A Flight of PeacocksWednesday 16th August 2000, West Yorkshire
I DELIVER the final artwork of our latest book to the printers first thing, which gives me the morning to sit in the garden and write up my diary. I need some time off after tying up all those loose ends.
There are more Peacock butterflies around than yesterday, at least twelve of them congregate on the Buddleia blossoms, or sun themselves on the path and on the flat stones at the edge of the raised bed. Their underwings have a sooty look.
A Small Copper pauses on one of the dog daisies long enough for me to confirm its identity.
A I write, a tiny seed the size of a gnat, glides down onto my book. It's a seed that comes equipped with its own hang glider. They must be effective; I can't see a Silver Birch within a hundred yards of the house, though there's probably one tucked away somewhere. It's probably come from a group of birches on a slope in the wood 200 yards away. Birch seeds are so light that three quarters of a million of them would weigh just one pound.
The birches on the valley slope are getting crowded out there as the Sessile Oaks growing up amongst them mature, so they need to colonise new ground.
Nature WritingAs you've probably noticed by now, I'm hooked on nature writing. When I changed over to writing and illustrating exclusively geological subjects for a number of years my wife Barbara complained that I never seemed as happy as when I'd been working on wildlife projects. I needed the challenge of a fresh subject, but I'm glad to be drifting back to wildlife again now.
So what's this fascination with nature? I think it's simply part of being human. During our history as a species we've evolved through hundred's of thousands of years, if not millions, when our survival has depended on close observation of the colour, movement, smell, taste and the feel of nature around us. We needed to be able to predict the weather, to know where and when particular fruits might be found or when to expect the arrival of migrant animals and birds. We needed to get in tune with the rhythms of systems that are bigger than our tiny lives, but of which we form part.
But its not enough to just observe; as a species we're compulsive communicators. Our continued success, such as it is, has depended on passing on information in a vivid and memorable ways; we tell stories.
Almost the first record we have of human cultural activity is of remarkably accurate wildlife drawings, imbued with a spirit of magic and mystery; I've seen sketches of woolly rhinoceros, mammoth and wild horses on cave walls in France and Spain, and I feel I've got something in common with those artists.
Related LinkI'm delighted to discover that my nature diary gets a mention in the Writing With Nature course at Writes of the Imagination a new online education site, 'dedicated to the development of individual expression and creativity'.
Whether my site is included as an example of how you might approach the subject, or an example of what to avoid, doesn't really matter to me (do I sound convincing?!); I'm just glad fellow writers are taking a look at it.