If you haven’t heard Melissa Harrison’s The Stubborn Light of Things, you’re missing a treat; it is a salve for our times. It began at the start of lockdown here in the UK, intent on bringing the natural world, at least in audio, to those more unable to get out. This week (number 25), I’m honoured to be taking part.
Melissa is an award winning nature writer, novelist, diarist, and now podcaster (with a wonderful supporting team), and I possess all her books. I look forward to adding her latest to my shelves, a collection of her beloved Nature Notebook columns written for The Times, now to be published in hardback this coming November by Faber & Faber, also named The Stubborn Light of Things. … Read more
On Birdetal being During Lockdown
Feather by me
From my rooftop terrace on a hill in the city of Cardiff, in a vague state of suspended covi-disbelief you’ll recognize, I face due South into the eye of the midday sun. A man-jumble of roof, balustrade and wall contains what would otherwise be a 180 degree arc-view from East to West. The sky is none-the-less enormous, and I love it. Each day, I observe the clouds as if they are hastily evolving species, manifesting the effects of water and sky-physics, and stealing creature-ly shapes, every once in a while, stored deep in my imagination
Everything seems in tension, between closed and open, the constraints of the streets, confinement and grief within homes, yet pinned down by the freedoms of the sky. … Read more
Statue of Sir Peter Scott, London Wetland Centre, by Ginny Battson © 2014
“The world has gone mad.”
I am hearing this often in my particular sprachraum (the Anglosphere, at least), off-line and on-line, an almost daily occurrence from one quarter or another. Along with a sharply rising global temperature mean, record breaking norm-shattering meteorology and ice-melt across consecutive months, we are witnessing regressive steps in socio-political relationships; intolerance and prejudice gaining traction as some kind of reactive protest against uneven wealth distribution and increasing migration of the dispossessed. The far right have their heads up for the main-chance. This is deeply worrying to those with a conscience. … Read more
“And our ears tell us that the whisper of every leaf and creature speaks to the natural sources of our lives, which indeed may hold the secrets of love for all things, especially our own humanity.” Bernie Krause
Huka Falls on the Waikato River is a boiling blood-riot of water sound. Pull off Thermal Explorer Highway, just north of the city of Taupo, New Zealand, and the cacophony of this eleven metre high waterfall leaps out, and then sucks you in to its vortices with disdain. It’s an auditory spectacle. If you were curious, and leaned too far over the footbridge, you’d be dragged in and crushed by arms of seething, blue foam (Huka is Maori for ‘foam’). … Read more
There are people who know the world
in specifics – not gull, but black-backed,
(lesser and greater), black-headed,
common, glaucous and herring.
There are people who know the woods –
not trees, but oak, willow, hazel,
aspen, and lime, and not oak
but sessile or pedunculate.
There are people who learn the names,
the Latin, the genus, the cultivar,
making lists for countries and years,
and the life-list with all the ticks –
the bbjs, and the gaps they need to fill.
And then, there are other people
whose hands and eyes know everything,
who taste the wind for salt or coming rain,
who find the right leaf or root or berry
for health or flavour, without a word spoken. … Read more
The term BIODIVERSITY is used to describe variety and population of non-human life here on Planet Earth. Biodiversity includes everything from tiny microbes to blue whales.
Global biodiversity is in decline. A recent WWF report, for example, shows non-human vertebrates (that’s birds, fish and non-human mammals), have declined by 50% in number since 1970. Freshwater life has been particularly hard hit.
We are part of nature, and so rely upon what it provides to us, like food, drink, medicines and materials. We need to protect and encourage life and habitat upon which life depends, not only for our own survival and the survival of our descendants, but also to give back what we, and generations before us, have taken away. … Read more
According to the 9th Century Anglo Saxon Chronicles, key historic manuscripts written during the reign of King Alfred the Great, January was known as ‘Wolf Manoth’. This was a more stable meteorological era, with native Eurasian wolves almost guaranteed to come out of the relative safety of the woods to approach human settlements for food in harsher weather. They were perceived, not surprisingly, as an agri-cultural threat. And so Wolf Manoth was deemed the first full month of wolf hunts by the all-prevailing feudal nobility.
After the fall of the Roman Empire and before the Medaeival Renaissance, with bloody Saxon invasion and the spread of Christianity, any indigenous pagan reverence to nature was lost. … Read more