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Tim'rous beastie

Updated: May 24, 2022

I love winter, but this January has been a particularly dark, damp and dreich month and I have found myself looking for signs of spring to provide cheer. The low natural light has made it difficult to work, and even with daylight lamps, I have confined myself to small projects until the gloom lifts.

I stood yesterday, gazing out at the garden, idly waiting for the little flock of long tailed tits to arrive, when, out the corner of my eye, I saw a small movement in the honeysuckle that surrounds my window.

Niftily vaulting between the tendrils was a plump field vole, swinging with grace and abandon, and seeming unconcerned at my gaze, just a couple of feet away. Up and down the stems he went, and then high-wired along a strand across the window, occasionally stopping for a nibble of a tender, young shoot. I was entranced. I grabbed my camera and he continued to perform, nimbly moving through the stems.

Realising he was going to stay, I grabbed my sketchbook, trying to capture his soft, round form and noting how he grasped with his feet. I noted that one ear was rather snagged. The wet day seemed to have no impact on his activity.

He continued to go about his business and I lost sight of him as the light faded, but was left feeling uplifted by this little encounter.

I returned to my desk and sat examining and thinking about the sketches I had made, and what I could do with them. Suddenly a mouse raced across my table and darted down a tiny hole into my storage cupboard. Such murine encounters seem appropriate on Burn’s Night so I shall leave you with his chance meeting with a mouse.

To a Mouse

On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,

November, 1785

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,

O, what a panic's in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi' bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,

Wi' murdering pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion

Has broken Nature's social union,

An' justifies that ill opinion

Which makes thee startle

At me, thy poor, earth-born companion

An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!

A daimen-icker in a thrave

'S a sma' requet;

I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,

An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!

Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!

An' naething, now, to big a new ane,

O' foggage green!

An' bleak December's win's ensuing,

Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,

An' weary Winter comin fast,

An' cozie here, beneath the blast,

Thou thought to dwell,

Till crash! the cruel coulter past

Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves and stibble,

Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!

Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,

But house or hald,

To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,

An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men

Gang aft agley,

An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,

For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But Och! I backward cast my e'e,

On prospects drear!

An' forward, tho' I cannot see,

I guess an' fear!

Robert Burns

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