by Dr Susie Curtin
I have just returned from a sunset quest to see the barn owl and the two young foxes that live down by the River Stour. It has been a difficult day – one of those where nothing goes quite right and single tasks take too long.
I was very glad to escape into nature where there is so much more to focus on than my frustrations, and the circling pessimism about the environment and the economic uncertainty we all face.
Instead, my attention turned to the foxy siblings who were rolling and playing chase, and the barn owl that was quartering her usual fields, stopping on a post every now and then to take stock and to listen for voles. I could feel the tight muscles in my face soften into a smile as she flew straight towards me down the track.
As the sun set over the hills and the washed-out colours of early September diminished, I began to key into the soothing sounds of the riverbank that were wafting downstream.
The kingfisher I had seen earlier was still calling its single, shrill note as it shot past me, the familiar streak of metallic blue just visible in the gloom.
Then came the squawking, prehistoric sounds of a heron as it took to the skies to find its roost, and the mutterings from the moorhen hunkering down beside the banks.
The squadron of starlings that I had seen sweep and swirl in a mini-murmuration before diving down into the reeds were noisily jostling for position, while a distant tawny owl and the mewing of sheep completed the evening symphony as I made haste in the darkness.
Now back home, feeling happier and pleasantly sleepy, I am sat with a hot drink on my patio listening to my garden crickets clicking and chirping to attract their mates – a sound that takes me back to end-of-summer camps and my travels in Greece as a youth.
The clouds above me are dissipating and gradually the constellations of the Plough and Cassiopeia become straddled by the Milky Way. My newly acquainted hedgehog is rustling through the dry summer debris behind my ash tree, looking for snails and slugs, sniffling and snorting as he moves through the garden. Beside me, Henry my cat lies purring.
I cannot think of a better end to a difficult day, away from the television and the nightly news. An after-dinner walk, and time and space to be at one with an evening soundscape, creates moments of peacefulness and instils a calm and fulfilled sleep.
- Dr Susie Curtin (email firstname.lastname@example.org)