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Senses sharpening

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

W.B. Yeats I am taking notes as I walk: little signs of seasonality- the retreat of the daffodils, now done; the fragrances in the blossoms. Sharpening my senses. Reconstituting the little nature knowledge I have. I just about recognise a hawthorn here and an ash tree there.

I notice since my last excursion the appearance of flowers on the horse chestnut trees. As is often observed, they look like candles. I always think of my Dad; these were his favourite trees. So when I see them it’s like a little piece of him I find randomly in horse chestnuts big and small, either growing in woodlands or on road sides. Fancy seeing you here.

I walk into Bramham Park and along an avenue of trees. It feels like walking through a cathedral gate - like the gates of heaven, on my way to meet God. The sweet smell of blossoms of early May and birds singing in the trees adds to the effect.

This tree pulsating up to the heavens is like an artery and I am as such inside a huge body:

Here are some handy rules for walking in nature:

• Take time to be still. I’ve found just standing for a minute or so various animals start to appear that were originally spooked by my movement. We can tune into subtlety. • Look up. Something about reminding ourselves that we’re on a planet. Also noticing the movement of clouds, offering indications about the changing weather. • Take a deep breath. It’s almost like doing an analysis – each breathe is a unique scent or flavour constituted out of all the different pollens occupying their various parts per million

Down country lanes, bordered by trees, are fields for agriculture, enclosed in the same way, and farmed over centuries, producing food for the populous as it grew. Like something out of a Thomas Hardy novel. We don't live forever but we participate in eternity.


It starts to rain, I stand underneath an elm tree (I think it’s elm), see that in the distance the clouds are moving on. As well as the pattern of the raindrops on the leaves, I can hear sheep. Not a single object in my line of view tells me of the 21st century. The eternal now, beneath all the noise of our present agendas. I take another deep breath. It is always here.

Waiting for the rain to reduce in frequency on the leaves is like waiting for the number of covid cases to reduce so that we can move again. A couple of passenger jets fly across in the distance - I wonder who is on them and whether they are wearing face masks.

As I walk back up the slope, I have to up my pace to pass a couple of walkers, maybe in their seventies. I make an unfunny joke about overtaking to defuse the social awkwardness. They return warm smiles and laughter. The basic goodness in people.

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​© 2020 by John Hills

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