As I reach the end of the road at Waterloo, I spy willow glinting in the low-lying sun’s rays – they still have a hint of red from the sunrise.
I touch the tough but slender stems and as I do so realise that there are tiny green buds peeping out. Lime green in colour and barely visible, but the sun of the last few days clearly making its mark on the early stirrers. The stems are woody and give a sense of strength but also able to bow in the strong winds that batter its exposed position. The willow forms the edge to the path just before I reach the gate onto the heather-clad moor.
As I head across the moor, a sense of self-consciousness hits me. I feel silly. I never feel like this with my camera because it legitimises what I am doing. What will people think if I am touching grasses and plants and then speaking into my phone? I reassure myself by realising that most passers-by will still be in bed. It takes a while for me to touch the next piece of nature. I sit on a bench nonchalantly and speak some thoughts into my phone.
“I sit on a bench and look at the different grasses. I am feeling unable to touch them. I am feeling somehow that it is not allowed or a bit strange. I touch some grass, a clump . . .”
Sheep frequent the moor especially during the lambing season, along with nesting curlew. The signs confirm this fact. The tussock is soft, and the yellow/cream grass has been very closely cropped by the sheep but there are some delicate heads that have escaped the sheep’s attention and glint in the early morning light. The tussocks not only provide a soft place to rest a head but also sustenance for a hungry ewe.
I lean down to touch an entirely different grass – sedge. The deep green and upright strands are thick, coarse, and rough to the touch – giving a sense that the slightly barbed grass could easily cut the bare legs of an unsuspecting walker.
I start to think about the weather these grasses endure over the winter and their resilience as they start to shoot and re-emerge, as they always do each spring
I feel more confident now and grasp the heather still brown from the harsh winter. It is surprisingly soft and gentle to the touch and not a hint of the rather ragged and rough feeling I had assumed through visual sense alone. Its stems are extremely strong and gnarled.
And finally, I put my hand out to touch some stems emerging from the still cold ground but glinting in the sun. It feels good to sense the strength of the emergence of nature in these fragile, yet resilient grasses.
Reflections and learning points
This experiment has been extremely interesting and helpful in developing my practice. Here are few thoughts I recorded on my return journey:
- Recording rather than writing in my journal is helping the flow of touching nature so it may well help the flow of my photography too.
- Maybe it is a good idea NOT to take my camera sometimes. This morning, I have been recording my thoughts, and the act of taking photographs has interrupted the flow of my thinking. In time, it may be possible to combine talking and taking photographs in my practice.
- Interesting that I feel compelled to take photographs of what I am touching – I am feeling hesitant about my writing and think that if I add a visual then readers will understand what I am talking about. I always feel the need to add a photograph to these blogs.
- This short experiment in touching nature has opened my eyes. Touching increases the richness of my experience in nature. I should do this as a matter of course. I reflect that using all my senses is important for my practice even though visual stimuli will always be dominant. Will repeat this exercise down at the loch.
- As in my photography, I feel my writing is better for the immediate translation to the blog. It has an immediacy, and it seems to me that any accompanying writing I do should be close to the present too, and not violated by reflections that might come a while after my immediate experience of Being. “I am driven by the immediacy and excitement of the experience at the time.”
As I near the end of my walk, I start to think about the people that are still in bed, and who will have missed all that I have seen and touched in nature this morning.