  And the reason why I watched the programme in the first place is because I've always had a thing about tigers (black panthers and snow leopards too, but especially tigers, and especially, especially Siberian Tigers).  There was a wildlife park near where I grew up which was home to both Indian and Siberian Tigers.  On one visit, finding myself alone in the woodlands where the Siberian Tigers lived, the neighbouring wolves began howling, and this in turn set off the tigers.  I shall never, ever forget the shivering, flesh-tingling exilaration of standing a few feet away from a roaring Siberian Tiger.  Nor shall I forget another visit where I stood for half and hour and more watching an Indian Tiger prowling along the fence a few feet from me, so close that I could smell its heady musk, so close I could count the hairs on its muzzle, so close I could see every beautiful, powerful line of this most magnificent of all creatures.

I have lived most of my life knowing, and fearing that I may live to see the extinction of tigers in the wild, and the hope offered by the team's findings on Lost Land of the Tiger is a precious thing.  It would be tragic beyond belief to lose tigers from this earth and I pray to whichever gods may be listening that they find a raft to that safe place of my dream.

Raining!

Aug. 14th, 2010 10:36 am
jennygordon: (Angel)
Hooray, it's raining!  I love the rain, don't you?  No?  Really?  Oh.  Well I do.  In fact, I started today in one of my most favourite ways - lying in bed listening to the rain coming down while I read a book.  *Bliss*.  I love the rain, my garden loves the rain, and what's more, it's perfect writing weather.

I've been a bit stay-at-home this week since:

1. I've got some nasty spiky viral thing that keeps making me feel crap, and
2. I just can't tear myself away from the Undead Novel (not that kind of Undead, I mean the book that refuses to die)

Anyway, it means I've been doing quite a bit of wildlife watching.  Everything from the sparrow gang who seem to be constantly on the go, to the Green Woodpecker who dropped by to *yaffle* at me a few days ago.  I think he was a bit lost and the *yaffle* was more of a "Crap, I knew I should have taken a right instead of a left back there." 

I've actually been a bit worried about the birds since we've had an explosion of new cats in the neighbourhood recently.  Next door have an adorable new kitten who is just big enough (and neutered enough) to start exploring the outside world.  She's been making friends with the Fat Fluffy Cat from heaven knows where (he wants to play with her, but since he's twice her size, she's really not sure), and the 'Felix' cat - you know, from the advert - who's also a young cat and who comes around to *meow* for her to see if she wants to come out to play.  Very cute.  I haven't found any dead birds around so the cats are either having too much fun playing with one another to bother with them, or they're crap cats.  Either way, it's all good. No sign of them today - not exactly cat weather, I guess.

*Sigh*.  Rain.  I love the rain.

jennygordon: (Gargoyle)
Blimey, it's all happening here!  The resident crow families have been at it like bunnies this year, and there are now a dozen or more quarrelsome teenage crows around the neighbourhood, busy bickering with the magpies and getting on the local jays' nerves.  All pretty par for the course of a day.  But then, yesterday afternoon, the squabbling suddenly became a full-on scrap and I made it to the window in time to see the two jays dive-bombing a bunch of foolish crows, who were in quite a hurry to get out of the way (go jays!)  The jays then proceeded to sit in the top of the cherry tree and yell their heads off (crest feathers all standing on end so they looked like a right pair of punky kids).  It wasn't long before they were hopping down onto the footpath on the other side of the hedge, which pretty much immediately prompted an 'Uh-oh,' response from me.

So, prepared to do battle (in my slippers, naturally), I made for the front door to see what kind of a mess was left behind.

Hmm.  Quite a mess.  Feathers everywhere.  And under nextdoor's hedge, a quivering tail of what looked like a pigeon.  Lordy, poor pigeon.  I mean, they're hardly the brightest of birds, but what on earth had it been doing to deserve a full on corvid attack?  Nasty bastards!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm normally a big fan of corvids (crows, rooks, magpies, jays, jackdaws, ravens etc).  They're birds with enormous personality.  I love the way the crows bounce sideways out of my way on the grass, and jays are just so beautiful it's hard to believe we're lucky enough to have a resident pair.  And as for magpies ... 

But really.  Was it really necessary to take the poor stupid pigeon out like that?

Anyway, a quick conflab with the neighbours decided us that the best thing to do was just leave it alone to either sort itself out or kick it.  Some hours later, I heard the sound of a rather broken coo-ing, and today, the bird has gone.  I haven't seen any of the neighbourhood cats walking around spitting feathers, so I assume it's had a lucky escape.

Who needs downtown LA for cutthroat action?  Seriously.

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