I’ve been walking most of the afternoon. I saw buzzards, heard an owl, saw countless butterflies of many different species and numerous grasshoppers. There were several different species of wild mint, and the tiniest frog I’ve ever seen. I also found a couple of good fossils and one of those caterpillars that dangle from trees. Aside from the duration, this was in many ways a normal sort of walk. Even in urban landscapes, when I go out, I tend to see things. On occasion I’ve interrupted other people’s rituals to point out the visitors – falcons, rodents… I figure when nature shows up to a Druid gathering, Druids ought to care about that.
I have no idea what I’m like to walk with – possibly a little challenging because a big part of my brain is always alert to what’s around me. As a consequence, I’ll break conversations to point at things. The plus side is getting to see all manner of things that might otherwise have been missed, but I find it unspeakably difficult to give anyone my undivided attention for long. As the facebook meme goes, I’m on a highway to… oh look! A Squirrel! Put me in a large city with a lot of noise and movement, and after a couple of days my mind starts to crumble. I’m quite aware that, had I not been a fairly bright child in a not excessively stimulating environment, I’d have probably got some kind of attention deficit diagnosis along the way, and drugged into not doing this stuff.
The thing is that I like being able to spot rodents in the grass by hearing them, I like noticing beetles and grasshoppers. I see a lot of birds, I spot unusual wildflowers precisely because I’m not tuning most of it out. What in many situations would be treated as a problematic medical condition, to me is a wonder and a joy, and part of the way in which I engage with the natural world. I’m also aware that for much of human history, this would be life or death stuff – this kind of awareness is essential for being either a hunter or a gatherer. Which makes treating it as wrong feel a bit uncomfortable to me. It is the habitats we have created that are wrong, not the people in them.
This is just one of the many ways in which being closer to nature, more aware, more involved, more intuitive, more perceptive, is pathologised and treated as unhealthy by wider culture. The things we are, as Pagans are so often at odds with the things we are told we should want. Why watch a television when you can gaze at the amazing structure of a flower, or watch the birds? The details of life fascinate me. The small beauties and wonders take my breath away. I keep looking out of the window as I type this, watching the way light is falling on the horse chestnut leaves. So far no squirrel, but it’s probably just a matter of time…