Tag Archives: egret

Crime stories

Not what I’d planned for today, but Tom’s bike was stolen overnight, and this is all on my mind rather. To the police, it’s just a stolen bike. Not inherently worth all that much. The trouble is, as is so often the case, the value and impact are judged from the outside. Steal thousands from someone rich and the odds are the police will be interested in you. Steal twenty pounds from someone who consequently can’t afford to eat that week, and it’s small time stuff and nobody cares. Value is a tricky thing to judge. For us, the value of a bike includes it being our primary mode of transport, and technically difficult to replace. We don’t live in easy walking distance of anywhere that sells bikes, and as we live on a boat, getting one delivered would be challenging. We had plans for today. Bike dependent plans. Worth is about so much more than the price tag.

How about the worth to the person who took it? I wish I could feel it had been taken by someone in extremis, prompted by dire need, an urgent requirement to get somewhere. It probably wasn’t. More likely, as when we’ve had thing taken in the past, it’s been a brief giggle, a quick adrenaline high, or something to sell on, or throw in a ditch. Something that was cherished and valued by us, probably isn’t being valued by whoever made off with it.

We have a habit of naming things. When you believe that everything contains spirit, when you recognise that spirit as part of day to day living, the naming of things comes easily. This bike was called Henson, because according to Tom it looked like the kind of bike Kermit the Frog would ride. When you name something, it ceases to be just another ‘thing’ to use and discard at whim. It becomes a friend, a fellow traveller through life’s journey. You care more. I’ve never been drawn to the acquisition of stuff, but at the same time the things I have are loved, and frequently named. Saying goodbye to a worn out pair of shoes is like saying goodbye to a friend. I appreciate that for the kind of person who steals, this would sound insane. I’d still rather be the sort of person who grieves the loss of a well loved thing than the person who doesn’t care for anything.

And then there’s the egret, flying over the canal this morning, oblivious to the development threat to one of his fields. He stands to lose a lot more than we have. It’ll be worse for all the ones who call that hedgerow home, or who are the hedgerow. Theft is a very human concept, and is only used to describe what happens when one human takes a thing another human didn’t want them to have. Up until relatively recently, we were pretty good at not even counting some humans as being able to own, and therefore to be stolen from. But when you think about it, we steal all the time. Homes, food supplies, offspring… and most of the time no crime has been committed at all.

Grant, oh spirits, thy protection. And in protection, strength, and in strength, knowledge, and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice, and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it.

I suppose in theory I could love justice, I just don’t think I’ve ever seen more than fleeting glimpses of it, so it’s hard to tell. I find it increasingly hard to believe that it exists at all, which is one of the main reasons that I find it hard to believe in any kind of gods, or karma, or anything that helps to balance the scales a bit. I see no evidence for it. And as for human justice…. The more I see of that, the more I believe it comes down to money far more than anything else. And that’s as true for the egret, as it is for me.

What I can do is keep trying to do the right things, for the right reasons. Yes, I can put pen to paper and give the egret a voice in the process. Whether that will do any good, I can’t say, but I’m having a go. Justice, like so many other ideas, depends a lot on our ability to believe in it. Or enough bloody mindedness to think that if it doesn’t come naturally, we ought to get out there and damn well make some. But today has been another knock back, another reason to admit defeat and stop caring, stop trying. Another reason to decide that maybe the life lesson to learn is that there is no point and that I might as well not bother. So far every time I’ve been knocked down I’ve managed to get up and try to do something about it, or move on. But there are days like today, when I question the point of what I do, and I wonder why I’m doing it.

River stories

I’ve spent the last few days on rivers – The Severn and The Avon. I grew up near the Severn, longing to get into the water by any means, but unable to do so. She’s a magical river, home to the goddess Sabrina. There was a Roman temple to Nodens on her banks, no doubt other temples too and she has seen human activity since there were humans around. She’s also a fickle, moody, changeable river, which makes her dangerous, and every so often she takes a blood sacrifice. The Severn kills.

Simply being afloat and on the river was an intensely emotional and spiritual experience for me. You see the world differently at water level, familiar cities and landscapes came at me very differently. Travelling at the slow speed of a narrowboat, I also saw a lot of wildlife – kingfishers, egrets, herons, cormorants, an abundance of ducks and swans as well and lots of trees. It’s been a beautiful few days.

So, what have I learned? That I want longer ropes on the boat, for one. But on a spiritual level, it’s harder to pin down. I saw mist on the flood meadows where sheep and cattle have been grazed for thousands of years. I saw ducks sleeping afloat, ours the first boat in the early morning, catching the river as it is before the people come. People, boats, and noise change everything. Most of the time we don’t even get a glimpse of what life is like without us. But I had a little of that – a sense of the lives lived beyond human awareness, the secret lives of creatures and plants. I want to be a smaller, quieter presence, better able to blend in, to move amongst other living things without frightening them off. What I really want is to be on the river at dawn, in a canoe or coracle, paddling quietly, making few ripples, not breaking the air with sound. That would be true magic.

The more I think about this as an ideal, the more I feel it’s how I want to move through the world all of the time – as unobtrusively as I can, catching glimpses of those other worlds and existences. Going slowly enough to be able to see them, quietly enough to hear them, taking the time to look, and the care to notice. I think there is always more to see, deeper to go, and I wonder how much further I can take my own understandings in my day to day living.