August 10

Seeing the Small Things

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Perhaps they were as startled as I was! Standing on the edge of the meadow before sunrise I heard them crashing through the long dry grasses behind me. Within seconds the young buck was on my left, the doe on my right. Just feet away. Regarding me with curiosity they paused before ambling on through the dew laden webs and drip spangled seedheads to disappear into the rolling mists of dawn.

I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so close to a wild Roe Deer, the moment is etched deep in my bone memory. There’s a lot to be said for standing still in a field as the morning creeps over the treetops. Giving nature time and space to have its way with you is hugely nurturing. But it does take time and space, both of which are commodities we are probably programmed to give to more ‘productive’ pastimes.

Exploring the meadow in the shadow of my deer encounter I became absorbed in the ridges and furrows that glistened on the body of a large black slug. On closer inspection I could see it was carrying the Grand Canyon on its back. Moving steadily up the saturated stems it slimed a path of its own making, eye stalks rhythmically extending and contracting as it tasted for decay.

My mind wandered into slug time and pondered on what this being could actually see. What does the world look like to slug? Light and shade? Black and white? What senses guide it to food, sanctuary or sex?

The closer we look, the more mysteries float to the surface from the depths of nature time. Peering through my camera lens I got lost in the universe of cosmic dew that strung together grass stems with invisible spider silks, each tiny globe telling a different version of the same tale.

Beyond the net of webs grassy seed heads stole the show, hosting a dance of dewiness that would disappear with the rising of the sun. Ripples of morning mist wove down from the woods to elope across the meadow into the stillness of the lake, all before the world awoke.

The heat of an August noon yellowed the landscape and conjured myriads of insects into the Devil’s Bit Scabious meadow, so many of whom wanted my blood! Along with the midges and horseflies bees stitched flightlines between same coloured flowers, ladybirds and soldier beetles hurried about their various tasks and flies danced the air into life. Lying back under the rustle of birches I closed my eyes and listened to the meadow as it blessed my body with buzz and hum.

Slipping through the syrupy light towards dusk I sat with rabbits. Again I pondered on rabbit lore. What tales do they share deep in their lair? I’m sure they do. Rabbit colonies need stories just as much as human ones.

And then they returned to me. The buck and his doe, the last rays of the day reddening fur and sharpening his tines. Fortunately we know each other quite well. We’ve been in relationship for more than a couple of years which is quite a while in deer speak. I saw these two begin to flirt, I witnessed them hanging back from the main herd to steal a few tender moments. I saw those secret encounters too, and the fawns which came from them.

Eventually, sometime during the first lockdown, they broke from the herd and set up on their own across the brook. I was unable to see the breakup. Was it easy I wondered. Or did they have to fight for their relationship? Last year he did indeed have a damaged antler, and this summer his flank shows signs of a deep scar. Perhaps the alpha male didn’t take too kindly to the love lorn young upstart taking one of his harem.

Thirty steps from me he scratched a patch of dry grass and settled down for a snooze. The doe barked into the darkening wood, calling two fawns out. Tumbling from hawthorns the twins twice barrelled around the meadow before merging back into oak and alder. A late evening dog walker clumsied by. The deer couple flitted from sight.

Little things of life lay down big memories.



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