Morag Kitson celebrates the quiet peacefulness of nature.
Leave behind the pall of cigarette smoke! Escape the sickly-sweet odour of someone’s vape that clings insidiously to all; a visible wall of chemical contaminants, cloying and clogging the air, thickening it to gelatine, an invisible press against the flesh.
When you step from the tunnel of buildings the press of people suddenly ceases; you pop, pea-fresh, from the miasma and can breathe deep of the cool autumn air.
There is something supremely pleasant, both freeing and liberating, about exiting between buildings and finding an urban oasis under open skies. The barest touch of brine layers behind the rich, deep, scent of the mulch hidden under the latest offerings of russet, honey, and gold.
A persistent rustle and you look up. The yew, still resplendent with its mantle of needles, towers above: one slender branch quivers and sags as a wood pigeon lands with a final, ponderous, heavy flap of its wings and you smile.
Grey squirrels streaked with copper chase each other over the seasonal detritus tormenting the magpies that dare to land among them.
One fat little Buddha of a squirrel, his white belly proudly displayed, his fluffy tail twitching occasionally, perches on his throne of tree litter as he surveys his domain.
Somewhere above you two crows call to each other with a deep throated caw that is the epitome of a dry, but chill, November day: their cries sounding hollowly in the vacant vacuum, echoing back to you, as you proceed along the beech-lined avenue where a red hued leaf occasionally gives up its stubborn hold on branch or twig to drift or spiral to the ground: benediction-like in its caress of the earth that will be its final resting place.
Somewhere in the distance you hear the higher pitched tones of seagulls manoeuvring through the maze of buildings and alleys in search of food.
Missiles of the sky, weaponised in their pursuit of a Gregg’s pasty or ill-guarded muffin, they dive, snatching choice treats from nerveless and startled hands before returning with cries of ‘mine, mine, mine’ as they find a viable lookout spot for their next victim even as they enjoy the spoils of the last.
Closer to hand a flash of a red breast and a dipping flight draws your eye as you track the robin who soars over the small pond to settle on the iron railing of the bridge where he fluffs his feathers.
Flitting from his vantage point he bullies the magpies and startles Buddha to scarpering up his tree wherein he pauses, upside-down, to chitter a rebuke to the scarlet chested interloper.
In the soft embrace of the verges, verdant tendrils of Yarrow can still be spotted, and Autumn Hawkbit displays its dandelion head, a miniature sun on earth, bobbing above the grass.
Red Campion, that cactus relative, hugs the base of the Holm Oak even as ivy creeps around its trunk while Petty Spurge and Stinking Iris grow with Hairy Bittercress on the overgrown embankments.
Closer to the moated island (that once housed adders) a profusion of Greater Periwinkle, the dawn lilac flowers open in supplication to the few remaining insects that feed from them, grows.
In an environment such as this, even chilled by the November air, a sense of peace steals over your soul and soothes the abraded senses. A quietness, a stillness, breeds inside and you breathe deeper.
Your eyes drift closed as you feel the delicate touch of the air caress your skin, leaching the heat from your nose and fingertips, feeling your cheeks pinch as the chill seeps inside, and you turn your face to the sunless sky relishing the calm of the moment.
No obligations. No commitments. No compulsion to do more than just be.
Your weight accepted by the soft loom as you recharge and revitalise your inner being, drawing energy from the earth, restoring a sense of balance and self you weren’t even aware was missing.
You open your eyes and carry this feeling, like a sixth sense, as you complete your circuit back into the press of people and buildings.
A heightened awareness of your surroundings, a mindfulness of your environment, persists and you find yourself noticing those natural beauties that have always been there, previously unseen by you: the Strawberry Ground Cherry that dances like Chinese lanterns in the breeze; the Purple-Top Vervain so reminiscent of Wild Garlic with its vibrant flower heads; the young brown and white seagull with its regal bearing; the petrol iridescence of the magpies’ black feathers; the silvery collar of Jackdaws.
As night falls a hush settles on the world. An achingly profound quiet… broken only by the distant hoot of an owl and the squeaking cry of a bat; its lonely silhouette briefly visible against the ink dark sky, half moon, and smattering of stars.
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