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The Lost Words April: Lark

29th April 2020

We find ourselves in a very strange time, with the world locking down in the mist of a global pandemic. Robert Macfarlanes book The Lost Words’ is a perfect resource for reminding ourselves of the beauty in the world around us.  In our blog, we are focusing on one word a month and this April, we are featuring the beautiful Lark, a bird resident throughout the UK, with the most beautiful song, which uniquely can be heard whilst it flies high in the sky.  You can find out more about this bird, and hear its song on the RSPB website 

The words, ‘Right now I need you, for my sadness has come again’, reminds me that in these challenging times, getting out into nature brings its own medicine. Our hunt for the, as it turns out elusive lark, has given a focus to our daily walks and reminded me just how therapeutic for the mind a walk out in nature can be. As the world is so much more quiet, it is truly amazing how much more you notice, be that bird song, bees buzzing in a blossom tree or the trickle of a stream. Noises you probably would never of thought about before, but somehow are now drawn to.  Our search for skylarks around Ilkley wasn’t the most successful, (we only had one potential spot in many trips to the moor, however we did spot many other wild animals, including deer, frogs grouse and many robins and blue tits), thankfully our Forest Pathways practitioner Clare was much more successful, and wrote this lovely commentary:

‘I wonder if the larks know what’s happening in the valleys below them, the dark matter.  Do they notice us taking different paths? When we hear their song torrenting on, we look up and up, away from our meanderings and into the blue, hoping to catch a glimpse of a distant silhouette.  My friend taught me, ‘a skylark is the bird that rises high into the sky, sometimes you cannot see it but it’s song can still be heard.’  I love this.  And that is how it is today.  Spring business means the bird chatter is loud and lovely.  I walk past heather clumps and I can hear the magical song of the skylark tumbling on.  Who is watching who?  The lark has the better viewpoint for sure, high above me…but I have the gift of listening to its call, ascending.  Thank you Skylark for reassuring us that even though we can’t see everything or everyone we want to right now; we can hear them in all sorts of ways.  And for reminding us that it’s good to sing out loud, especially when we can’t be seen!’

Sam, our Forest School Practitioner on our Better Start Bradford Forest School Play project also joined in the search for the lark:

‘After an exciting but ultimately unsuccessful walk searching for skylarks, my daughter and I decided to write a poem about these airborne acrobats. We settled on the idea of writing a haiku, a traditional Japanese poem consisting of a three-line format with 17 syllables arranged in a 5–7–5 pattern.  We whiled away hours sitting in the garden and playing with all the combinations of words we could use, learning to clap out their individual sounds. It’s harder than you might imagine!   We hope you like our work.

A Skylark Haiku

Sombre little bird

Your voice carries you so high

Dive back down to me

The search for the elusive lark inspired the whole Get Out More team, including Managing Director Annie;

‘Robert Macfarlane describes the poem as being about sadness, nature and hope.  And with each day looking alike and the limits of our world shrunk to well known streets and paths, I was feeling the flatness of heart that the poem describes.  On my runs on the moors I had been looking for the skylark to lift my spirits, listening out for its ‘silver chain of sound’ (Lark Ascending, another lark poem, by George Meredith) and although the moors were ringing with the sounds of curlews and warblers, the distinctive skylark was not there.  One morning, I took a different route along the road, aiming to tick off some miles before getting back to emails and Zoom meetings. My mind was on the podcast I was listening to, but over the top of the chat I became aware of a persistant ‘chirrup, whistle, slur and shake’ (Lark Ascending).  Halting my run, I followed the sound to trace a fluttering, bird rising higher in the sky, elavated on a song.  I watched for a while, forgetting about everything but the lark;  a little piece of airborn magic to lift a difficult day’

Have you heard noises around you that you haven’t noticed before? Can you identify the birds that are around your home just through listening to their songs? The world may never be this quiet again, so make the most of your ability to listen. Can you write a Haiku about something you’ve heard or seen on your daily exercise? However you are managing to get through this strange time, we hope these tips help you! You can find more on our Facebook page.

by Susan Eardley

Robert Macfarlane Twitter: @RobGMacfarlane