“A bird just fell out of the sky. Look. Over there.”
There was nothing to see, by the time I’d followed his outstretched arm. The space was empty, but I knew what he’d witnessed. Even though he’d sighted one before me. Darn! At least I’d been pre-warned.
Earlier that day, I’d seen my husband watching on the harbour side. Intense expression, as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
He told me later he’d spotted what he thought were gannets. Gannets diving for their breakfasts, way out over the sea. Disappearing several meters under the water to reach the shoals of fish.
Soon we had all seen them. It was a sight we saw frequently over the week, once we had our eye in, so to speak. We sat drinking our morning coffee. Watching the gannets dive, as we ate breakfast in our holiday cottage.
As we drove around the coast on the Isle of Arran, all non-drivers would provide their own sound effects for the moment they spotted a bird hit the water. As we walked along a beach, there were more to spot. Even better viewing them from the ferry.
Soon we found we could anticipate which bird would drop from the sky and which would flap on by. We gave them names, although they were too far out to identify one from the other. The commentary was fun.
“Ah, here comes Arthur again. He looks like he will attempt a triple turn. Oh! Shame about the splash. He’ll be disappointed with that one.”
From the start of the dive to the moment the bird hit the surface, took less than a second. By the time you pointed it out, the bird was gone. Under the surface grabbing an unsuspecting fish.
We began to give them marks. Mirroring the methods used in the Olympics for high board divers. Some birds made bigger splashes. The angle made a big difference.
Eventually, we would see them resurface, fish in beak. Flapping their enomorous wings as they escaped the water surface.
It’s funny, I had always assumed that the expression, feeding like gannets referred to feeding the young in the nest. Most mothers of growing children know the feeling, I’m sure. Maybe it does. I can see now that it could equally refer to the very eye catching way they catch their fish. One dropping out of the sky after another.
Now back in Somerset, I miss the gannets. I miss sitting in the morning, with my cup of coffee and watching them dive.
I couldn’t capture them in a photo. Too far away and too fast. So instead I made a few. Needlefelting them instead. With a wee, little fish, that seems to know it’s time is up. Gulp! Each bird twirling slightly in the general eddy of the room. Just as they do when they fall from the sky.
The mobile is hanging up in our kitchen. On the principle, that if I can’t go and see the gannets, then I’ll bring them to see us.
Notes on the needle felting: I felted around a pipecleaner frame for each bird. It allowed me to change their shape, so I could try and capture the twirling movement of the birds. The fish is cut out of a prefelted piece, left over from a previous project.
The mobile works best from a distance, just as they would be at sea. It is more about the movement than a close up study. The central string allows them to move as if twirling downwards.
Jury is still out about whether its the same bird in three moments of time, or three birds after the same fish. Although as a mother of three, my choice of number was no accident! I’ll leave it for you to decide.
(Needle-felted Fly Agaric)
The books that are read to us as young children, help to shape the people we will become. It affects our style, our understanding of our surroundings, our references in the world. It’s little wonder as these books are often read to us over and over and over again. They are the first pictures that we study in detail and commit to memory in our young heads.
My children were raised on Elsa Beskow books. Not exclusively, of course, but they were a running theme throughout their young years, as they would be rotated on our Seasons table. The illustrations are delightful. The stories simple and centred on our natural world.
Imagine our delight when we walked into a forest that could only be straight out of the pages of the Children on the Forest book. If we had looked round one of the trees and spotted the small family out, gathering mushrooms and berries for the winter, none of us would have batted an eyelid.
I think its the first time we have found bilberries, growing wild. Oh, for a small basket.
Our walk was up Merrick Mountain, in Galloway, Scotland. It is an 8 mile walk to the summit, but we knew that we were not going all the way up. Our 10 year old dog is arthritic in her back legs and the boulder part noticeably took it out of her. She is so loyal, she would have accompanied us to the top and beyond, if we had asked it of her, but we knew it would be a mistake. Above the tree line would suit us.
Once beyond the fairly steep climb over the boulders, we reached a part that felt like a valley. Much easier and also beautiful in its own right. The heather was in full bloom, adding the perfect touch of colour. The children explored the bothy, which is the first they have seen. Such a beautiful day. We had to remind them that conditions are not always as good in Scotland and long distant trekkers may be glad of this building as a shelter.
We reached the trees. It’s fenced off to stop deer eating all the newly planted young plants. The children became the children in the forest. Acting out stories from the book. Reminding me of the tales.
We found bilberries and fungi in the shade of the pine trees.
At this point, half the party continued on, while I stayed behind, with two of the children, to give our old faithful hound a chance to rest. She blended right into the scenery.
While we waited, there was a chance to practise stick sword fighting while balanced on a log. To climb trees. Hunt for little people wearing red and white toadstool hats. With the light coming through the leaves, it added even more to the magic of the place.
Also we practised our cloud appreciation on the lone cloud in the sky. A classic lenticular cloud. Formed at high altitude. Stationary. A stacked lens-shaped cloud.
Once the others returned, we headed back down the mountain. Ready for a cup of tea and cake at the cafe below. Only right to end where we started.
(Needle felting notes: I used Jacobs sheep fleece for the white base and spots. It felts up firm, with a slight spring. The red is merino.)
Anyone else read the Children of the Forest book?
(Affiliated link in this post.)
Recently we visited Montacute House and the children were fascinated by the Koi Carp in the pond. To be honest, so was I. Where they were probably enjoying seeing the fish swim around, I was very taken by the markings. We all have our way to appreciate nature. They saw fish. I saw a needlefelting project. It’s just the way my mind works.
I wanted to try a technique that I have only done by accident in the past. I started by making the body of the fish out of brown Jacobs fleece. I love this as a base as it felts up easily into a firm shape, that is still easy to manipulate.
Next, I needlefelted bright orange merino over the top. Now comes the new method. In some areas, I felted more. This causes the orange to thin and disappear into the brown, giving a brown, mottled look. You can see this most clearly on the back of the fish’s head. As a contrast, I added merino brown to the sides. Where the Jacobs brown has come through, it gives a more natural look, while the brown merino is harsh.
This is my prototype, and I have learnt so much. Next time, I’ll allow the Jacobs brown to do all the contrast markings. I’ll also make the fins and tail thinner and more feathery. For a first attempt, I quite like my fish.
I seem to be going for a sea theme this week, so far. I’ll break the pattern for a St George’s day (23rd April) craft activity this weekend . Off to bake some biscuits, to go with it.