The Wild Other.
‘Between the laundry and fetching the kids from school,
that’s how birds enter my life’.
This quote from writer and poet Kathleen Jamie, orbits my more reflective, mindful moments. Especially when I find myself in, when I’d perhaps rather be out. It’s a wry reminder and a comfort that actually, this is how nature and the ‘wild other’ is in my life; on an ordinary, everyday basis and in myriad forms.
And so it goes: the week sometimes is a little series of vignettes – of conversations, or articles read, of observations, passionate protests or poems on Twitter – or a delightful doorstep conversation with the birder who delivered my shopping, and talked about Poole Harbour’s Ospreys. My phone pings with sightings from the hill: a peregrine hunting red-legged partridge or the arrival of short eared owls. Going down to do the horses, a sweet chestnut leaf comes bounding over the stubble like a stoat, mesmerising me for a moment; a wren whirs through the mouldboards of the red and green plough. There are scarlet hips against fresh-turned earth (and its evocative scent) where, just half a year since, there was a confetti waterfall of marshmallow-coloured dog roses. The piebald gulls are back.
Late for work, I duck back under the apple tree for something forgotten and am waylaid by the amplified buzz of a queen hornet in the auditorium of a hollowed orange pippin.
On another morning walking the dog, a hare lollops right by, the big cog of its hindquarters barely engaged, so slow and close I can see its dew-soaked paws; its eye like a new pound coin.
On a busy Sunday, an adder coiled in the workshop gives Will the farmer a shock. I break from what I’m doing for a glimpse and love the stories of our remnant population when it was stronger (and Will was tasked to hunt them with a forked stick and a sack) and I wish for that population back (but not the hunting) and tales of sloughed snakeskin under the Rayburn.
At night, a roe doe is illuminated like a garden centre statue in the headlamps of a wet October evening.
I make a cake for my entomologist daughter’s tenth birthday in the (taxonomically accurate) shape and colours of a scarlet tiger moth. It wouldn’t win Bake Off, but she recognises it and we are both delighted.
This is how the wild life enters my own: in all ways, all of the time. It is a presence and an awareness I cannot switch off, anymore than I could stop breathing, or seeing, or knowing, or feeling. It is inked in. I carry it with me like grass seeds on the soles of my boots, or when I arrive at work, with the morning’s found owl feather still in my hair.