I see an owl, I think a tawny owl, flying across the field, and a pair of ducks on the river fly away when they notice me, off round in a circle – they seem to patrol this section of the river regularly. The river is steady and sedate, even when there’s been enough rain to raise the water level an inch or two. Mist can appear on the Levels at any time of year, though it seems to be particularly thick in the early spring. The impenetrable atmosphere creates an eerie sense of moorland isolation.
The river is carrying lots of muddy silt, and the odd bit of frothy pollutant. Birds and fish seem to get by alright – in fact a friend told me about seeing ‘electro-fishing’, when an astonishing number of stunned fish floated to the surface of the river to be identified and counted – though the water is not entirely healthy and I’m sure the volume of life in it is nothing like it once was. Nevertheless there can be a lovely sense of peace and quiet on the riverbank; no rush about anything. The sheep in the fields across the river are the loudest things around.
When there is frost, as there still is from time to time, bright morning sun shining across whitened land feels like the abiding image of April. Most days however are warmer, and I notice how the grass is now very busy growing. The trees and hedges are greening up too, and the birds are getting busier. One morning – and it seemed to have happened overnight – reeds on the riverbank have grown up so much that they create an impression that the water level has risen; in fact the lower part of the bank has just got greener. Reeds along the edge of the rhyne are growing so fast that you could almost sit and watch them; and they are growing up in the river channel itself too, which is something that I haven’t noticed here before.
When there is rain the greens in the landscape get deeper. I think the river enjoys having water drop from the sky; it moves on downstream with more of a sense of purpose. When it is sunny I am more likely to see a heron flapping its way by; ducks seem to be there whatever the weather, usually complaining. And what are these little things, in the foliage growing beside the river? Tiny birds, but very noisy; then quickly gone, flying their erratic course. They are, I learn, reed warblers, singing their hearts out to attract new mates.
After a few dry days the river seems to be hardly moving at all, and with the increasingly lush growth around it the impression – when it is viewed from the right angle – is of a pond rather than a river. I have picked up a news item on the radio suggesting that enhanced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to more green growth than expected. The riverbank birds certainly like it, and reeds in the river are growing up fast – it’s going to be quite clogged before long. I don’t know why this is unexpected: the confused thinking that refers to carbon dioxide as a ‘pollutant’ does not encourage confidence in scientists figuring out what is really going on regarding climate change.
During this time of the seasons’ change I was not feeling well. This was the aftermath of the 'Transient Ischaemic Attack' (a minor stroke) that I had the previous November. I could still get up and walk to the river – in fact it felt very important that I kept myself moving – though aches in my muscles meant that sitting on the riverbank was something I could not do for long. I’d been encouraged to stop taking statins, which eventually I did. After that my body gradually returned to a feeling of normality; such things are referred to as ‘side-effects’, though my own conclusion was that I had been suffering from cholesterol deficiency – caused by my medication. I remembered asking the river spirit for help with this condition, and now I must remember to be thankful.