Sunday, 30 June 2013

Walking the Pentlands

"Trees remember wolves. The oldest pines, the three- and four-hundred year-olds, know the brush of wolf fur, the soft, deeo slap of their footfall on the forest tfloor. They hand down the sense of wolves to the wolfless generations of young trees, and these grow older remembering the sense of wolves so that they are ready for the wolves' return, which they know to be inevitable... The old trees still remember the touch of wolf skin on tree skin, still long for it." - Jim Crumley

Walking in the hills today and howling into the wind. Becoming feral, wild and relishing the feeling of being free.

Howling.... That was good! The weather was wild on the hills, and it was definitely a day for being a wolf. I dreamed that the noise was carried over into Edinburgh and the people were clutching their hearts for fear that the wildness had returned. The primal fear returned and it sent the people into a frenzy. The frenzy possibly being like that scene in 'Poison' by Patrick Suskind. Or possibly a frenzy which eventually resulted in the wolf returning, because the sound brought back the peoples' previous passions and emotions and suddenly, suddenly those people were ALIVE! And they were howling too, howling with pity about our world and the pain and the stress we humans are causing. Perhaps the futility of living-to-work hit them, along with ancient memories of hunting and being hunted, and all of a sudden - upon hearing that wild wolf call - the entire population of Scotland's capital city come to a vicious understanding that change is coming and turning the direction of their feet to take them to the change; became the change and made the change come.

Maybe. Or maybe the wind just whipped the sound out of our throats, and it was lost forever. Lost apart from in our hearts and our souls. I shall keep thinking that if a wolf did ever stroll into Edinburgh the people would feel as Aldo Leopold did and know that the wolf was part of our world, and part of our country and by its absence we are less than we should be.

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then and have known ever since that there was something new to me in those eyes, something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.” - Aldo Leopold 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Love letter to the world

I've been thinking about love, life and wilderness and how it's all connected. Our love of the wilderness fuels our life, and can help bring life to the wilderness too. Maybe that's too human-centric, maybe a better thing to say would be that our love helps maintain wilderness -  without love the world would be razed without a second thought.

Our love helps to create - new life, new memories and new songs - our lives are made the richer for our loves. And when we say goodbye to a former love we're always keeping hope in our heart that there will be another. And there will, for we are beings that are made to share love, create love, experience love and give love.

There are so many loves in my life, and certain people that keep my path strong and true. These loves are my strength, my anchor when the struggle is becoming hard, They act as barometers for your true self - compasses guiding you back to your soul. And for me there is one person in particular that I love as no other. They are one of the best people I know and so secure they are in themselves that even just thinking of them helps dispel any doubt I have about myself. They help me realise my dreams and find my courage and even though I have little contact with them, they keep me going and keep me fighting all the while keeping true to myself.

And wilderness is another love of my life. Nothing restores a weary body than a moment alone in the wilds. Even when not truly alone, to momentarily turn your back on humanity and to realise the insignificance of you, right there and then, is humbling and awe-inspiring. We humans have the curse of constantly thinking of ourselves before anything else, but to lose yourself in your insignificance can give you a lift like no other. Sometimes it's not about ego, and it's about letting your atoms drift into the sighing of the trees and the grey of the stones and the thousand details of the lichens.

Love, life and wilderness. We would be nothing without the trio. And of the trio the one I have talked about least is life. The miracle of. And for that I will leave you in the capable hangs of Mr Bill Bryson (The Short History of Nearly Everything, paperback edition, page 20, third line down, sixth word in to fifteenth line, fourth word). Life. It's worth it - make this fight. Join the trio. Bring them together, join with me and let's walk, beautifully lonely, out to a starry night and let's watch shooting stars and with every one that falls let us choose our favourite thankfulness and send that up to chase the falling star. We'll be alone, but never will we have felt so utterly and wholly part of this wondrous universe. Love, life, and wilderness. Also written as love life and wilderness We are wild beings full of love and singing with life, let us make our atoms proud....

Just in case you don't have access to Bill Bryson, here is the quote I refer to:

"Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result - eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly - in you."

Friday, 14 June 2013

Teaching and all that Jazz

A couple of weeks ago I carried out my first foray into teaching by carrying out an otter survey skills training session in conjunction with the Lothian and Borders Mammal Group. And it was such good fun that I'm doing another one tomorrow! It really was great though; a brilliant bunch of people, of all different backgrounds, but all the same amount of enthusiasm.

Although it wasn't the most successful day in terms of otter signs found (two pretty old spraint and a holt which was on the wrong side of the river and so inaccessible to most people), it was a fantastic way of getting out and about and meeting some new people - as well as reconnecting with some familiar ones! Two faces were familiar to me - one I had been at the same conference as, and the other had been studying at Napier at the same time as me! 

One of the good things I discovered from the day was that, put a bunch of people with a common interest (in this case ecology and conservation) together and no matter who they are, or what their character is, they will get on and I think everyone learns something from everyone else. 

This is the day that I learned that the Whitethroat "is very definite in what it's saying", and that no matter how much water one person gets in their wellies, they can still keep a smile on their face. So although, for me, it was a first in that it was the first time I had led a group, it was also a fantastic reminder for me about the number of keen and interested people that are out there, who are all dying to assist in the fight against biodiversity loss, and thank goodness that there are such a brilliant bunch of folk out there willing to add muscle to this fight. 

I normally leave the tree weeks with Trees for Life feeling like this, and so it's a lovely confirmation to see that it's right here on my doorstep as well. And now it's a collective effort to harness it into more positive action. Watch this space!!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bookety Book

Just a short wee post tonight because a) I only wrote once in the whole of May, and that's just not good enough and b) I have to catch a bus at ten to five tomorrow morning and so I am soo not in the mood for wordiness of a high order.


Book! Just now I am reading:

WILD by Jay Griffiths

I've not even finished it yet, but I have to write about it!

And oo, it is good. It's about dun dun dunnn, wild places, and the author really manages to get to the root of what it means to us. Or rather, what it means to some of us. But she has it so right. Bits about how wildness grounds you, and about how we need it. Our very souls feel the lack of wildness if they're too restricted.

Sometimes I wonder about how to write this blog. I love writing it, and I like sharing things with people, but sometime I get worried about putting people off, saying something that makes them distance themselves - and 'souls' is one of those words. So maybe I should clear some things up?

I am not religious, but I understand people that are (to a certain extent). Despite this, I have a soul. I can't speak for everyone, but there is something in me that is kept happy not by being fed, or by being kept safe, and that part is my soul. It's the part of me that is truly wild, and it is the part that makes me want to push myself - to climb that wall, to balance across here, to swim in that freezing pool. And it is that part that needs wilderness. It's that part that starts to get stressed out if I'm too enclosed for too long; too hemmed in. So although I speak of a soul, it is not because I believe that it's going to live beyond my death (one day I shalt be a tree! - this is a story for another day, I think...), it's because it's the bit that keeps giving me life.  Comprende?

(Perhaps this isn't the best written blog post ever. Since starting work my thoughts are working harder than ever but I'm not always finding it so easy to articulate what I'm thinking. Hopefully as my brain gets used to the work I'm doing I'll find it easier again.)

So....Wild, eh? At first it's hard to read - too little wild and too much language history (surely there's a better way of wording that?!) but if you persevere it's worth it. The chapter on Wild Ice is brilliant. Bravo, Ms Griffiths! It makes one want to adventure, to shrug off the veil of responsibility and go run through the woods. One day, perhaps, but for now it's just wonderful to read something that corresponds well with my own thoughts and feelings. Please read it, and report back. Yes? Also...souls, eh? :)