the hours of the day

COUNTRY DIARY

The quiet hours which, when counted on Time’s abacus add to weeks, months, years and the circling seasons. It is easy to miss magic moments in the business of life.

THE HOURS OF THE DAY

Vigil and Lauds

0300

Daylight is beginning and the waning moon, that thief of the sun’s light, is dimming and looks like well thumbed glass. The Moon Spinners are busy, they are sea spirits who walk the shores of the earth. They each have a spindle and onto these they spin the milk white moonlight. Their task is to see the world has its hours of darkness so they spin the moon out of the sky like white wool. As night follows night the moon’s light wanes and at last its light is gone, the world has darkness and rest and creatures are safe from the hunter. On the darkest night the sea spirits take their spindles to where the sea lips the land to wash their wool. As it slips from the spindle it unravels in long ripples of light and see, there is the moon, at first just a thin thread of light. When all the wool is washed and is a white ball in the sky then, once more, the Moon Spinners start to wind its light onto their spindles until the night becomes safe once more for all hunted creatures.

Prime

0600

The dog roses are in flower, Keats’ sweet ‘eglantine’ in his ‘Ode to the Nightingale’. This ancient riddle is about the dog rose, can you guess why?

We are five brothers at the same time born

Two of us have beards, by two no beards are worn

While one, lest he should give his brothers pain

Hath one side bearded and the other plain.

Terce

0900

Wood pigeons have learned how to use my bird feeders and I watch them bumbling about, huffing and puffing. Many people dismiss pigeons out of hand because they are everywhere and some, who know no better, refer to them as ‘flying rats’ but both these creatures thrive because of our dirty, careless ways, they reflect our untidiness, our waste and mess back to us. This country is known as ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Pigeons who ‘served’ with the RAF in wartime were the first recipients of the Dickin Medal, the Victoria Cross for animals. They are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds in the world and are one of only six species with the ability to recognise themselves in a mirror. The passenger pigeon was one of the most numerous birds in the world until we killed every one.

Sext

Noon

Bombus drones round the garden, she takes centre stage on a rose, she is laden with bags of gold. In a painting of Napoleon his red velvet Coronation robes are embroidered with golden bees and so is the carpet he stands on. At the moment of Christ’s birth the story tells the bees deep in their hives hummed the ‘Old Hundreth’. In Somerset there is still someone who makes the straw skeps that bees used to be kept in. She says it is a natural shape which mimic the hollows in trees that bees would naturally use and she thinks the honey has a better flavour, it still retains grains of pollen.

None

1500

He may have been able to juggle the full moon on one finger but I have magic too. I stare up to the sky hoping to see a buzzard and lo and behold, church steeple high, there is one, he glides in slow lazy circles and a second one joins and yet a third, kitelike in the sky, strong magic! Cirrus clouds echo their wing patterns. What does their fierce, meditative gaze see, how do they map the land so far beneath? Like dowsers, do they sense underground rivers, the caves like honeycombs beneath our feet? Slowly, effortlessly they glide away using the power of the wind with hardly a wing beat and I watch their pathway through the sky.

Vespers

1800

The heat of the day is cooling but ringlet butterflies are out and about still dancing their summer rituals over the seeded grasses. Their wings are a browny grey with constellations of rings and dots in yellow and black on the upperside and when in flight these flash mysterious text messages to each other.

Compline

2100

Dusk breathes shadows and darkness to web the trees. A tawny owl’s voice gathers the night, I hear but cannot see him, his feathered cloak makes him invisible. The old Gaelic prayer, ‘God send us all another day.’

Pat Mlejnecky

Full Moon In April

The full moon of April and its light, as always, witches the night.  I remember, on such a night as this, quite some years ago now, another April, when Spring had spelled the plum and cherry trees and each arm of which  was ruffed with white blossom. We stood under these trees and in the soft stir of air it snowed petals. The full moon sailed into sight and he points and, for a long moment, the moon seems balanced on his pointing finger. Masked by shifting shadows and lit by the moon’s quiet light he becomes a magician of the night.

In this country we see the Man in the Moon but in other countries they see, not a man but a hare and here is how this happened.

Prince Siddhartha left his kingdom in the skies and lived on earth and, because of his wisdom, he became called Buddha which means ‘enlightened’. He lived as a hermit and once he met an animal whose kindness was an example to both Gods and Men. The Lord Buddha was sitting in the shade of a banyan tree on the edge of a forest. The sun poured its golden light through the leaves like milk into a cup. He had lit a fire and his pot of water was boiling but, alas, he had nothing to put in it to make a meal. A jay, war painted with blue barred wings, flew by with a spray of little dark cherries, dark as night, in its beak and let them drop into the pot. A monkey swung down and tossed a handful of beans in and a cobra with hooded head brought spices, cumin, coriander and cayenne. A wild dog sneaked near and splashed a stolen egg into the boiling water. Next came a little hare and he spoke to the Buddha,

‘You have the look of a good and gracious man but also that of a hungry one.’

‘That is quite true my long eared friend,’ replied the Buddha, ‘but my friends are helping me.’

‘I have nothing but myself O Lord Buddha. Enjoy your meal.’

With that the little hare leaped into the pot of boiling water. Down he went and the water hissed, steamed and bubbled but to the hare it felt cool like soft refreshing rain. With the speed of a striking hawk the Buddha snatched the hare from the pot.

‘Those who give of themselves little Leaper-in-the-Corn are greatly blessed, it is the greatest gift of all. You will live for ever Little-Racer-Round-the-Field to dance for joy on the moon.’

Then the Buddha hurled the hare up, up and up till he landed on the moon. Now all of us in this world can look up at night and see the Buddha’s friend, the little hare and remember his generosity and nobleness.

 

Here’s hoping that those people who think it legitimate sport to hunt and harry the hare will be equally generous and merciful.
Pat Mlejnecky