Sunday 20 March 2011

A Twister in the Tale

Yesterday I had a (too short) walk on the downs, in that glorious sharp early spring sunlight the PreRaphaelites loved - well, who wouldn't? Another half a dozen brimstones, since you ask, but no other early fliers. However, I saw my first primrose of the year, and drifts of lesser celandine (Wordsworth's favourite, the little yellow flower about which he wrote three rather bad poems) and speedwell. Dozens of small dark solitary bees were at work on the speedwell, darting busily from flower to flower... I was walking back towards the station when, at a distance of about two rods - as Thoreau would put it - I saw two or three small brown shapes flutter up from the grass into the air, exactly like butterflies (think speckled wood). I knew, after one excited instant, that they were no such thing - they were dry leaves from last autumn. And very soon there were more and more of them swirling and spiralling upwards, though it was a still day with little wind. Clearly some kind of vortex - formed perhaps by the unusually warm air - had formed, and a kind of mini-twister was carrying dozens, if not hundreds of dry leaves (and the odd bit of litter which, being heavier, soon fell back to earth) up and away, higher and higher till they were out of sight. It was all over in a minute, but it had been a rather wonderful surprise, a kind of autumn in reverse.

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