| The swift is a bird that screams of the Earth's intricate interconnectedness|
|I love those archaic country names that define an animal by reference to another. A good example is the old Norfolk "cuckoo's leader", which was used for that strange migrant and now nationally extinct woodpecker, the wryneck. Better still are titles that yoke together completely different organisms, such as "cuckoo's shoe" for the bluebell. Best of all is the name in the local language: Botasen y gôg is Welsh for "cuckoo's boot", while brog na chuthaig is the Gaelic equivalent.|
What these names do is pinpoint the experience in a particular soil, the names arising only where bluebells grow and cuckoos sing together. They are also rooted in time: those precise moments in the season when the cuckoo and the bluebell, so to speak, put on their shoes and dance as one. Finally we should recall that they arise in those souls who are profoundly alert to what sings at their feet or over their heads. So the name speaks of place, moment and of the human spirit that forged all the connections.
I'd like to propose a new name for the swift in our region: the "waterlily bird". Its origins lie in my daily spring walks along Carleton Beck in anticipation of both. The swift and the plant are in some ways diametric opposites: one ascending a few feet from the sub-aquatic sludge; the other surging pole-wards out of Africa. Yet they converge in the air of Claxton marsh at almost exactly the same moment. That first swift – a bird that screams of the Earth's intricate interconnectedness – brings nothing less than a throat-tightening sense of reaffirmation, but then so too does the appearance of those great spheres of green, which seem heaven-sent symbols for the unity of all nature. In truth I love the water lilies even before they reach the water's surface. Those weeks – when the crinkle-edged lettuce-green leaves, scrolled and vulva-like, wander slowly upwards through Carleton Beck – are filled with an immense sense of life's possibilities.