A visit to The Library of the Birds of London

IMG_0348

The complete joy of hearing birdsong again is making up for a stop-start spring this year. And thinking about birds, I had a joyful visit to the Whitechapel Gallery in London last week, mostly to visit the giant aviary created by American artist, Mark Dion.

Only four visitors at a time are allowed in the aviary – well, four people and the twenty zebra finches who are temporarily living there. So you stand surrounded by birds completely ignoring you, going around their own business, pooing on books and making nests from the linings of hats…

And there’s something about how they absolutely don’t care they are an ‘art work’ that made me take time, to go slowly, to look again at all the artifacts around the aviary so very deliberately placed there. The books on cats, the bird books from all round the world, the photos of David Attenborough, all the exploring equipment, the amount of knowledge we  humans feel we need for such a simple thing as looking at birds…

I loved it, and thoroughly recommend a visit. It’s on until 13th May. It’s part of Mark Dion’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between nature and culture, and includes a reading room with hand-made wallpaper featuring extinct animals (I heard a granny explaining that loudly to her grandson), findings from mudlarks, and so much more.

IMG_0385

My favourite was finding out about the The Ladies’ Field Club of York. This was a previous exhibition for  the National Railway Museum in York, in which imaginary female amateur naturalists from the turn of the century set out on a field trip together.

Joy indeed. Here’s the artist talking about it…

The Road Not Taken

One summer about five years ago, the council changed the layout of paths in my local park. Perhaps cowed by the fact that they had been so properly laid out and surfaced, we kept to the new paths and changed our normal routes through to town. All of us that is but the daffodils who appeared the following spring… reminding us of the lost path and that there are always other ways to go. Cheery little rebels.

They are a delight to see every March:

daffs

And of course it puts me in mind of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. Here he is reading it:

And you can read the text here.