“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”
Cyprus Well is quiet. Overwhelmingly so. Trading the city for the edges of Launceston, I found myself craving sound, the vestigial muscles of my ears working to locate sound like radar dishes. My residency with the Causley Trust began during the new year lockdown and, in the silence, it was the birds that broke through.
During those first nesting days, birds entered my life at the edges of sleep. A tawny owl lullaby, waking to robin song. Before long, they occupied the same spaces that my loved ones have this turbulent year. As my phone rang out, so too did the call of the blue tit and blackbird. In dreams as I conjure their faces, robins and wrens sit in my palm. Throughout this first month of the residency, I found myself craving the company of the birds, and resolved to seek them out myself.
Spending this lockdown at Cyprus Well may seem like the ideal way for a writer to spend their time. In many ways, it is. Time, dedication to a craft I love. Space, permission to write. Silence, a world without distraction. Their sum, combined with lockdown, totals prolonged introspection. Necessary for writing but countered by observation. In the absence of human connection, where do we look? Outwards. In my search for them, this is where the birds sent me. Beyond the parameter.
Walking the ridge that skirts town, I became better acquainted with my lockdown world each day. High up there, trees sang in the wind. Low moans and creaking wood. For a while, I mistakenly took the sound for traffic and wandered into the safety of a hedgerow, only to look around and find myself alone. Alone, except for the eyes of stonechats and sparrows tucked between the branches. Tracing footsteps in the icy and hoof-chequered mud, I saw snowdrops cascading in drifts amongst the grass. Tentative daffodils, spear-headed, were edging towards the light, two already blooming. Bright suns against the remnants of winter. As Causley said, spring is beginning to “set off her green fuses”. Against the snow scattered hills of Dartmoor, pink in the haze of sundown, buzzards circled. Crows jostled. The bleat of a blackbird rose.
My love for the birds is due, in part, to their freedom. Waders will soon leave after enjoying our mild winters. In late spring, swallows will arrive to spend their summer. From our stationary isolation, we can live through them. Oh, the places they’ll go.
I have just under a month left at Cyprus Well, and who knows where the birds will lead me next? Further, I hope, across the borders of creativity and observation. Journeying, as they do, to where the world is just right for me. That’s something, isn’t it, that we can all hope for?