Badgered

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The forest is an emerald, accented by blushes of pink. Trailing larches, tottering pines, glossy-leaved rhododendrons. Flowers of campion and herb Robert. Luscious rhododendron blooms now past their best. And spears of foxglove, like torches in the shade.

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It shouldn’t be the summer solstice.  In this strange year in which the seasons haven’t unfolded in the way they should, it doesn’t feel like midsummer. Already, after today, the sunlight will slowly begin to contract, but I’m not yet ready for the fade into autumn and winter – winter has only just left.

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It isn’t the first time I’ve spent midsummer’s eve in the woods, but this is a different forest. An opportunity to wander different paths and feel as though I’m losing myself on them. A chance for solace among the trees.

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I haven’t yet discovered the places of magic: the enchanted glades and secret groves in which the spirit of the woods dwells. Perhaps this will be one of them: this avenue of oaks, buffered by pinewoods, one end of the avenue leading into wide open fields, the other to a leafy tunnel and a shimmer of light. Perhaps it will be this old ash tree, with its eccentrically holey trunk. Perhaps one of these bowed wooden bridges, perhaps the patch of foxgloves that spears the gloom or the pine garlanded by honeysuckle. There are paths upon paths here, or so it seems. Paths spongy and red with fallen pine needles. Paths of mown grass lush with clover. Paths overgrown with hogweed parasols.

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The sound of the forest: the trill and whistle of bird song; the clatter of wood pigeon wings; the creak of trees; the susurration of wind through leaves. In the morning, the birds are busy and bloated with song. None of them wants to be silent – they all compete, singing over one another. In the afternoon, a veil of sleepiness descends. The blackbird still trills occasionally, the chiff chaff still calls, the tits still chitter, but in the afternoon the birds sound faint and far away. There is the laziness of sun slanting through trees, of small birds leisurely feeding. Even the wood pigeon’s coo is gone. In the afternoon, the birds allow one another to be heard.

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The air is filled with the whirr of small wings: blue tits, great tits, coal tits, chaffinch, robin. A tree creeper shimmies up a pine and a long-tailed tit balances in a nearby birch. Two woodpeckers scale the thinnest of trees, woodpigeons clatter up in the gods. A blue tit is mobbed by its young. They flit from branch to branch as it collects food, then chitter and spin their wings until their mouths are full. Squirrels and rabbits graze on the grass beside a tiny mouse. And in the evenings the big birds swoop in – jays, crows and wood pigeons.

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Perhaps the spirit of the woods is here, in the small glade just beyond my cabin. A gathering of pines and a young beech stand in a circle. What might be a faint path leads to the clearing, lined with bracken on one side, rhododendron on the other. The centre of the glade is carpeted in still-green pine needles and young brambles. This is the place where the sunlight streams in through the trees. Entering via a row of three birches, painting them lime, before drippling into the clearing. This is a place where you might dance sky clad on midsummer’s eve.

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But perhaps the magic here isn’t a place at all. Perhaps it is a time. At dusk, when the rabbits and birds have gone and old brock appears. Half an hour before sunset, I see him come, my first badger, nosing along the path from the enchanted glade as though it gave birth to him. He is unexpectedly soft in appearance – I know that he has sharp teeth and big claws, but he has the air of a soft toy. He ambles, there is no other word for it. Picks up a piece of food and stumbles into the bushes to eat it. Soon, I’ll see the bush move and that familiar monochrome triangle of a head will appear, checking the coast is clear, then he ambles out for another piece. The same thing is repeated a dozen times. Then he scrapes in the dirt for worms, leaving untidy clods of soil. He knows I am here. Has looked up at me and sniffed. But he wants a closer look. He walks to the deck and stands on hind paws, lifting his head to sniff again through the fence. Every night, a badger appears, sometimes two. On my last night there is a family with a cub.

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Away from the forest, the sunlight is harsh, without trees to shield me from the sun’s glare.  The heat is close and fierce.  It is easier here to recognise that it is summer after all, with weeks left of sunlight before the descent into winter.  I have never enjoyed the heat.  When it gets too much, I will find a shady spot and recall the enchanted shade of the woods and the creatures who visited me there.

114 thoughts on “Badgered

  1. Like you I would seek out shaded areas. The picture you have painted in this post is magical and the photographs beautiful, especially of the lovely badger and the gentle dappled light. The cabin and wooded area it sits in looks like a wonderful place to spend long periods to write and paint and simply be with nature.

