Sunday, January 8, 2012

The effects of absence

The romantic convention will have it that absence makes the heart grow fonder of the missing person – or, for the sour minded, of someone else someone present. It has been suggested that the first writer to coin this phrase was one T H Bayly, a nineteenth century poet and musician but – of course – Wm. Shakespeare got there first, and more elegantly, in both of his dramatic, romantic plays, Othello and Romeo and Juliet – 'absence doth sharpen love....'. Twentieth century writer Elizabeth Bowen was in the sour camp: ' the heart may think it knows better: the senses know that absence blots people out.'

We have just come back to La Chaise after a three week absence. We left it dry, with cracked and broken fields, scant grass cover for the sheep, the duck pond a mere mud puddle and the two irrigation ponds little better. Hardened sheep shit covered all the fields like so many clay marbles, not promising fertiliser material. Only the two horses, with more than two hectares between them, looked superior and content in their winter coats. This was not a promising scenario for the winter and coming spring. Our hearts were in our boots.
But the rains came while we were away and mostly in the fields, only a little through the roofs into the houses. My first walk round the land, down to the pump and the lower irrigation pond then back up through the woods to the upper pond (a.k.a 'the Black Pond in the Woods), was springy. The ground oozed damp and the plant cover – I won't call it grass, that would be too much to hope for – was pleasantly green. The sheep shit marbles were still there but could be trodden into the soil where they would eventually do some good. All three ponds were full of water, shiny and black, like treacle.

The stream leading from the ravine to the lower pond had water trickling through. There was an occasional barrage of leaves which it was most satisfying to destroy by clearing with one's boots. (I always wanted to be a small boy when I grew up.) The ravine itself did not retain any water yet though in really wet times it can hold impressive amounts of water. The temptation to turn it into another pond is quickly killed by the thought of the cost and the complications.

The duck pond still had some green lentils of pond weed at its sides but perhaps, if I connect the solar powered fountain, and if we have sunny days, aerating the water might get rid of it. The irrigation ponds appeared to have no weed but weed lurks and we shall only really know in the spring whether it has died back or not.

But at least the prognosis for spring is good and I fell in love with the place all over again. Let's see if this love affair survives the possible weather change with Monday's full moon.

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