There are those who come into the hides quietly, with an air of reverence about them. They sit, wait, watch, open to a miracle that is some flash of wildlife, some unexpected vision. Then there are those who wander in, look round, see nothing and leave. Some bring children and encourage that same reverence in them, others bring children and let them shout and run about. All of the behaviour I’ve seen in hides, I have also seen in cathedrals and at stone circles.
Most people are tourists. They come to look, but don’t really know what they’re looking for. When you’re in a hide, the odds of walking in and seeing something exciting in the first thirty seconds are slim. It happened to me once with a badger, though. The tourist mentality seeks a quick thrill, a low effort moment of being entertained, and often it leaves, disappointed, complaining of how dull, how rubbish it was. I’ve seen that at more tourist attractions than I can number. The bored child and the jaded adults.
The trick is that what you get out depends entirely on what you put in. The person willing to spend hours in a hide waiting to see if the bittern raises its head, stands a fighting chance of seeing the bittern. A fleeting glance almost never gives you that. The person willing to walk slowly around a space and get to know it will learn things that were unavailable to the person who made a flying stop.
I’m fascinated by the reverence of people in hides. Of the spaces I frequent, I see more overtly inspired, reverent people in hides than I do in churches, cathedrals or at ancient pagan sites. It’s nature worship, but in a non-religious context. These are people who are inspired by the natural world, who are open to being affected by what they see and willing to give of themselves in terms of time and patience in order to make a connection, experience something. Perhaps some are pantheists. Perhaps some are pagan. I don’t know, but the innate spirituality of what happens to some people in hides, is unmistakable.
The jaded ones with the noisy children move on, and I suspect do not even notice what they’ve missed. On a good day, I may manage to stop someone, point something out, share a little of the sense of wonder. Half the trouble with hides is knowing what to look for, and often the tourists need a guide, some way of entering this mysterious, magical world. Many of the nature worshippers will share their knowledge, drawing people across one by one where they can. It’s beautiful to watch.
As druids we could learn a thing or two from the hides. No challenges, no pressure, no putting down the inexperienced, just the quiet and occasional reaching out of a hand and offering of guidance that opens people to the inspiration beyond the window.