Looking through my blog’s admin pages I see that I’ve written several posts in the last few months – but always left them unpublished. Reading through them, I can see why I was unhappy with each one – but I’m curious as to how this state of affairs has come about. I’m reminded of a condition said to affect darts players. You pick up a dart, aim it at the board, you flick your wrist but, when the moment comes to let go your fingers just won’t do it.
Another reason for the inactivity is that I’ve simply spent time doing other things, one of the more pleasant of which has been reading more books. Two stand out in my mind: Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks and Roger Deakin’s Wildwood.
I’m not sure what to make of “new nature writing”. Part of me shrugs, and thinks, aren’t these just books that might otherwise have been slightly anodyne (if environmentally edgy) TV documentaries? Am I just reading about humankind tearing the planet apart the way, when I was a kid, one could turn on BBC2 and watch lions tearing up wildebeest? Entertainment with it’s consciousness raised is still just entertainment. Another part of me is drawn in, impressed by writing that makes anyone who reads it more aware of the world around them. Who can fail to be disturbed, for example, by Robert Macfarlane’s comparison (in Landmarks) of Victorian London’s edgelands with their plethora of wildlife with the situation nearly two hundred years later? He quotes the Victorian nature-writer Richard Jeffries, who paints a picture of a world burgeoning with wildflowers, birds and animals that seems chillingly unfamiliar to anyone living in similar settings today.
I found myself thinking of this passage when I went for a walk over the hill in front of our house yesterday with my daughter. You get a great view over the dale from there. I found myself, as a thought experiment, making an imaginary film of that view that started 10,000 years ago and which ran right up to the present day. If the film could be speeded up to last, say, two minutes, would the final frame seem quite so idyllic as it looked as we stood there? Or would it appear as a wasted shadow of what it once was?
A short poem – from one of those posts I mentioned at the start that I never got round to posting:
In Summer you can just make out the course of the track
through the long grass. In Winter it’s far simpler:
a brown line winds across the field.
Many people must pass this way
(enough, at least, to wear it down)
but, when I walk it, I rarely meet anyone.
Finally, a couple of photos. I dressed the scarecrow in some of my old clothes. When I reflected how scruffy he looked I was disturbed by the thought that I’d worn the outfit myself not so long ago: