In a pot by the door, a pot only a little larger than a goose, a greylag goose, Anser anser has laid an egg. She must have been balanced precariously, then, mission accomplished, took time to tuck the egg into the compost, arranging the leaves of the tulip over it. We puzzle at the strangeness of the choice. The river runs on the other side of the house and there are fields and rushy channels which provide abundant nesting sites. Perhaps she was “caught short”, but that too seems unlikely. There is something too deliberate about the placing of the egg and the arrangement of cover. It looks as if the pot was chosen. It is a timely reminder that we can garden for others and not just for ourselves. That every arrangement we make of plants and hard materials, can be used by different species for their advantage. I have spent many a happy time watching mason bees exploiting the porosity of old lime mortar in a south-facing garden wall, tunnelling in to the wall’s very core and exploiting its protection and warmth. Or the blackbirds which would visit the rill on a hot summer’s afternoon, bathing in the shallow water before retreating refreshed to a perch, invariably to sing. And my hound, Floyd, who over the course of the day will migrate between sunlight and shade as the temperature waxes, following the best conditions for sleeping. The trees and shrubs which form his bower were not chosen with him in mind, but he finds them perfectly amenable.
It is timely too, because it is Easter, and eggs signify new life in many traditions, not only the Christian. In a museum in Newcastle-upon Tyne, there is a Roman era stone relief recovered from Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. It depicts Mithras, being born from a cosmic egg. I find it fascinating that a Persian deity adopted by the Romans should be carved in local sandstone at the most northerly point of the empire. But then, worshipping a lord of light probably helped preserve the memories and dreams of the Mediterranean sun. As March turns to April and half the country is still gripped with snow and the remaining half with constant rain, summer seems like an elusive dream.