It all began with Bowie. Bowie the bow legged buzzard. It was on a frosty morning two days after David Bowie had died. I, like so many people, was still lost in a stupor and disbelief in the news that the man responsible for the soundtrack of my life had left us. People come and go which can be sad but the man Bowie was somehow a necessary force of good, creativity and eccentricity that was required to keep on playing.
Thoughts like that had been with me since the day he died, when the world was revisiting its favourite tracks in a collective mourning. I had played through so may Bowie songs and then finally, gone midnight, settled on my favourite: Starman and laid back to watch the stars. A few bars in and whoosh, across the sky flashes a shooting star. Did anyone else see that? What were the chances of that, with this song and those thoughts? Tingling inside I internally said 'farewell Starman' and felt no longer sad but blessed.
The weather had turned and two mornings later the frost was so cold my rusty heap of a car, a London Taxi, my only vehicle would not start. Usually I get a connection but it was just dead. I had to walk my dog so I asked my neighbours if they would let me walk across their land in favour of the main road. Warning me of cats they cautiously agreed and told me how to find the public footpath past the wind turbines. I got to the end of the field but there was no path. I walked with my dog off the lead through an overgrown gap in a hedge and looked around.
Low down in the black hawthorn hedge there was a face looking up at me imploringly. It was a brown bird of prey with its wing all tangled up in the thorns and its beak wide open and tongue out. Its eyes were locked on me, it quite clearly wanted help. I've not handled birds of prey before but I love them and I paint them. I knew I had to make some sensible decisions here. My dog, a husky, was just a few feet away and would happily kill a wounded bird as he has done with pigeons. Luckily he was looking the other direction. Remembering that birds of prey go calm when their heads are covered I tied the dog to a post and reluctantly took off my jacket despite the freezing air. I gently wrapped the fella up and got to untangling his wing which was a mess. Scooping up this enigmatic bird, which I had decided was a buzzard, under one arm and the husky with the other we trotted off home.
Whilst waiting for a friend to drive us to a willing vet I got to know our buzzard friend a little better. He was pale on the front and remarkably calm. I was worried though that he was dehydrated and too weak to survive as his tongue was out looking white and dry. I offered water on a spoon and a little dog food gravy which he took several times.
Later the vets said the buzzard had every chance of recovery and sent him off to the Andover Hawk Conservancy to fix his wing. A few weeks later I had a call saying our feathered friend was in great health and ready to be released and they wanted to meet me where I first found the fella.
On the arranged morning we all met, my neighbour included, to witness the release of this lucky buzzard. The day was bright but cold, much like when I found him. We reached the spot but took some distance away from the thorny hedge. The volunteer ladies in wellies opened up the box and there he was. 'I want to call him Bowie' I said as they tried to nudge him out, ' in honour of the musician who died the same week'. They said, thats great but how odd as the buzzard was bow legged, maybe due to rickets when younger. Bowie the Bow Legged Buzzard we all laughed and agreed was a good name. After some gentle coaxing Bowie finally took flight and was off, circling. In a moment of horror I saw him go quite close to the wind turbines and we all held our breath as he found his confidence in the air and flew clear. Off into the Stockbridge Downs and out of sight.
I can't explain the good feeling I had from this encounter but I gained an insight that stayed with me; it was either random luck I found the buzzard before it died or it somehow was meant to be. I can tell you that I followed my intuition that morning and my feeling is there is something bigger than ourselves that connects us all, man and nature.
A few days later the day was hot and six buzzards were circling my house on warm air currents. I hoped it was Bowie with his friends and smiled. Since then my life has transformed so quickly I indulged a thought that Bowie might well have granted me three wishes for helping him:
Wish 1: I have spent 16 years looking for somewhere I can run as an independent arts venue, I even dreamed of it from the age of 11 and have doodled images of barns and art and music and crafts all overlapping. I am from a family of artists but none of us have ever made any money and I was beginning to feel my dreams slipping away from me, out of reach. One month after meeting Bowie the Bow Legged Buzzard I walked past a two storey Granary on staddle stones with a 'To Let' sign and a number. I called the landlady and suggested an idea of running arts workshops and exhibitions from there. She liked it and said to get back to her if I wanted to go for it. I did not have a penny. Rent is so expensive in my area, every penny I earn as a part time art teacher is used up on survival. I have two sons, big dreams but little means. I remembered a friend suggesting crowd funding a few years ago and wrote a vision and put it out there on Just Giving. 30 days later I had enough money to pay the deposit, one month and enough art material to begin workshops. The local school was throwing furniture out in the skip and before long I was kitted out, an art centre on the make. So far we have had life drawing, willow weaving and youth arts classes, my 40th birthday party and an inspiring exhibition based on ' the Vernacular ' ( inspired by a blog by David Byrne ). It has a buzz about it, with great events in the pipeline in music, arts and traditional crafts. I feel blessed to finally have the project I have dreamed of with people asking to be a part of it. The Granary Creative Arts Centre, at Brockwood in rural Hampshire was wish number one.
Wish 2: I have been yearning for my own house to have just for me and the boys. I was struggling to feel happy living with my partner who has such an acrimonious relationship with the mother of his children that life was always stressful and complicated. I needed out, space and a chance to feel peaceful. I have experienced moving 6 times in 5 years due to the rental market being so difficult : especially if you are self employed with a dog and children. Naturally I put myself on the council list a couple of years before and just two months after setting up the Granary I was offered a brand new house on the edge of town near fields and woods - it is perfect and so myself and the boys are happily moved in.
#Wish 3: I have felt quite lonely and isolated for a few years and had overdosed on stress through moving so much. There had been an absence of fun and happy people in my life. I have been yearning simply for more wholesome laughter and more creative people around me. I have met so many nice people since setting up the Granary and feel this is unfolding more and more. My heart is smiling again. Creativity, collaboration and authenticity are an important part of my make up and the Granary's vision. I look forward to meeting more of you creative souls out there. The aim is make unique creative collaborations happen through recording and performing music, art, skill sharing, performance, food, craft and laughter. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
I can't help but feel like saying ' Thankyou Bowie, your legacy has taken off in many forms, in this case it has wings '.
Kezia Hoffman 31/08/2016