    Thank you very much. I hope you are enjoying another lovely day….this is such a special time of the year. Janet 🙂

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  2. Did you ever find the spirit of the forest? This is a special gorgeous piece–loved the brock encounters. Stay cool, my friend. We are going to have a nice day tomorrow so we are going exploring in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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      • Thanks. We did. We did not see any wild animals except a chipmunk frantically running through the parking lot on his way back to the bushes. It was 17 degrees cooler in the mountains than in Charlottesville so I’m glad I wore jeans and brought a jacket. Hope to go back next month to see Shakespeare’s Love’s Labors Lost performed outdoors.

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  3. Andrea, I could feel the refreshing cool of the forest through your words and photos, hearing the birds! It’s strange how amongst the stillness there is so much busyness. Ahh…how wonderful to see a family of badgers. I’ve only seen one once in Sweden and more than anything was astounded at the size of it, so big – I felt humbled. How true that the seasons are all awry this year and I’m with you in not ready for the shortening days. I refuse to think of it, of Autumn rather enjoying the warmth of today, dashing between shade, seeking cool inside! 🤗

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  4. What a wonderful woods to explore, linger, and commune with nature. I love the sense of deep connection I read in your stories. Thank you Andrea. I’m glad you had that time in the woods and a surprisingly tender encounter with the badgers.

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  5. This was beautifully lyrical, Andrea. I was with you as you ambled through your paths. How fabulous to have a badger come right up to you like that?
    It is true that Mother Nature seems a tad confused. The cold was bitter and long, the spring was a blip and summer heat came so fast – yet it is cool today. We shall see what July and August will bring.
    Your descriptions brought my heartbeat down, a calm, tranquil feeling swept over me…
    Love this. So much.

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  6. Andrea, you are a veritable nature guide. Thank you for taking me/us into these lovely woods, so cool, lush, and quiet, even while filled with birdsong. And a badger to photograph! Very exciting. There are the second most aggressive animal (wildlife) in America, but clearly, as you saw him, not interested if just admired.

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  7. Thank you for sharing some of your stay in this delightful wood. Very appropriate as we have just returned from our usual rented cottage in a New Forest wood. To be woken by the Song Thrush and other woodland birds is always a joy. No badgers though!

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  8. How wonderful. I have badger envy! How amazing to see them so close up and in general what beautiful photos. I can’t believe we’ve just passed the shortest day. Time has moved strangely for me this year.

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  9. I enjoy your writing Andrea. I stumbled upon your blog via Bruce’s blog and I’m glad I did. You make descriptions so personal and infuse them with such a beautiful lyrical flair. I think it’s unique and brilliant.

    -Nitin

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  10. Beautiful imagery. As a woman of the earth and ocean, I completely understand this. The magic. The purity. The sounds. The healing. The wholeness. The seeking. The Divine. Absolutely gloriously wonderful.

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  11. Lovely, absolutely gorgeous words as ever. Heat is not something I am a fan of either, shade and a cool drink of water (and a book helps) somewhat but it seems almost bleak before it starts to turns to something cooler. The forest is always a special place.

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  12. Your cabin in the forest sounds like a magical place to stay! A beautiful post, as always Andrea, full of wonderful images – written and photographed. I have never seen a live badger, only a few poor dead ones at the side of the road. I would love to see one and would be so thrilled to see a family with cubs!

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  13. Beautiful writing and photos! I love your encounters with wildlife, the natural world and your descriptions of them, Andrea. I also now know what a brock is. I have never heard this term for a badger before.

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  14. Beautiful prose, and such wonderful descriptions of the forest scenes. You mention the shade and the circles of trees. I love your photos! I am in an opposite world, at least in my preferences for specific micro-environments. Battling mild claustrophobia, I find that the forest makes me edgy, though I wish it didn’t, and my husband prefers it, loving the sensation of being surrounded by lush greenery, tall trees. I prefer the long, wide-open shoreline vistas, the bright sun, and am therefore thankful to be living in Southern California! I love the journeys I am able to take by reading your posts. Thank you!

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  15. Wow what a great place to hang out and leave the rat race behind. So much to see for the observant. And a reminder that, happily, there is still much wildness left for those that wish to seek it out.

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  16. I’m searching for words which do justice to this piece, Andrea, and find it beyond me. I can only say that I was there, in the woods with the birds, bloated with song; and the rabbit nibbling under the brambles; the story-sighs of the trees who have passed many a midsummer in this secret space. And the badgers: living their nocturnal lives unconcerned by your presence. This must have been a magical experience for you. Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂

    (Ha, and the words came. Sometimes it’s best not to try so hard…)

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  17. Hello Andrea. I really enjoyed your Saunter through the forest. It was as if you were floating through it, invisible and un-noticed, relaxed but alert to all in your Vicinity.

