Sunday, 6 May 2012

Public facilities

There are times, when it's quarter to six on a grey morning and you're lurking outside the loos in a town park waiting for a bunch of strangers to tip up, when you wonder why you didn't heed your careers advisor and become a lawyer. Lawyers after all have warm offices and big desks and, well, money in their bank accounts. And lawyers most certainly don't meet strangers outside public facilities at a quarter to six in the morning.

At least not the sort of lawyer I know.

And then a magical thing happens. A stock dove starts to sing. A slaty grey bird with a sparkly black eye makes a lumpy two-note noise from the top of a dead sycamore and half a dozen faces start to smile. It's a smile that acknowledges a bird that none of the smilers ever knew lived in the centre of King's Lynn and that some of them didn't even know existed. A bird which five minutes ago didn't exist is now material, real, and singing right above us. Outside a loo.

And so it goes on. A robin pours his fluid song into the cold morning. A moorhen squeaks brrraap! as though someone had trodden on him. A treecreeper creeps trees: Turkey oak, lime, weeping willow and horse chestnut. A goldfinch buzzes and tinkles. And human perception shifts. Lives change. In a moment of birdsong on a cold morning.

Outside a loo.

Later in the day at Harding's Pits it's bumblebees who are unwitting ambassadors for nature, therapists and new-found friends. The bumblebees of course are just going about their bumble business, supping flowers of white dead-nettle. But human perception shifts. Walks from now on will have another layer of understanding, of questioning, of learning. Books will be bought and minds will be opened and, this most important of all, lives enriched. By bumblebees.

This has been a strange, gruelling weekend: a long yoga workshop on Friday night, a dawn chorus walk on Saturday morning, a birdsong walk on Sunday morning and a bumblebee workshop during the day. Tomorrow I must learn scripts for videos to be filmed on Wednesday, after yet another birdsong workshop. But if one life is richer because of something it's been my privilege to learn and to share, if one smile is smiled, or one tree spared, it's all worthwhile. And I'll stand outside another loo another day, many more days most likely, in the belief that another smile will be smiled.

I have one prime objective: to use such talents as I was born with, and such skills as I have acquired, to enrich the lives of other people, during my own lifetime, and if possible after I am dead. I have an itch to create, and my life is too short for all the things I want to make. 

Peter Scott
Foreword to the third impression of The Eye of the Wind

P.S. Despite the cold we saw four-and-a-half species of bumblebee: common carder, early, red-tailed, late-emerging garden bumblebee queens, and workers of either the buff-tailed bumblebee or the white-tailed bumblebee (note to taxonomy geeks: white-tailed and buff-tailed workers are all but indistinguishable and, in the field, are safely identified only as belonging to this species pair).

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