April 2023 Sketchbook & Journal
Here’s my notes on nature and family life in April…
April is all green and yellow. Jackets of yellow gorse on the hillsides, big nodding yellow daffodils, vergefuls of dandelions and buttercups and those tall yellow daisies that I don’t know the name of. New leaves, green everywhere. Grass, moss, green green green. What an energetic month. Surely even the most disinterest, cyborgish, city dweller gets stopped in their tracks by nature at some point in April.
I’ve been noticing the dawn chorus more this past week. Four am onwards is often an unsettled time of night for the baby so I am often semi-awake, semi-aware of the ‘caw caw’ of the rooks being joined by more melodic voices. In some ways, the dawn chorus is the most beautiful, soul-boosting phenomenon. On the flip side, it is also lots of birds singing different songs at the same time, early in the day before you’ve even had a chance to go for a pee and make a cuppa. That’s a bit like living with small children, both making a slightly different racket at the same time, which feels like clashing symbols inside your brain before breakfast. You learn a lot about yourself through parenting. One of the many things I have learnt about myself is that I cannot handle lots of noises happening at once. It makes me all befuddled and muddled. The dawn chorus is mostly glorious, though, only a tiny bit clashy. I’ve resisted using white noise with Trix (despite her being a frequent waker) partly because I didn’t want to miss out on the dawn chorus. There’s something healthy-feeling about that thin, white light creeping round the blinds bringing birdsong with it. I like knowing that, out there, the new day is beginning and it holds so much possibility. Although, saying that, I do clearly remember wanting to murder a great tit that sat right outside the window (like, maybe on the actual windowsill) every morning at 4.45am when Piglet was a baby. It would reliably wake him, every time, and prompt him (and therefore me) to start his day. Not ok.
It has been a pretty chilly April overall. The few properly sunny days we have had have been a tantalising taste of life lived outdoors again. Kids in the garden, eating outside, tuggy hair and sun-cream and tired little bodies. I have two easy pick-me-ups on tough days: fresh air and drawing. In the Easter holidays, there was some lovely weather, and I drew in the garden with the kids (and even tried some painting with Trix (we both ended up soaked)). Our collaborative drawings – by Piglet aged almost-four, Trix aged one and Hannah aged 36 – are below. I instantly felt closer to the calm parent I try to be.
We are allotment people now. We’ve taken on a veg patch at the allotments here at Drygrange. Neither of us have ever grown veg. We are clueless gardeners. Piglet collected up all the empty toilet rolls and then planted seeds in them with his dad. The bathroom window sill is now a glorious little forest of baby broad bean plants. There’s also very tiny leeks sprouting in some milk cartons. I honestly can’t express how much joy these little green things give me while I’m brushing my teeth. Their progress seems so rapid that sometimes I stop brushing to see if I can actually see them growing. And we put tatties and onions into the ground. The patch was full of worms, pink and wriggly. Hopefully a good omen.
Talking of wriggly things, we’ve become guardians to 30 or so tadpoles. Brenda (neighbour and co-worker) had a pond that got punctured by a falling tree and now refuses to be a pond. These days it is just a muddy puddle. The frogs return to lay there regardless. Brenda scoops up the spawn and puts it in neighbour’s ponds and so on. She thought Piglet might enjoy watching the life cycle of the tadpoles. We have them in an old baby bath up the back of the garden. At the moment they are highly wriggly, long tailed, with no legs yet. It is taking me right back to collecting tadpoles in a jar when I was a child (a memory that inspired this drawing).
The baby took her first steps this month. Is she a toddler now? I guess May will bring first shoes and a lot of crashes.
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