#30DaysWild: The ‘Undersong’

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_07I woke early today. Unintentionally early. An hour and a half before my alarm was due to ring. Sun streamed into the room (we never close the bedroom curtains at night). It was a pure yellow light, as yet unpolluted by dancing dust motes, leaf filters, or heat haze. It was filled however, saturated in fact, with sound. Soft subtle sounds, everyday sounds of no consequence that exist as a momentary vibration in nearby air before they are lost and overwritten, like little wavelets layering up on the beach as the day builds like a gentle creeping tide.

Sparrow chirps.

Motorbike whine, distant, on the corner of the main road, heading south.

The soft cluck of a nervous blackbird, looking for worms under the front window of the downstairs neighbour, wary of the cats that live next door.

The fridge-freezer hums. We never comment on it, but would miss it if it stopped.

The sparrows are in the guttering now; do they wear hob-nailed boots? and what do they argue over?

A car door. That familiar engine with the squeaky fan belt.

A snatch of the babbling of house martins, in Doppler effect as they ricochet past the window.

Glancing through Twitter I was caught by a particular tweet, and its accompanying thread. Here is what it said:


Many people had replied with their own favourite listening-landscapes, creating an almost living thing, a subtle torrent of place-poetry. I realised I had been listening to a kind of ‘undersong’. Those early, individual, exploratory notes that by now, have merged to form the general background day-noise.

So, my favourite undersong? Sussex, up from a downland village, morning. Bees are already in amongst the sun warmed thyme. Skylark rises so high it’s silenced by the touch of heaven, sinks, climbs in song again. Lie and listen, is that almost-heard murmur the grass growing, a beetle wing click, the spring of the grasshopper, the communication of the line of ants that file past your nose their hard pin-prick feet tapping on grains of chalk-marked soil? Sheep call in a distant field. Activity drifts from the barn yard where the farmer has shed his coat under the strengthening sun. Is there bacon and eggs for breakfast? The gate weight clunks softly on its chain as the breeze moves it. Does the wind remember the sheep bells and lost little church bells that rang in unison on a Sunday morn, when the dew still laid fresh to wet the feathers of the skylark as it returned to its nest between the green rows? Down the Down. House sparrows vocalise the thoughts of the flint and tile. Bunting flaps on the green, strings of triangular wishes, hung to spook the clouds that threaten summer showers. But there’s always the village hall if wet.



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