Nature Writing

Tony Kelly: July 1974

I wonder if all moths have red eyes? Irrespective of species, it seems, as they cluster on our windows in the night, their eyes shine out like two tiny deep red lamps glowing in the darkness and flashing like jewels in the light of a torch, which most of them appear to ignore, unless their motionlessness is a sign of appreciation of the added brilliance! Some of the smaller moths, the Carpets, are usually very lively and restless and start away when they're approached, even from quite a distance, but the bigger ones, used to relying on their camouflage, are more stolid and easy to capture and bring indoors to identify, where they soon settle down. And most of them, having settled down, show little concern about flight, and so little in fact, that when we return them to the wild on a small piece of card, they're quite content just to remain there, and even when pushed from behind, they will merely walk along, off the card, and onto a wall for flight some hours later or, in some cases, even days later. It's been an unusual and prolific year for moths and there are still a few White Ermines about as well as the giant Poplar Hawk moths; and the brilliant Garden Tiger in black, red and yellow is now quite common among the little Straw Dots and the clumsy Drinkers which crash into our windows. Last night there was a Magpie and a few Antlers, and before that the Large Emerald (not really emerald, but a silky jade green). In the high fields we found a Burnett moth, somewhat removed from its more usual haunts among the sedges and rushes of the waun, and there are Ringlet butterflies and everywhere the Meadow Brown.

The trees begin to look thinner and barer as they do about the time of Mabh's feast and I used to regard this with some apprehension as a sign of an early Autumn and the premature touch of the Haggard One, but it's no such thing, nor ever has been, and there'll be leaves on the trees for a season yet and the breast of the Earth Mother is warm and full. But it's a curious thing and I think it comes about in this way. 
At Bealtaine the once-bare trees are clothed in the small bright green leaves of Spring and they grow dense and bushy, and as the Sun climbs higher the leaves take on the dark green hues of Summer and the shadows grow denser. At Midsummer the leaves seem to reach their maturity with the maturity of the Summer Sun, and then the stems begin to lengthen, possibly to carry the now densely-clustered leaves upward and outward into the light, and it's probably this lengthening of the stems which opens the leaves out and gives them a lighter, barer aspect. But the new stems bear new leaves which quickly open and expose the brown and red glows of their newness, and this is especially noticeable in the garden where a surplus 500 oak trees await Autumn planting. A few moons ago, their green leaves were covered in the massed blue of the wild forget-me-not flowers which invaded the newly cultivated earth, and more recently overlapped by the taller stems and yellow flowers of the Corn Sowthistle and Nipplewort and the violet spikes of the Woundwort. But now the oaks are growing and the great drift of bright forget-me-not blue is interspersed with the deep red glow of the emerging clusters of newly unfolding oak leaves.

Deep in the grasses the wild flowers grow, the deep blue Self-heal and brighter blue Tufted Vetch, yellow flowered Bird's-foot Trefoil and Meadow Vetchling, foxgloves tall in the hedges and under the trees, and Broad-leaved Willow Herb in the waste places. There's white clover and red, blackberries in flower, pink Dog Roses flowering in the hedgerows and the sweetly scented white Trailing Roses in the shady places by the streams and under the trees. There are blossoms too on the Elder Trees though many of the flowers are spent and the ovaries, green and tiny, are beginning to swell on the way to becoming the shiny black berries that will later hang on the trees in their clustered thousands.

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