Seasonal festivities seem to happen early in December these days, especially at a university where they’re crammed in before students (and some staff) head home at the end of term. The supposed peace of Christmas collides with the realities of what are still working days, and time typically runs out, as it did for us, dashing to sing carols in the beautifully candlelit Great Hall. We collapsed, breathless, into cramped stackable chairs, just as hush descended and the first soloist began to sing.
Once in Royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed.
Once upon a time in a country far, far away. There once was a young woman, some shepherds, three wise men, and a choir of angels. Hear the story of a star, hanging low in the inky sky above a holy city. Stories are stilling, timeless. They pull you in.
People’s emotional and intellectual responses to the natural world are as diverse as nature itself. Nothing could better prove this point than this year’s New Networks for Nature event in Stamford, which featured contributions ranging from photographs of marine worms to an electronic music-scored poetic voyage through the solar system, via medieval ornithology, bee conservation, and some rip-roaring botanical yarns.
As the name might suggest, a hefty chunk of the event was also dedicated to networking – and there’s no better opportunity, with the delegate list reading like a who’s who of conservation and the nature-inspired arts in Britain. At such events I’m every bit the wallflower, if you can call a bearded, balding, not-quite-six-foot birder a flower. I hover silently between groups of people deep in conversation. I identify people I admire, mentally ticking them off my ‘famous writers checklist’, and wonder if I have anything interesting to say to them. In an echoey room full of competing conversations you can see why a sound-sensitive person with a quiet voice would struggle.
This coming weekend will see the first conference organised by A Focus On Nature, the network for young nature conservationists in the UK. The title and theme of the gathering – Vision for Nature – is a timely one. In a fast-changing world, we need some idea of what we’re aiming for: to paraphrase an excellent comment on my last blog, “we always need to be questioning what our vision is.” In the run-up to the event, a number of bloggers are tackling the subject. The two pieces I’ve read so far, from Peter Cooper and Ryan Clark, are both excellently written – exactly what I’d expect from alumni of the country’s finest secondary school and university respectively, though by happy coincidence I’m extremely biased on both counts.
What I’m about to say – hastily typed between preparing for a two-week trip abroad and tending to a cat with a dislocated toe – is more of a reaction to their ideas, amongst others, than an attempt to come up with an original vision of my own, but to be honest that’s my preferred style. This is a vision for nature, not mine alone, and I don’t claim ownership of it any more than I’d be comfortable changing the title of this blog to include my name – though I suppose every writer must stoop to self-promotion eventually!
The wild places.