Thursday, April 17, 2008


I've been dipping into my copy of 'A Countrywoman's Journal' first mentioned in this post last year. I thought I would see what the author and illustrator Margaret Shaw was finding in her garden at this time of year. Her entry for April 17th 1928 is about the cuckoo.

She writes:- 'Heard the cuckoo before 6a.m. got up and saw him sitting in a tree opposite my window. His tail goes up and his head down each time he cuckoos, a very wooden looking bird.'

Reading about the cuckoo brought back childhood memories of the small Derbyshire village we lived in when I was a child. I too remember waking up and hearing the cuckoo's call in the early mornings. I associate that call with the arrival of Spring, the growing warmth of the sun, the greening of the trees and the promise of the glories of late Spring and early Summer to come. That wonderful time when everything is lush, fresh and sparkling in the sunshine. The cow parsley swaying on the roadside, the hawthorne hedges in blossom and the horse chestnut trees bedecked with their elegant white flowers. It reminds me of our school 'nature walks' into the woods close by. Led by the teacher we would snake off, two by two, down the lane near the school, over the stone stile, across the field to the wooden bridge over the brook and into the woods. We would come back clutching our specimens to be displayed, usually in water filled jam jars or milk bottles, which would be labeled by the teacher and placed on the 'nature table' in our class room.

The cuckoo may be a wooden looking bird and certainly the only one I hear nowadays is a wooden one; when I'm out in the garden and my neighbours have their front window open I hear their cuckoo clock on the hour chiming in it's quaint, mechanical way but it doesn't have that magical lingering call of the real bird, heard in the mists of early morning offering promise for the new day. The cuckoo is now listed as an endangered species so maybe sometime in the future perhaps the only cuckoo any of us will hear will be the mechanical call of the cuckoo clock; I really hope not.

1 comment:

  1. I remember those nature walks when I was in elementary school. We would go twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, along a trail through the woods at the edge of the playground. It was quite a walk, and I've been meaning to revisit it. Every time I smell the cedars after a rain, it reminds me of those woods!