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Snowy Egret, Vol. 75, #1
Snowy Egret, Vol. 75, #1

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Four Fields

Fields offer the most  articulate description and vivid enactment of our life here on earth, of how we live both within the grain of the world and against it. We break ground to lay foundations, sow seeds and begin life; we break ground to harvest life, bury our dead and end things. Every fiedld is at once totally functional and the expression of an enormous idea. Fields live as proverbs as well as fodder and we reap what we sow.

Wildebeests with African elephants in a field, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Shifting weather, above all the movement of rain across this vast area, draws grass up from the ground at different times. The wildebeest and other herbivores follow the rain and eat. 

Four Fields

by Tim Dee
Counterpoint, 2015

This book is a personal meditation on fields in four locations - southern Zambia, Custer Battlefied in Montana, the Exclusion Zone at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and the fens of Cambridgeshire in East Anglia - and what meanings they carry for their inhabitants or visitants.

These fields are a backdrop for the author's ruminations, which often range far afield (pardon the pun) from their source inspiration. His observations follow the flow of a restless mind, from the astute descriptions of an experienced naturalist to the impacts of human occupation to the avian presences he encounters. At the site of General Custer's fabled Last Stand, he records this poetic impression:

"In the evening sky above me, Venus pushed through like a first match struck and then the silver dust of the night came prickling overhead all the way along the battle ridge from Last Stand Hill. Away from the storm, the unvexed lay quiet around the sky, darkening it where they ran, marshalling yards for the night. A female northern harrier bucked along beside me, silent over the grass and the death markers. The meadowlarks began to wind down and just as I turned to leave, a nighthawk appeared right at the roadside, flapping fast and ghostly over the grass, part of the dark coming into the end of the day."

Paesaggio by Mario Giacomelli




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Corncrakes
But there is something else about the corncrakes that exacerbates their otherworldliness. It is not their fault, and I have no science to prove it, but it is something I cannot help feeling. They don't appear to be fully resolved in life. 'A sort of living doubt,' John Clare called the corncrake and its music. 


Badlands
Until you get to an edge here you feel you are on the floor of the Earth, flat and low. Then the ground gives way and, beyond gulches and canyons of bare earth, the busy washing away of the world, are dropped and sunken miles of more grass blowing into the distance.