The Hedge-layer’s Season
The season’s vagaries have run their course.
Dusty April gave way to muddy May.
Blossoms, free from nipping frosts yielded their fruit
rampant with juice from a sodden summer.
Fruit ripened in the long-shadowed days
of late summer and its dew-laden dusks
and early autumn’s golden, misty dawns.
Combines and balers stand idle after weeks of intense service,
their circular bales piled in long-black rows.
A distillation of ripened sunshine
a sealed song to summer, waiting to be released
as feed and bedding for the short winter days
when cows stand motionless, steaming in their barns.
For most, the year is drawing in, but for one,
the season is just awakening.
November begins the hedge-layer’s season.
When all are looking to the year’s end,
a time of quiet contemplation
the hedge layer sorts and sharpens his tools.
Five years of growth beckons billhook, shears and saw.
Winter’s rootstock holds life in stored abeyance
inviting cuts to boughs and branches without harm.
Gaps need to be closed ensuring a stock-proof hedge.
Ditches need to be cleared and re-defined.
Redress is needed; a renewal of what is ancient.
Clear away unwanted growth, to view the hedge’s rising architecture.
A chainsaw rasps the air in crescendo-bursts, and with it
a snare-drum of falling branches beat at the field’s rim
their percussion ripples along the vale
The disturbance launches the rookery as one.
Its chorus of rasping calls sets echoes chasing echoes along the vale.
Billhook bites bark, saw tears flesh
as trunks and branches are laid uphill toward the light.
All the flexing, sinuous advantage is used of hazel and willow
to twist, tie, bond and bind a warp and weave of slumbering life-force.
On part-sawn uprights, slim, slivers of outer growth remain,
causeways for the rising sap, that in spring
become rivers of flowing life.
From winter’s barren branches will burst forth buds,
blossoms, berries and a canopy of waving leaves
sheltering small scurrying creatures,
and birds who nest and sing safe in the hedge’s embrace.
Sheep, securely enclosed will not wander.
Cattle will stand and stare.
Five long seasons will pass and wane
before days of frost will signal once more
for billhook to bite bark, saw to tear flesh
when sculptures of bare-boned hedges stand cold and frigid.
A song waiting to be sung, a symphony in timeless rhythm.
5th Nov – 6th Nov 2007. Fine, calm, dry. Last night of waning moon.
For Longburton, Nov 2007.© T.M. Pearce