The Alder Pool.
The voice of a cuckoo
Dropped to the lake
Where it lay floating
On the surface.
A foreword? To a short piece? Yes, there are a couple of words in here that bear definition. One very old, one new. Both I think deserve more use.
Mogshade: an old English for the welcome cool shade cast by trees in leaf
Shivelight: a word coined by Gerard Manley Hopkins for the gleaming shafts of light shining through trees in leaf
The verses are haiku by Bashō, from Sumidawara, published in 1694
Now that’s done, let us away to the story…
… It’s late September now, the equinox is passed and autumn comfortably settled in after it’s brusque arrival. A time for sweatered evenings drinking hot chocolate, for listening to Vaughan Williams and remembering the sweltering summer now past. Blattering rain, from the winter’s first big storm, rattles down the window.
Memory drifts back to near midsummer, a rest day saunter at the quiet end of Borrowdale. There’s a massive Atlantic storm on the way, but I don’t know that yet. For now, all is calm and still.
The air hangs quiet and becalmed, no breeze to relieve an enervating heat felt bone deep. A lone buzzard wheels high in the bell clear sky, a cuckoo calls somewhere unseen. The Derwent runs trickle dry in it’s rocky bed. All bar a glass clear relic pool, willow and alder shaded, cupped in the cut bank of a lazy meander.
Nestled in this welcome cool mogshade the pool rests, it’s surface planished metal mirror smooth. A settled calm for now bare stirred by flow of either air or water.
Spears of shivelight dapple the pool bed with rippling glimmers of brightness; each dapple studiously prowled by silverdark trout. In the bed thousands of ephemeropteran nymphs, avoiding the predations of stonefly, of alderfly, of damselfly nymph. A flickerdash and a prowling silverdark trout gobbles an ephemeropteran, a stonefly an alderfly, a damselfly nymph.
In the heavy air above each shivelight shaft plays host to a haze of ephemeroptera swarming in their frantic nuptial dance. All male, all desperate to attract a watching female into the swarm, to copulate. Blood red damselflies, hawking, flash from sunlit borders, through the shadows, disrupting the dancers’ chaotic order. Each flashing dash snatching a single dancer from the swarm. Oblivious, in the desperate rush to reproduce, the swarm reforms, the dance continues. In the seemingly stable column each individual ephemeropteran swirls ever lower to finally settle on, and cast eggs beneath, that mirror calm surface; their final act. A flickerdash of prowling silver dark trout makes an occasional encore, each ripple a transient ring and ditch memorial for the life of an insect.
The eggs, in their minute tens of thousands, sink safely to the pool bed, there to hatch, to bide for years as a nymph and one day on the wing.
And all these myriad tiny dramas play out in and above a glass clear relic pool, willow and alder shaded, cupped in the cut bank of a lazy meander. The Derwent still runs trickle dry in it’s rocky bed. A lone buzzard still wheels high in a bell clear sky, a cuckoo still calls somewhere unseen. The air still hangs quiet and becalmed, no breeze to relieve an enervating heat felt bone deep.
But, far out in the wild Atlantic a low pressure is deepening, tracking rapidly northwest. The beginnings of that massive storm I don’t know about yet. In two days the glass clear pool will be churned by sky wrenching gale and bank breaching flood as the now trickle dry Derwent runs full spate.
In the sky
Of eight or nine yards
Above the willow –