Photograph by Martin Brewer
— Nunhead Cemetery, London, April 2012
In the cemetery won by sycamore and rendered woodland, two male song thrush are duelling with one another, throwing out tunes, rewriting and rollicking the black cloud with their language. This mysterious, handsome thrush is to me like a singing pudding endowed with flight. I leave them to it. My ears are working overtime, the scene dripping, the algae glows on the trunks of dark trees, the moss is vibrant on the gravestones appearing as shipwrecks at the bottom of an ocean. The denseness of the trees squeezes the sound: blue tit trill, the calling great tit and guttural canon of the crow marking the enclosure of forthcoming leaves and canopy. A family, their dog muddied, happy, intoxicated by the aroma of wet woodland, people relaxed, even pleased – woodland puts us back into our bodies. The sun inches out and makes crystals from the droplets of fallen rain, there is the feeling that the soil is sighing from the torrents. Deep refreshment has touched the natural world. My waterproof holds drops of water that leave strange dents in the material, my jeans are darker now. Wait – a song ending, a sweet, fluty refrain. Silence. Woodland dripping, I retrace my steps back down the path. The song comes from a leafless ash canopy – descending, descending, falling apart. Willow warbler. I see it, its long tail and constant hopping between branches. How far has it come? It sings again and moves on. The matt black storm clouds progress, the inkling of lightning, the thunderous thump.