The route I took with the dog this morning was busy.  Maggie and I paused at the far side of the bridge, to let a family of five amble past.  We waited a few moments longer, until they had rounded the bend and wandered from sight. 

Just as we too rounded the corner, an older pair of walkers approached.  I turned, stepped off the path, rested against a wooden two bar fence.  I looked down across a steeply sloping field and beyond, the river.  In the distance, dark tress, bare-branched, stood against the grey-blue sky.

There was a blackbird in the field, close to me, camouflaged against the brown beech leaves and twigs in a scrubby, brush covered patch.  The blackbird saw me, cocked her head, decided I was no threat, and began to dig through the leaves and loam.  The couple had passed me by but I stood, leaning on the fence, watching her.

She buried her beak, tossed leaves here and there, paused for a second, carried on. Hoped a little further, did the same again.  A blackbird elsewhere sang out and she stopped, cocked her head, and resumed.

I watched her.  She hopped, tossed leaves, hopped again. It had rained yesterday.  There would be earthworms close to the surface, working through the leaf mould.  This blackbird looked sleek, well-fed.  She knew what she was doing. 

I wondered about her partner, where he was.  They mate for life.  They build a new nest each year, have one or two broods, watch them fledge, then get on with simply being a blackbird.

This mother to be, now, bulking herself up, maybe.  She would be nesting soon; it is nearly March, and mild.  Time to lay her clutch.  She would be reliant then, for a couple of weeks, on her partner bring her enough food to sustain her as she protected the eggs, waiting for them to hatch.

A blackbird might fledge ten chicks a year, for each of the years she lives.  The babies hatch, and fledge after only around 15 days.  Such a short time. There cannot be room for emotion in such a short transaction.  There is only one message; go, be a blackbird.

I wonder how it would be to be so detached from the process. A nest of blackbirds tucked in the roots of an old oak tree is not a family.  It looks like one; here are parents, here are chicks.  But there is just necessity of feeding.  I am a blackbird and I have made more blackbirds.  Not I am a parent, and this is my child

I want to feel that this blackbird hen, crossly flicking leaves, looking for worms, has something in common with me, a trans-species acknowledgement of motherhood, of the loss of each chick.  But there isn’t any.  Instead, I raise my face to the weak February sun, and breathe in.  What we have in common is that here we both are, today, sharing a scrap of muddy grass under the promise of spring.  That will have to do.

Published by The Middow

Fifty-something middow, partner, dog-owner.

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