The gathering of September

3 Sep 2023

The lane up to the moors is heavy with black brambles and elderberries. At the end of the lane, out on to the edge of the high moor and looking down across the vale below, the pale-yellow fields are being harvested. It’s a busy time of year. Tractors towing harvesting machinery come through the village before dawn and return after dark.

The start of autumn is still a few weeks away, but there is a feeling of ‘gathering’ with everyone and everything making the most of the remaining summer. On my morning radio programme ‘Farming Today’ farmers are being interviewed about getting the harvest in, worrying about rain, and hoping for sun. 

Wood pigeons are flapping noisily around as they gorge on berries, and in the hedgerows there is the strange beeping cheep of hidden bullfinches feeding. I found a well-fed toad in my flower bed as I pruned back the luxuriant summer growth that has now turned to seed.

One of my September activities is to take a small handheld bat detector to the woods in the valley below the village. I’m certainly not an expert on bats, but I’m fascinated by the different world revealed as bats flit in the gathering dusk feeding up for winter hibernation whilst insects are plentiful. 

There is a beck, or small stream, in the valley woods with a wooden bridge across it. The bats fly up and down the stream in between the trees. I stand on the bridge and scroll through the frequencies on the bat detector until a bat’s voice comes chirping and skittering from the speaker. In the darkness it is a world that I cannot see or hear except through the electronic interpretation of the bat detector sound wave physics.

Here’s an extract from Lord Byron’s poem Lara that describes the scene:

The long dim shadows of surrounding trees, 

The flapping bat, the night song of the breeze;

My therapist told me that one of things that would help resolve grief held over from early childhood and the death of my sister is to try and understand the effect it had on my parents. As a child you cannot interpret and understand the adult world. It’s a world you cannot see or hear, so it is only a child’s mute understanding that carries through the decades.

Now, so many years later, I’m holding out my emotional bat detector scrolling through the frequencies to pick up messages I could not hear when I was 9 years old. I still can’t understand all they say, but at least I’m starting to listen now.

Do you think you might be missing messages because they are being said in a way you cannot hear properly?

Rowan on the moor

A Moodscope member

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