A treat for you this afternoon, with a beautifully written blog from Ewan. I hope his words resonate with you, as they did with me. And I hope you're all staying safe and keeping positive. Now, over to Ewan...
In many ways, it feels like not much has happened over the last few weeks, and like not much has been achieved. But somehow, also, it feels like my wheels have been in constant motion, spinning relentlessly. I may not have been going anywhere, but I have forgotten to be still.
I have usually been taking my daily exercise in the woods, and why wouldn't I when I have them here, right on my doorstep? But one day last week, I set out in the other direction, and took a short walk across the fields down to the River Spey. A change, they say, is as good as a rest. I wanted to explore this new territory; hardly Lewis and Clark stuff, but nevertheless I boldly went.
I have been watching these fields every morning in the Breakfast Birdwatch, and I feel well-acquainted with the rooks, gulls and curlews that were loafing around here in the sunshine. But the scrub and the tree-lined river banks beyond the field boundary are tantalisingly out of range of the optical equipment I have at my disposal. Crossing over that fenceline is like entering into another realm; a realm ruled by skylarks.
I have been hearing drifting notes of their songs for weeks, but now the melodies cascaded down around me, like clear streams tumbling off a Cairngorm hillside. I could see one, two, three larks, hanging impossibly overhead only metres away, as breathlessly they chained together note after sparkling note, before silently dropping back to earth and into the long grass. There were more further away, voices blending together in a heavenly choir.
On the far bank of the river, a platoon of oystercatchers grumpily watched me approach, piping annoyance as they suddenly took off ahead of me. Purple alders, and willows hung with fuzzy green catkins, dipped their toes in the in the water, and on my bank I wandered among banks of flowers: the yellow of lesser celandines, and the white of wood anemones that the Anemoi, Greek gods of the winds, scattered across the land to announce the coming of spring. As the winds passed by, a pink cuckoo flower nodded in their wake.
A pair of common sandpiper shot out from nearly under my feet, white wingbars stiffly flashing as they disappeared around the river's bend. Mentally I apologised for disturbing them, as newly arrived from tropical West Africa they regather their strength for the breeding season. A pair of goldeneye flew upriver, wings whistling. Swallows looped this way and that. The sun was warm on my face.
I sat down under a large old alder tree, buds just on the verge of breaking open, exposing the new leaves curled up inside. There was no-one about; just me, and the river gently rolling by. I breathed in with the coolness of the breeze, and out with the water's flow. I tuned out everything except the song of the skylarks and willow warblers, and took five minutes to just be still.
Alder bud and catkins
I am lucky to be here; lucky to have two such special wild places close enough to walk to from my house; lucky that there are few enough people here that I can find my stillness in these places. I know that in a town or city, in a busier spot, it could be irresponsible, selfish, to sit by the path and spend five minutes simply existing. I am grateful for my good luck. Being able to steal this moment, find stillness within it, reminds me why I am here, why I care, why I am doing what I am doing. Out of that stillness wells new inspiration, new enthusiasm. Out of that stillness I can reawaken.
Having that privilege that others do not, I hope I can share it with you. Maybe you can find it in your garden, or at your window looking out. Maybe you can find it in this blog. Maybe you can close your eyes and picture your favourite spot, smell the air, and listen to the hum of nature going about its work.
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