A yellow, song-filled May Day

The sunset sky of May Day Eve was a riot of unflinching, billowing gold and crimson. It promised heat and flames but when the night came it was cool and solid like grey marble.

May 1st 04.30: sunrise is an hour away and I look out of the window. Through a pale and spectral mist comes a voice so loud and strong it shreds the pre-dawn air. Silver tatters float away carrying musical notes across the garden in the direction of the river. A song thrush is playing his medley of tunes. Though still befuddled from sleep I am sure I can detect at least a dozen ditties making up the whole. He clearly prefers some tunelets to others and uses them more frequently. I can see that he is cleverly perched atop a telegraph wire from where he can project his beautiful music across the whole valley.

His voice is rising and falling in time with the pulsing river below us and with the now gently rising breeze. Curving hills are beginning to bloom into view as the pale-grey fogs thin into pearly translucence. Hints of other colours appear and familiar shapes, Baosbheinn, Beinn Alligin and Tom na Gruigach, sail along the eastern sky. A landscape that was formless when the singing began now has hints of solidity.

This is a mostly treeless place; there are patches of woodland and scrub but the forests are a few miles away. Listening to the melodies I wonder if the song thrush is trilling about spring, lust and life or whether his deepest instincts, tucked into his gene coding, are to sing of trees and rich, worm-filled soils.

For half an hour or more he sings alone, though now and again I hear the faint and distant echo from another thrush. Beyond the mountains a pale lemony light is seeping into our quicksilver world. And then others rouse themselves; within a minute or two many voices have joined the song thrush and a great swelling chorus of ringing sound fills up the garden and spreads out quickly across the fields.

The choirs herald the first beams of rich butter-yellow sunlight; it is sunrise, 05.30, May 1st, “latha buidhe Bealltainn” (the yellow day of Beltane).

Stepping outside I see it is a yellow day. Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) are in flower at the ditch margins, mustardy and luminous; gorse flowers are shrugging with almond essence; creamy willow catkins are fully open and bee stippled; and dandelions are unfurling on the high, dry banks above the river.

And I wonder if there will be faeries dancing around the well-springs (we have three on the croft) or whether any Beltane bonfires will be lit this evening.

 

 

 

About Annie O'Garra Worsley

Hello there. I'm a mother, grandmother, writer, crofter & Professor of Physical Geography specialising in ‘environmental change'. I live on a smallholding known as a 'croft'. The croft is close to the sea and surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the NW Highlands. I was a fulltime mother, then a full-time academic living and working in north-west England. In 2013 we decided to try and live a smaller, simpler, wilder life in the remote mountain and coastal landscapes of Wester Ross. When I was a young researcher, I spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea living with indigenous communities there. They taught me about the interconnectedness and sacredness of the living world. After having my four children I worked in universities continuing my research and teaching students about environments, landform processes and landscape change. Eventually, after 12 years, I moved away from the rigours of scientific writing, rediscovered my wilder self and turned to nature non-fiction writing. My work has been published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I have essays in several editions of the highly acclaimed journal ‘Elementum’, each one partnered with artworks by contemporary artists. I also still work with former colleagues and publish in peer-reviewed academic journals. I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place which will be published by Harper Collins.
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4 Responses to A yellow, song-filled May Day

  1. alisondunlop says:

    Wonderful, Annie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J & D > Yes, wonderful! Writing, photos

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandra says:

    Gorgeous. Transporting, as ever; I could hear that beautiful thrush and sense the dawn breaking. And I wonder, were there Beltane bonfires to close this yellow day?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you.
    Only our small Beltane bonfire on the shore!

    Liked by 1 person

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