The process continues of re-immersing myself in the lane, even yesterday’s wider eyes exposed as partially-sighted. I missed, for example, the first snowberries inside the entrance to the Spinney, white globes hiding coyly among the leaves whose glimmer I mistake at first for light glancing off dew. The same goes for elder’s autumn livery, a still more glaring omission. The berries are ripening fast, as black and glossy as caviar, while its foliage passes through the most bashful of yellows to the faded pink of an old juice stain. A clump of white clover is also on the turn, the bushy heads showing lilac tendencies, while enchanter’s nightshade has not done with summer yet, a more forgivable oversight on my part, the flowers tiny and self-effacing.
It is coming back to me now, the profit I had from studying plants closely. A smooth pea gall on the blade of a rose leaf resembles a piercing on someone’s tongue. And elsewhere I spot a shield bug, common enough it is true but more present to my gaze for some reason: the triangular plate extending backwards from the head, the dark wedge at the end of its carapace, similar in appearance to leaf mould, and a series of notches round the perimeter like marquetry. The first of these is, I read later, the scutellum; the last may reveal the edges of posterior wings. This information draws me in, my desire to be an expert gratified, but obscures the encounter itself and the responses it drew from me. I blow gently, hoping to see the insect move, its fastidious, high-stepping gait fondly remembered; but apart from stirring slightly the bug remains still. Only when I nudge the leaf does it react and I see that the left rear leg is missing while its counterpart on the other side drags lamely. This is a creature with no consciousness of its predicament, that will not experience the imminent snuffing of its life in any way we would recognise. Yet watching it limp towards the base of the leaf I am moved to pity and wonder if that feeling is less worthy of merit than being able to name its parts.