I was brought up on a plot of land about a sixth of an acre. Born to a man who had left the embrace of land, but whose father was both a village teacher and a farmer. So land and by extension Nature was always around in my childhood.
Nature entranced me as a child. As I look back, I can trace many of my skills back to the days when I used wander across the compound on Saturday afternoons with nothing much to do other than climb trees, poke into warrens and eat a lot of fruit.
Nature taught me to See. For the two qualities most required for observation are the qualities that nature absolutely forces on you. The first is a keen appreciation of scale. The second, patience.
As a child you soon learn to appreciate that Nature operates at all sizes. From tiny little bugs that make concentric circles as they burrow in the tropical earth to large trees that groan with the lashing rain, our little plot had the whole spectrum of scale. And for a kid, this is pretty cool – one minute allowing you to rub your nose deep into the mud closely monitoring the intricacies of the earthworm and the next to swinging high on the branches of a monstrous mango tree.
But, you need patience with Nature – as all kids who have tried to catch a dragonfly to tie a knot on its tail will testify. (Incidentally, I tried to find a youtube video showing a real dragonfly and failed. All the videos are of rock bands, toy helicopters, Japanese Animes or even the odd nightclub. Does seem to say a bit about our current relationship with Nature).
Penguin has recently published this extraordinary book by Ruskin Bond on Nature. If you are a lover of nature, run to get your copy. If not, well, my sympathies are with you.