The Blackbird’s Final Song

As the blackbird’s sing their final songs of summer, I thought I’d share some words that emerged as I sat listening to their song; an imagined journey to a time when blackbird’s sing no more – it could form an epilogue to A Blackbird’s Year. Back to looking at recent nature connection research for the next post.

Resting beneath a birch tree, swifts above cut thoughts free to float with them in azure skies, rising to a place only present of mind. The dance of the wind shaped progress to a veteran oak, and from within a blackcap sang as a blackbird wired by. I circled its trunk one thousand times; with each circuit, a new angle of light described it, and by the end of the day that tree’s form was known.

Landed and stumbling through undergrowth, arcs of grasses wrapped about my shins and I set out to walk a season and beyond. A depth of nature had erupted from spring and channelled the river of human habit until it became the song of the blackbird unfurled, laid down habit upon habit, the need to sing upon the need to walk. Cow parsley floated, each flower head sparking an ignition of summer in the green air, charged by coils of birdsong, as a descending sun brought fresh green to each grass blade, and cut loose the blackbird’s boast shook each white thronged limb of the mounded hawthorn.


The woods beyond were a scaffold of light, harbouring a zest of greens between. Arrows of sunlight speared the canopy, marking retina and meadow beyond with bright and shadow. Footprints of light stepped the pathways and time was the beat of a hoverfly. In the full-steam of the season the oaks were silent of rook and dark of shadow, whispering in the air that had carried the black flock away. As I walked, a white noise of road grew, permeating every glade and thicket. The glorious wood, with creeping mosses, ferns and grasses between rising birch, oak and pine. But even the onset of rain could not beat away the tension of the asphalt. Birdsong went unheard and the journey through the woods was a detachment, a tunnelling, an otherness where a human cord wrapped every step and nature always seemed a step further away, filtered through and wrapped in a modernity.

Deeper into the wood there was a place where the more distant noise could be punctured by the ravenous calls of gulls and through the wounds nature leached the humanity and I saw the wood described by the full spectrum of light. The trunks of birch, varnished to a gloss by the rain, seemed to lean into the light, supported by an intensity of green that infused all. And as the paths narrowed, it was not only a depth of journey into the wood, but also a depth of being in and with the wood.

By the woods was the river and its oxbow, a mirror to the day. The swan’s wake split the setting sun and beyond buttercups crowned an entire meadow. The evening became a tune, a lullaby for mind’s rest. A peace of mind that only a summer evening can bring. And as the sun set there came a breath from the stillness; there is potential for change in even the most benign conditions. And whether it was the motion of the swan or flight of the heron, the willow began to describe patterns within patterns as it conducted the birds to a closing quiet and the last dash of the blackbird’s alarm, as it was lost to the darkness of the dusk. There, into the double figures of the evening, I was one and the willow was just an echo of the day.

Dawn and a blackbird, lost of song, piloted the pathway before me, its wake a veil of dark silence across the freshness of the trees as the season fell into a still and tired calm – the descent of summer and soon the robin shall fill the hollow. The sun shone slowly, light touching as breeze, too subdued to bring forth the crow into a third dimension, instead it blotted its patch of sky, as ink might when unwritten. And I watched the crow write and draw the sky until it read the end of summer. And the fall out was all about, spent feathers on the oxbow, fallen grasses on its banks. And without flow, nor rain, there it sat as a film of summer on the water, telling a story of the season, showing trees as reflected memories, distant in the haze of detritus. The only motion a moorhen pulsing across and slowly cutting the image, a natural edit for the cutting room floor of mind and memory.

Three crows circled high above; so dark they seemed to seek the light of another star to reveal their true form. And one day all nature will need another star. Over eons the sun will grow brighter, the planet will warm, the air the trees breath will thin until they fade and die. Fallen and silvered branches will divide the surviving plants as the larger beings succumb, their corpses scattered and bones clean. Deserts will spread, rivers halt to channels of spent life and the skies become quiet, the land deserted as life hangs on in the evaporating seas. And then nothing, until the landscape itself melts into magma oceans that almost touch our giant star. And it is that everlasting future that says listen now, for one day the last blackbird will sing a final song with a flourish that will echo until an everlasting now. And without the blackbird to sing the essence of life into each new year, the Earth will slow and cease revolving.

About Miles

Professor of Human Factors & Nature Connectedness - improving connection to (the rest of) nature to unite human & nature’s wellbeing.
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