We heard her long before we saw her.
Robbie Burns could ‘never hear her loud solitary whistle in a summer’s noon without feeling an elevation of the soul like the enthusiasm of Devotion.’. Her call is simultaneously life-enhancing and mournful, both the vibrant soundtrack of the British upland wildernesses, and an elegy for extinctions yet to come. Poetry, song, literature and folklore are full of interpretations of her wild, understated call.
In mythology, she once rose up from the shoreline when St Beuno accidentally dropped his sermon notes in the water on his way to preach at Llanddwyn, placed them on a rock, and then stood guard over them until he returned. In gratitude, he asked God to conceal her eggs from predators for ever, wherever she laid them.
But today, we just saw her on a North Yorkshire moor, and then we saw her mate, her life partner. Two curlews in an ocean of sky, beating up against the wind and then sliding down to the start point all over again, all the while calling out that unmistakable ‘cor-lee’. And for ten minutes, we said nothing. We just listened and watched. My words can’t do her justice, so listen for yourself:
And then pick a day, maybe on you own but if not, in the company of someone with a biddable soul, and drive, or train, or bike or walk to some upland pasture and hear her for yourself if you haven’t already. In this world of single-use plastic and environmental indecision, of greed and permanent ‘connectivity,’ of half truths and commercial imperatives, of idiot politicians and shameless posturing, let her draw a tiny piece of you back to who you really are, or can allow yourself to be.
She is probably no more perfect than you are, or I am, but she has a voice from heaven. And it costs nothing to listen to.
It is the final sound on earth that I want to hear.