I slept last night in a tiny little thatched cabin at the top of a garden somewhere in Oxfordshire. The cabin is nestled beneath mature trees in a semi-wild area of the garden and I have just woken to (or been woken by) the local dawn chorus. The room is warm so I step out of bed and open the door; now I can also hear the stream below as it makes its way through what I believe used to be a watercress bed. It’s earlier than I’d like to be awake, but what a way to start the day.
Unlike the birds, the stream has not been to sleep, and it too has a song to sing. How can I describe the song of the stream? Simultaneously complex yet simple; 'of the moment' whilst also in continuous motion, it brings images to my mind of a never ending carnival procession. Depending on when, where and how you tune in, you either catch the full flow of its journey, or a little snap shot that can only be heard here, now, in this very spot where I am sitting. It is the song of a traveller. Does that make sense? I’m not sure, but know I want to explore this idea further.
I open the door wider. There is a lull in the birdsong now so I am better able to tune in to the stream. There must be some kind of fall because I can hear the sound of water cascading over rocks. It is so very soothing in its constancy; moving, perhaps dancing, with no sense of urgency. ‘Less haste, more speed.’ So reassuring. Almost meditative. I can tune in and out at will.
I wonder, if I were to record the sound for a few minutes now - and then again later - would I be able to tell the difference? Does it sound the same in the middle of the night as it does in the middle of the day? In the middle of winter as the middle of summer? Rainfall and wind speed and direction will surely make a difference; in the same way that an orchestra playing the same tune with fewer (or more) violins - or under different conductors - would sound different. The song of the stream is probably softened at this time of year by the leaves in the trees. I wonder how it would sound in mid-winter when the trees are bare.
I love the sound of living water and wish I could live forevermore in a place where I might go to sleep and wake up to this sound.
I'm listening to the birdsong again now and recognise it from yesterday morning. Same birds, singing in the same trees at the same time. But I don’t know who they are. I sing along with a few of them, trying to memorise the sequences and cadences in the hope I’ll be able to find and identify them on the RSPB website when I get back home this evening. I know what they’re ‘not’, which is at least a start. I can confidently say they are not chiffchaff or willow warbler, nor are they robin, blackbird, goldfinch, greenfinch, song thrush, sparrow or starling. Or cuckoo. My birdsong recognition skills are extremely basic, but I delight in those that I do know. I have a similar feeling, each time I recognise a bird by its song, to the feeling I experience when I overhear someone speaking in a foreign language and realise I understand what they’re saying. It’s the beginning of a connection.
P.S. The little cabin I've written about here was in the village of Ashbury in Oxfordshire. I found it on Airbnb and really enjoyed my short stay there. Thank you Joseph!