been looking at a sketchbook I kept as a student in the spring/summer
of 1971, half a lifetime ago. So much has changed: in those
days I'd occasionally see a barn owl in the valley; I haven't
seen one locally for years.
As a second year graphic design student I
somehow found time for such extracurricula activities as collecting
oak galls and drawing the gall wasps that hatched out, preserving
a dead coot that I found as a cabinet skin and (and this forms
the main central section of the sketchbook) making the journey
to Scotland to help guard the ospreys at the RSPB's reserve
at Loch Garten for a fortnight.
How did I find time the time for all this?
Well, unlike in my present Wild West Yorkshire nature
diary , there are no comments along the lines of 'got
my accounts finished, at last!', 'five rooms decorated, now
there are only two to go!' or 'I'm falling behind in trimming
the hedges again this year'.
If I can believe the sketchbook I just walked,
drew and travelled as I wished, on the slender budget of a
student grant. Bliss! But was I happy?
On the first page of the sketchbook I find
myself in the valley, down by the canal, complaining:
Regiments of bungalows are approaching
this small remnant of a natural environment. The land remains
as it is only because it is too boggy to build on or the
wooded slopes too steep.
I was 19 at the time! Yet I sound like the
grumpy 53 year old that I am today!
Caught in the Lights
However, like today, there were the special
moments that make up for feeling such a burden of concern
for the natural world:
The oak has retained some of last years
leaves now brown and stiff sounding like a medieval library
as they blow about in the wind.
I noticed a Roe deer its eyes luminous
in the headlights; dark shape against a darker background.
Driving through the woods of stout, straight trunked pine
in the silence of night was like driving through an organic
Gothic cathedral. A viaduct as it materialized from the
chaotic blackness seemed to be a row of pines.
If you'd like to browse through the full
sketchbook follow this link: