I am not a person who appreciates, or usually understands, poetry beyond Ogden Nash and the Horatio on the Bridge sort of thing. But there are exceptions. Many friends and readers of this journal will have noted that I enjoy wildlifing on my “patch”, which is to say I like to go out regularly and meet the furry and feathered neighbours in the garden and down the road more than I do travelling the world in search of rarities … though that’s fun too. Depth rather than breadth.
Seems I am not alone. This piece that I happened across in a book I am reading about wildlife in Somerset was written by a chap, name of Donald S Murray, from Lewis but living in Shetland who views these matters much as I do.
“There are two ways of acquiring wisdom.
One – they say – is travelling far and wide.
The other is to stay in a location,
focusing ears and thought and eyes on all that surrounds you in the one place
in which you choose (or are forced) to bide,
noting how the seasons slide
into each other,
the rise and fall of wind or cloud or tide
taking account of changes
and allowing them to guide
the path on which you step and stride.
Someday, though my friends would all deny it
(indeed, it would be to their great surprise),
I’ll have circled all the tracks around this township
and discover I am well and truly wise.
From The Man Who Talks to Birds (Saraband, 2020)
… and then, and somewhat coincidentally:
As we emerge from the travel restrictions imposed by covid-19 it seems that others have been compelled, like it or not, to limit their wildlife adventuring to a local patch anyway. Stephen Moss, a writer who is also a professional leader of worldwide birding trips for deeply committed birders with deep pockets recently wrote in a very enjoyable book (“Skylarks with Rosie: A Somerset Spring”) the following:
“All these (birds on a marshland I used to visit but can no longer) made my garden sightings feel somehow less significant in comparison. Yet as it dawned on me that my garden and the moor behind my home were now the boundaries of my life for the foreseeable future, I again realised what I have always known: that birding isn’t about the rare and unusual – exciting though they are – but the reassuringly regular and commonplace. In any case, this was what I would be seeing and hearing during this particular spring, and so, I decided, I had better start to enjoy it.”