Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Urban Forager

On the back road hidden among the urban sprawl lights from the takeaway and the street lamps bathed the tarmac and the parked cars in an unnatural glow and contrasted with the deep shadows beyond their reach. Passing headlights and the drone of engines passed by on the main road at the top of the embankment above me and the occasional footfalls and conversations of people walked by filled the air between the passing vehicles. I leaned against my aging car and enjoyed a quieter moment in an area that becomes intolerably cluttered with noise and the passing of vehicles and people during the day.

A shifting from the shadows and undergrowth of the embankment before me caught my attention, a rat appeared from cover and scampered across to the litter bin some ten feet or so away from me. I remained motionless as the creature gathered itself and sprang from the embankment to the rim of the bin before diving inside and emerging a few moments later with a mouthful of takeaway food. In a swift movement he sprang back into the cover of the shrubs and vanished. A little patience rewarded me with more sightings of the tenacious creature as he returned time and time again to scavenge the scraps from the litter bin.

I have never found fear in watching such creatures, just a willingness to understand their resourcefulness, the lack of wild predators combined with the busy road to keep the domestic cats at bay, together with the ready supply of thrown away food provides them with such rich pickings. it is little wonder they go beyond survival into thriving and flourishing. It seems our transient existence and throw away culture suits such creatures. Watching the movements of the creature I found it to be both powerful and agile for its size. Leaps to and from from the edge of the bin to the floor three feet below were achieved with ease and even grace. Watching the passers by and listening to their conversations about current trivia and sports I was hardly surprised to find I had more empathy and understanding with the rat.

Within the urban night, nature has shown me where there is abundance a creature will emerge to take advantage. If the thought of such creatures is abhorrent, perhaps we should look at the abundance we have given them and why the predators who would naturally control the numbers are prevented from doing so. No doubt someone will soon contact the local authority about the bold forager and insist they send a "man" round to deal with the problem. I doubt the issue will be looked at in any depth, just another short term solution involving poisons will be the likely outcome.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Seat in the Canopy

Line after line of tall conifers stood to attention either side of the worn earth trail. Each passing step provided the same hypnotic effect as the planted lines revealed themselves and it seemed only the undergrowth provided the aspects of random nature around the base of the trunks and scattered the regular patterns of the shadows off the setting sun. A subtle twist in the path ahead signaled the end of the plantation area and the sight of self seeded silver birch and taller undergrowth began a gentle sprawl back to the impression of a woodland forming its way in its own time.

I followed the turn in the path and began stepping towards the edge of the wood in what was rapidly becoming twilight. Oaks lay on the western edge of the wood against the boundary with the fields, lining the dry ditch and overhanging the arable crop rustling gently in the slight breeze beyond. Propped against one of the straighter trunks of the last trees was a giant ladder formed of branches from the woodland. To the top of the ladder sturdier timbers formed a seat and backrest setting a chair among the lower canopy with a makeshift handrail to give security to those who would trouble themselves to climb the lookout.

The sight of the simple structure brought back fond memories of tree houses and the excitement of climbing in childhood years. I found it a shame that the lookout viewed over the field and not the woodland, but it was perhaps built for providing a vantage for those who cared for any livestock that may have roamed the field in past years. Within my mind I became aware of the possibility that I could well be mistaken regarding its purpose. Perhaps it could have been built for the fun of it. If something is built for the reason of an alternative perspective and enjoyment itself from such modest means as the fallen materials around the area it could indeed hold qualities way beyond the utility.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Depth of Perception

Walking the woods and trails will always give a fine sight of nature and its beauty. Looking to a distant vista, colours and composition of landscape sit before the eyes and in our mind we are the artist or photographer capturing the image to our living memories. Before you walk away from such a sight I would like to encourage you to stay a while longer and look more deeply.

Our perception is often linked to the moment, to look beyond the moment into the past or the possible futures opens the mind to a greater picture. To see the trees in a younger state struggling their way clear of the undergrowth, the ruins or marks on the landscape once part of a way of life and now just a hint at the toils of another human through the mists of time.

The colours of the earth and the flora will give the clues needed to establish the qualities of land beneath your feet, from clay to stone to fertile earth. The pools and weirs of the streams and rivers define the energy of gravity and rainfall, the type and size of fish and their likely food source from the smallest of plants by the waterside. The water should also be a window on the bed beneath. Hills and mountains demonstrate the greater movements of plates, glaciers and the effect of earth upon water and air. To see a torrential downpour channelled to a stream or the fine mists forming in the low lands as the earth releases its moisture to the air. To see light and shadow change as the turning of the earth alters the suns rays and reflected moonlight on the scene before the senses.

Looking beyond the moment is not easy, the mind can sometimes find distractions to disturb the thoughts and send us into a world of dreaming. But on occasion it will be a scent, a sound or a sight that will give us signals of what lies beyond.

Perhaps it is the way we are taught to think that limits our perceptions, teaching aspects of life in neatly contained categories to allow for easy assessment. But to step outside of these limits and look at the world in an interconnected way passing beyond a subject or a moment into a journey and purpose can be liberating. To draw our full attention to a task in the moment is a fine and most rewarding thing, it can clear stagnant thoughts from the mind but to take that clear mind and give it the ability to change mindset and perceptions to the wider picture takes us beyond that point in the moment to the realms beyond.