Many ladybirds were nestling in the nettle tops yesterday morning, including a pair of the scarlet and black seven spot sort.
The swallows were a welcome sight last night as a trio of new arrivals dipped and darted low across the pasture of my neighbouring field looking for food. I yelled the news up the hill to my neighbour Nick, who later saw around twenty five in the field about his house. They were hard to photograph in the dull cloudy light, but I made some studies in ink.
The incredibly hot lid of the heater spun from gloved hand to the floor, where it instantly branded a fragment of carpet with a dark and dirty sun, ‘like a bad half-crown in a basin of soap and water’.*
I was reminded of John Ruskin’s writing about plague clouds gathering over our towns and cities during the immense rise in coal consumption of the Industrial Revolution. In our post industrial age, smogs from coal have vanished from British skies, but this is not true of many countries around the world.
Burning charcoal for heat in theEgg will not create a smog, but I am still releasing carbon into the atmosphere; so far from about sixty kilos of charcoal and counting…
‘I should have liked to have blotted down for you a bit of plague-cloud to put beside this; but Heaven knows, you can see enough of it nowadays without any trouble of mine; and if you want, in a hurry, to see what the sun looks like through it, you’ve only to throw a bad half-crown into a basin of soap and water. Blanched Sun,—blighted grass,—blinded man.’
The Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century, Lecture 1, page 8. pub. 1884
For the last three or four days bumble bees have been frequenting the marsh and fields beside the Egg. They are in and out of the mouse holes on the riverbank where they may be seeking shelter from the newly arrived colder weather, or a new home for a nest. I have found quite a few curled up dead on the ground or really lethargic and seemingly close to death. There are 25 species of bumble bee in the UK but I cannot recognise the differences. With the aid of a microscope and magnifying glass my drawings may soon start to answer this question.
I stumbled out of bed at one am yesterday to view the moon. After a sudden lurch of the Egg to starboard I reached out in the dark to steady myself and crunched into a large vitrine of ethanol and preserved rose hips. Destroying the jar gave me quite a sting, which was sorted later when my neighbour Nick kindly drove me to hospital in Lymington. After six stitches, the nurse was pleased that he could now claim to have ‘sutured the Eggman’.
There have been many attempts to visualise a system of the animals which in the nineteenth century tended to depict a ‘Great Chain of Being’ with people perched at the top of a tree of life. Zoologist Georg Goldfuss in showing stages of development within the animal kingdom, characterises this idea as a series of interconnected nested circles within an egg; with protozoa at the point of the widest end and ‘higher life’ at the peak of the narrowest. Transferring his diagram to the Exbury Egg, I see that I nest myself somewhere in the zone of the mollusc.
I fell asleep last night considering life as a cuttlefish and contemplating the idea that every single creature is equally evolved and important to our understanding of the interconnection of species.
The crescent of a waning moon reached out to Venus with open arms this morning, lit bright in light from a sun still lingering below the horizon and reflected in the calm water of a falling tide. The ‘two-horned queen of the stars’* embracing love, fertility and prosperity above an expectant Egg.
* In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes Luna as the “two-horned queen of the stars” (siderum regina bicornis). Ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_(goddess)
My friend Boris is a young Norfolk Terrier who lives with neighbours Nick and Caroline and he has been a regular visitor to the Egg since attending its arrival at Exbury early in May last year. Late one night in November I discovered him via the webcam, guarding washing which I had forgotten to bring in. The Egg and its environs are clearly part of Boris’s world too.