I kept my camera firmly in my bag, for it was raining by the River Taw at Barnstaple – or rather it was the sort of fine mist that you barely felt, but soaked you through in no time at all. Or it might have been low lying cloud that I was walking around in. It drained the landscape almost of all colour, and of all sound. It seemed to silently inexorably bring time to a standstill, though I could clearly see the gulls circling all around me, and hear their cries.
But I clung on to my small mobile in my pocket, for the habit of clicking a camera button is far too ingrained in me to give up easily. And as I walked, I was captivated by the still expanse of water and the insubstantial silhouettes of spires, lamp posts and chimneys, and the distant trees. I took quick photos as I walked – sometimes barely looking into the viewfinder. I wasn’t expecting any decent pictures, but I like doing this – as a way of registering my experience, as far as possible without interrupting its flow.
And finally, sitting on the wet concrete wall of a flower bed, gazing around at the riverside view and the dark arches under the Long Bridge. I tucked away the mobile into my bag along with my bigger camera and all the rest of my ‘useful stuff’ – then zipped it all up.
I was just about to leave, when a gentle melodious honking filled the air, and an enormous flock of geese flew low over my head, following the line of the river. I was amazed, then muttered a few words under my breath at missing this wonderful photo opportunity. But I shrugged, stood up to go… and then another flock of geese flew overhead, uttering the same cries and causing further muttered words.
So I just had to sit down and dig out my mobile again, but by the time I had opened it up and waited for it to do its digital thing… yes, you have guessed it… the third flock of geese had passed overhead, and was almost out of sight before I managed to press the camera button. You will see the pathetic result in the images below.
I was interested to see that two of the geese, at a slight distance from the others, brought up the rear as though to cope with any stragglers or misadventures in the main body of birds. I had heard before that flying geese will change places when the lead bird tires, and I marvelled at their intelligence. I take it these were Canada Geese that I saw, though I am not entirely sure, as they were darkly silhouetted against the grey sky.
I think I might have missed the full experience of these moments, what with all my muttering and messing about with zips and cameras. But I also know that a part of me didn’t.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.