online: 18 june 2003
modified: 21, 22 june 2003

17 june 2003 ignorance and wonder

15:46 Warm and humid. Misty air makes each tree look slightly clearer than the trees behind it. Grey sky from which comes continuous rumbling thunder. I'm sitting beneath lime trees looking at rhododendrons and a copper beech with a silver birch copse behind them. The dampness pervades everywhere - from the wet leaves to my skin, from the gravel path to my breath. And the grasses stand motionless. Not an insect in sight. I can hear a bird singing faintly... and looking up I see a single wasp visiting the lime catkins - and now I see a ladybird exploring the damp surface of the bench... A dog barks, the distant thunder gets fainter and the sky seems to lighten.

This steamy afternoon is like a still picture of a landscape through which actual people move, some talking, some not, while most of nature seems to have become static for a moment. I blow gently at the ladybird and it closes its wings and runs out of sight... And now it's returned - I think it's eating the mossy growth on the seat.

16:25 And now a leaf falls and the grasses move slightly. The sun comes out and a drop of water appears on this screen and I switch off to wipe it. A green caterpillar about 5mm long appears on my sleeve and the ladybird is now crawling on my shirt. I lift it off before it goes inside.

Now there is a slight breeze - of about 20 cm/second and the lime leaves move a centimetre or two before swaying back to their previous positions. And, though I know that we and the earth and the cosmos move at unimaginable speeds, the scene before me appears almost static.

Yes the air feels drier now, and it's moving more perceptibly, two or three birds sing intermittently and a robin appears on the path for a few seconds. I can now feel an east wind on my cheek, I heard an insect fly by, and I wonder if what I've just experienced is a change in the weather? The dampness was surely brought by a west wind from the Atlantic but the east wind will, if it continues, bring drier air from Russia.

A woman with a small boy (who it seems asked her what is that man doing) tells him that 'he is having a rest, I expect, and looking at the trees'.

Overhearing her, I say 'that's right' ...and she accepts me for half a second into the conversation with the boy ... such talk being the way in which we all of us must have learnt how to convert new experience of the world into rational explanation - the ending of ignorance and wonder.

17:03 The sun's now fully out, the rumbling thunder's almost inaudible, but the air is still misty. I decide to walk on.

While walking I saw three spontaneous artworks, or improvements to the heath:

A hazardous-looking swing - composed of a piece of branch tied with a long blue rope hanging from a tree over a steep bank or precipice. I didn't dare to swing on it.

A small tree stump on which someone had put a note saying 'I wish for peace of mind + enduring love' with several pebbles and a yellow ribbon wound round a stick and a shiny aluminium disc with a small hole in it. This is the same stump where I saw other such objects - near to the huge beech tree that fell down last winter. Today I went to look again into its upturned roots - and it looked to me like a frozen residue of an explosion reaching up into the heart of the tree. What a way to end one's life - but that is nature.

The third artwork or improvement was a line of nine coloured flags sewn onto white tape. The were strung horizontally from tree to tree - again over a steep slope or precipice. Their colours were yellow, green, red, white, blue, yellow, green. red, and white - a repeating sequence.

I am touched by these signs of people attempting to act constructively - without reward or recognition or worldly motive and outside the laws and the professions... and I try to imagine the motives and intentions of those who made them. The flags particularly. Do they have any meaning or were they intended just as colours, good to look at in a forest - or anywhere?

These things I trust.

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