    Keep well.

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  18. Since I read this post on a warm day, the shade of the forest is a lovely gift. You’re at your best when you describe nature and its powerful role. You’re a pretty good photographer too 🙂
    I love bunnies more than badgers, but there is a place for all of them in the forest.
    A racoon ventured in my backyard in full light, right over lunchtime, looking for fresh water which he found in one of my birdbaths. It was amazing to watch him, curious and definitely ready to explore. He looked young and I think he escaped his mother’s attention. Maybe already a young teen, ready to take on the world. Amazingly it was also on the summer solstice.

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    • Glad to provide a little relief from the heat Evelyne, I could do with some of that too right at the moment 🙂 There were lots of bunnies and they were quite unafraid, even when my terrier barked at them! Lovely that you had a midsummer racoon visit, I’ve never seen a racoon but I’m sure I’d be thrilled to see one!

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  19. What a lovely post, Andrea. Your words always sooth me, transport me to a magical place. How exciting it must have been to see the badger — particularly the family! His, and all the other photos are beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us. Happy weekend hugs.

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    • Thanks Teagan, it was lovely to see them all, but a highlight was the cub eating and not paying attention to his mother as she wandered away, then suddenly realising she was gone and running after her!

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  20. Andrea, sorry for the late comment, but can I mention that I love all your posts and the way you depict nature is indescribable. But here, especially, I felt as I hit home. The forest magic captivates me and lures me in. It’s so beautiful and amazing the way you captured this mysterious setting, that I almost feel as I live in there myself. Love the little animals, but most of all the sunlight picking through the treetops. I bet you felt so rejuvenated experiencing and becoming one with nature.

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  21. What an idyll! Your forest photos have me remembering my own midsummer wanders through the woods, enjoying the symphony of birds. It’s been marvelous and magical, as you put it, but I too am realizing how quickly the seasons and months are whirling past.

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  22. This one hypnotized me:) I love the way you create magic in your posts. This line: But perhaps the magic here isn’t a place at all.–yes! The pictures are delightful. You know, it almost felt like I was right there with you.

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  23. I’m just adoring my woodland walks at the moment, although mine are in deciduous woodlands and the soil alkaline, so no rhododendruns. The birdsong is just glorious. I have foxgloves in my garden, although the seasons are a bit ahead here, so they’re mostly past their best. Your photos of the rabbit and the badger are wonderful, Andrea. I’m guessing you have a much more sophisticated camera than me, if you can capture such wonderful shots. I’ve not seen a badger for ages. Mostly foxes around my neighbourhood — very healthy ones that get the best of both worlds, with being able to hop easily between the woods and our gardens, although not to the delight of my dog, or the dog next door. It’s a brave fox (or foolish) that crosses their paths.

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    • I was thrilled to see the badgers, but my dog wasn’t so pleased! He didn’t have a much of a holiday, having to ‘defend’ us from squirrels, rabbits and badgers! My camera isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but the wildlife was so close that I couldn’t not get good photos 🙂

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      • My dog hasn’t ever seen a badger, but she defends me from foxes and cats. She doesn’t take much notice of squirrels, but went mad the other day when a rat ran down our side corridor. She likes birds and sits watching them.

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      • Winston can deal with little birds, but anything pigeon sized and he’s on duty. Though not at the minute, bless him, we’ve brought him back from hospital today with a slipped disc so he’s on vet’s orders of rest for the next two weeks.

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  24. It’s 114 degrees F here right now. The forest sounds so inviting. And while you search for the magic, I was drawn to all the magic your words conjured up.

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    • Thanks Luanne, I could definitely do with a forest if I had your temperatures. We’re having a heatwave at the moment, I’m writing a post about it but you’ll probably laugh in the face of our temperatures 🙂

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  25. wonderful little respite from all things stress, your way of writing and the unfolding of the photos is always such a treat…I need to visit you more often…your writing is as soothing as the nature you share, love it

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  26. Oh Andrea! How I’ve missed reading your work with everything going on around me. But this was a perfect treat to read..So peaceful…I felt and saw everything you saw in the woods.

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  27. What a delightful meditation on the joy and mystery of wandering into an unknown forest at midsummer. This has been a strange year indeed. Maybe the magic is a place, maybe it’s a time, maybe a combination of the two. Maybe the only thing that matters is that it exists.

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  28. It’s 2am and sleep eludes me. I pick up my phone and see you have visited me so I come to your site and find myself in your enchanted forest. I walk beside you down the paths, through the glades, hearing what you hear, seeing what your words so beautifully describe. Andrea, I’m enchanted. Now to sleep again, perchance to dream of badgers.

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