Pilgrim at the Northbrook

I intended to spend the morning re-reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but instead spent the morning reading around it. I did find some very interesting articles, such as

An Invitation from Silence: Annie Dillard’s Use of the Mystical Concepts of Via positiva and Via Negativa
Author(s): B. Jill Carroll
Source: Mystics Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 1 (March 1993), pp. 26-33
Published by: Penn State University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717151


Backpacking with the Saints: The Risk Taking Character of Wilderness Reading
Belden C. Lane
Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, Volume 8, Number 1, Spring 2008, pp. 23-43 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/scs.0.0009

but that wasn’t really the point.

So after lunch, I allowed the sun to call me out for a walk down by my very own Tinker Creek that is the Northbrook. It is the sort of stream that is best heard but not seen, constrained to an aging rectilinear channel where it flows past Wonford Playing Fields by variously concrete, wire baskets of stones and wishful thinking. Some of it is getting decidedly undercut, and the gap between the concrete lip and water-level shows what a difference 12 days (12 days!) without rain makes.

In many places, the wire fence that should be preventing access to the bank has been trodden underfoot, and there are a few tentative paths through the narrow line of straggly trees and scrub. Where the water bubbles over a few stones or a concrete lip in the bed, and there’s a view downstream through overhanging branches sheltering little brown birds flitting from bank to bank, it almost feels like a proper stream. But then it’s difficult not to notice the plastic bags snagged in the scrub and the (preferably unidentifiable) litter in the stream, not to mention the drowned tyre and most of an exhaust system.

The paths in Ludwell Valley Park have dried off just in time for the City Council to spread pristine stone chips in what were the worst spots by the gates. But there are still a couple of pools of water in low-lying fields near the brook. A slow circumambulation turned up no frog spawn, one winged insect, one pied wagtail walking on water, and a fine male mallard turning its head through the blue and violet spectrum to keep me in view before making its escape. I had hoped for at least a little frogspawn as a recompense for the cold weather. Ah well.

Because although it is sunny, there is a stiff-ish breeze from the north east, and there is a chill in the air. The largest deciduous trees have obviously decided that discretion is the better part of valour and aren’t going to come into leaf until spring has made assurances, but it takes only a couple of scraggy scots pines to provide a decent sound effect of wind roaring in the branches overhead.

At the lower levels, some brave pussy willow is out. The cherries are in bud, the hazels in catkin and the hawthorn is grudgingly coming into leaf. The blackthorn remains determinedly black and the young oaks are bare but for last year’s raggety leaves. It is left to the pennywort to provide most of the fresh spring green, and the role of impact colour falls to what I consider unusually profuse galaxies of celandine and a few escapee primroses, primulas and narcissi in the hedgerows.

On my way back through suburbia, the magnolia buds are still wrapped up warm in their furry onesies. I know how they feel.