In search of the ancient dead

By ‘ancient dead’ I don’t mean the human ancient dead, who, by planet measurements of time are really quite recent.

I grew up on the Jurassic limestone of the Cotswold edge. I guess it started because I wasn’t very steady on my feet – born with my toes pressed against my shins, I’ve always had weak ankles, and falling over was a frequent feature of my childhood. I still fall over on rough terrain more often than I am comfortable with. As a consequence, watching the ground carefully became part of my life early on.

The ground, it turns out, is an exciting place to fix your gaze. Alongside the hazard avoiding, I started seeing the wonders of the local rock. Shells, and limestone quartz can be picked up round here, and I collected, with a magpie’s glee for shiny things. Looking at the ground a lot stopped being a problem and started being a gift. It was only much later in life that I learned to walk with my head up and pay more attention to views.

Looking for dead things remains a comforting, heart lifting activity for me. Spending time with my face close to the earth, really starting at the ground, to discover its secrets, is wonderful. I come home with my pockets full of treasures, and the companionship of long dead things. They give me a helpful sense of perspective. How amazing it is, that of all the countless things alive in the Jurassic, these shells remained intact, sometimes in incredible, life-evoking detail. And against all the odds, I have seen them, divided as we are by amounts of time that I can’t begin to imagine.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “In search of the ancient dead

  • Robin

    how splendid it is to connect with impossibly ancient ages of the earth by scrabbling about on Rodborough common, just to image what the Earth was like when all our shelly ancestors were going about the sea hoovering up their lunch, and to think we–yes human we-were not even existent, not even a smudge in the sand, I find that rather refreshing because for all those ages the world was centred around little shelly things and pools of happily thriving fungus and swamps full of huge insects.

  • jananson

    Reblogged this on Anthony Nanson's Deep Time and commented:
    Thoughts here from Nimue about the everyday encounter with deep time you can have walking on the limestones of England.

  • lornasmithers

    Yes, there are so many ancient, ancient ancestors out there quite unlike us 🙂 I often ponder whether in the distant future some other strange creatures unlike us will be find the same wonder in the remains of human civilisation…

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