Desmond Tutu said so many wise things about reconciliation and how to argue against injustice, but this one speaks so eloquently about how the natural world and the need for conservation coexist that I quote it again in hommage to the great man.
“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.”
After writing my last blog where I mentioned tardigrades possibly lumbering through the moss, my husband was inspired to dust off his microscope and we finally went looking for them in earnest.
Moss bears like damp places and after a very wet year our garden is full of moss. We took a random clump, soaked it overnight in a little water and put a drop of the water from the moss on a slide.
Within minutes my husband yelled that he could see one. I haven’t looked down a microscope for a spectacularly long time and took a much longer time to make out the tiny translucent blob that had to be arrowed before I could see it.
Without his help I don’t think I would have seen it, but once I was convinced it wasn’t a trick of the light, I could see the hoover bag body and the stumpy legs of this astounding creature . I had almost considered them to be mythical : but there it was, a real tardigrade!
Swimming in the drop of water were euglena , algae that can swim . All the rules are being broken by looking closely at the moss at the foot of my humble bird table.
“ To see the world in grain of sand, infinity in an hour…” Blake .
Empty gardens turn my eyes to other things and I am always delighted to see life in the oddest places . My bird table has a lichen on its roof and it flares pale green in the wintry light .
This is probably Parmotrema perlatum and it is indicative of cleanish air. Lichens are a very ancient symbiosis of an algae and fungi combining the abilities of both to create an organism capable of living in virtually every place on the planet and colonising the most unpromising surface for life .
There are two other types of lichen just on this little bit of wood. I can’t identify them with confidence but their compact, complex beauty astounds me.
The post of the bird table is streaked with green algae and it seems fluorescent on this dark day. At the foot of the table is an up turned slab that is being slowly smothered in moss. I have thought of brushing it off, but for what reason? Why would a bare concrete slab be more lovely than this moist moss garden that I like to hope harbours mysterious tardigrades clambering slowly through like teddy bears?
Oh and the sparrows come for breadcrumbs and scraps everyday on the table of the bird feeder. They harry me with indignant squawking should I forget them and dare to step out of the house empty handed.
They are not however the only life here, the table it’s self is almost more extraordinary, if a deal quieter, than the hungry birds themselves!
Cat with the snow falling Contemplates the spaces where the snow is not, The sliding spaces that come and go Talking of Micheal Angelo And of nothing Filling and falling, Falling.
Cat confused for an instant by the particular, That piece of snow that will not go, The one that makes a streak and catches the eye But then her eyes cannot follow it any more And it falls with all the rest Merges into the general white, The soft white Falling Falling Falling.
As Covid rears it’s ugly head again in this part of the world, plan B is definitely in place and we find the wonders of the woods as absorbing as vin chaud or tinsel at a Christmas market.
Now all the leaves have been whirled away by wind and rain, there is much more light in the forest . On the floor, some plants positively gleam with fresh growth in the winter sun.
Oddities like hazelwort show fat green pennies of leaves against the moss.
Hart’s tongue ferns have such a wonderfully evocative name as their leaves curl out like the tongue of an amorous male deer .
The hard shield fern is almost invisible except in the winter, when it shines out fresh and vivid amongst the fallen leaves.
Maidenhair spleenwort sounds at odds with itself. Maidenhair sounds delicate but spleenwort sounds positively painful. However, the fern itself is beautiful and it falls by steps from the wet rocks.
This young male fern is flourishing in the winter light.
And finally, with the promise of a Christmas flower is this stinking hellebore. The name is harsh as I have never actually smelt it’s apparently bad smell and it is the wild relative of the Hellebores that grace our gardens and decorate tables at Christmas time.