National Trust houses, cows, huge open fields:
The countryside is not present in these.
Rather, it is the brief, warm smell of rain on earth,
The dank, warm taint beneath the riotous grass,
The bare blue chick dead and drying on the path.
The earwigs always in the fencepost-holes
And sycamore-copters that spin down in dizzy lines:
These are the secret things that ‘country’ means.
The scuff of beech mast under rare feet, and the low
Content notes of the wood-pigeon that drift
Above long-shadowed summer air, sifted and sweet
With the haze of distant smoke, and a gentle heat…
Later, the tea-time frost that silvers drifting leaves
So summer’s swelter seems an old amnesia;
These things are the countryside’s lazy treasure.
It’s not the framed, uncomprehending space
Beyond the Intercity’s rain-blown window glass;
Nor is it the cloud-chased wold carved through by car
En route to somewhere easier to picture. No,
It is both more secret than these things, and richer.
It is the simple benediction an evening hedgehog brings
Shambling a myopic trail through dew-veiled grass;
The chain of tiny beads a bramble leaves on skin…
These country things I have given up remembering.
Melissa Harrison, UK