The final morning's trip around the familiar paths is always bitter sweet. I don't have the same luxury of time as the rest of the week as we have to leave before 10 a.m. and all the packing needs to be done.
In the semi light of a fresh pre-dawn the pipistrelles were again over the pond and garden so I spent five minutes or so watching their erratic flight. I had to move on before I was ready but I wanted to check on the kingfishers one last time. Away off in the top field a young fox was intently scrabbling away at the earth, perhaps digging out a vole or mouse cowering at the end of a burrow, or perhaps he'd seen a large beetle or some other crunchy delight. Whatever he was after he was certainly hard at work and must have been determined that his digging would end in a reward. I left him to his labour with a silent farewell and continued on to the little owl tree. Sure enough he was there, high in the elder bush which has grown as a youthful companion to the venerable oak, helping to screen the little owl's nest site. I sketched him for what I knew would be the last time until he turned his back on me and dived down onto the ground at the far side of the tree. An appropriate last view that reminded me that I was the visitor here and the owl would continue on with his daily life regardless of whether I was watching to record him in my sketchbook or not.
One of the juvenile kingfishers was on the 'dragon log' and I was able to sketch him one last time. He dived and caught small fish which he bashed on the log a few times before swallowing it head first. 'Good for you' I thought, fish of your own and instinct enough to deal with it the proper way. The fledgling king flew off shortly after when the young heron flew overhead.
All then was quiet and calm until the rooks rose from the rookery in a great clamorous cloud against the sunrise. But even this had a certain sense of correctness and, perhaps, a peacefulness about it. With a last backward glance I made my way slowly back to the cottage as one or two swallows began to appear in the sky overhead. I wondered if they would be following me South or if they would enjoy a few more days at the farm. The little owl called from his tree, I answered a goodbye and resigned myself to the fact that this was the end of my holiday.
The homeward journey was uneventful and dull, after a couple of hours in the car it felt good to get home, but I couldn't help wondering what I was missing on the farm. I had my sketchbooks, photos, paintings and memories though. I knew that there were paintings in my head waiting to be made and I could barely wait to start. So far I have completed three paintings inspired by my time on the farm this year and these are a beginning. I'm already working on a fourth and I'm sure there will be many more over the coming months.
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