It’s 4pm on the first day of spring.

It’s a warm and sunny day. I take a break from work and go downstairs. I feed the complaining old cat. I step outside to re-stock the bird feeders. I have one tube of Nyger seed that attracts Goldfinch. When it’s full there can be four of them feeding with a couple more standing patiently in a queue, waiting their turn. Sometimes the males bicker over the territory and the food rights and then there’s a small featherball of swirling red and gold as they jostle in mid-air. I have one tube of black Sunflower seeds. It attracts all sorts but mostly Greenfinch and Chaffinch and an occasional Bullfinch. Then a small flock of Dunnock (tree sparrows) will descend and dominate it for a while, bickering all the while. I have two small cage-like suet feeders each containing a solid bar of fat plus either nuts, fruit or insects. These hang from trees and attract mostly Great Tit, Blue Tit and Coal Tit. There are two Great Spotted Woodpeckers that like to cling to these and feed for long periods at a time. You’ll always see them in peripheral vision because their red tails give them away in the sunlight when the feeder swivels under their weight. When they feed on trees they hop around to the other side from you but dangling from a feeder they don’t have that option. There is a small tray elevated above the ground which holds dried mealworm, which are yellow grub-like things. These are very well-liked by the Robins and Blackbirds, although the latter spend more time fighting over territory than they do eating. When they do eat the Blackbirds are equally fond of the black berries that grow profusely on the Ivy. Sometimes they fight, stop to eat, and then fight again like two beer-bellied drunks on a boozy night out after far too many shots.

Some Wood Pigeons hang about underneath waiting for the fallen seeds. They are to the other birds as a 1950s Cadillac is to a Mini. They waddle and explode into the air all the time. Two modes: dumb stupidity or mad panic. They are joined sometimes by a couple of Collared Doves that are considerably more refined and elegant than the pigeons. They do their best to restore the good reputation of the family.

Once in a while, a Sparrowhawk will alight on the dead branch of the pear tree that dissects the space, a small blob of red flesh still grasped in its talon. It will survey its hunting ground before it moves on, in no great hurry. It will leave an eerie silence trailing in the wake of its killing ground, but its elegance cannot be denied. It’s said that elegance means being two juxtaposing things at once: simple/powerful, beautiful/deadly, classic/new; and so on.

Benjamin Franklin, the American philosopher, scientist & revolutionary, was born into a family background of Puritan Calvinism in New England. Salem witch-burning was not that distant a memory. At the age of 12 he left school and was apprenticed to his older brother, who had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian. One of the tenets of Calvinism is that we are born bad, and the evil must be expunged from the child. Over time he turned his back on that Calvinism and adopted sympathies that would (much later) became known as American Transcendentalism.

One of the criticisms of Transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau was that they were really just Poets. Another was they were prone to ignoring the true murderous instincts of the lower classes: that great unwashed army of labourers and workers. Last night the English football team failed to win a match. I read a few blogs picking over it. One stood out. The blogger said the team represented England because “ours is a strange, dirty, tabloid-twisted country now, an amoral, inefficient, materialistic land of tattooed bullies, corrupt banksters and phone-hackers.” Yesterday I was on a business trip in Ireland. The taxi driver spoke (like all taxi drivers do) about the greed that lurks in the heart of their politicians, and asked why as people we can never be happy?

And so it turns. From the 18th Century through the 19th and on into the 21st. Are we born bad? Does murder lurk in our heart? Or is each of our souls identical with the soul of the world and in each of us is found a piece of its wise silence and beauty?

It’s 5pm on the first day of spring, and the sun is beginning to set.

Bill Callahan – Riding For The Feeling