It’s good to be outside, in the sunshine. Compared with people who are confined indoors, for whatever reason: illness, disability, work, fear, danger or imprisonment, I feel very fortunate. Apart from the facts that the sun shining on our skin makes Vitamin D and exposure to natural light is a natural anti-depressant, being outdoors, especially in any sort of natural environment, nurtures that part of us that is undeniably animal – in other words – we need to be in nature because that’s where we belong.
Before the Industrial Revolution and stretching back through the previous millenia, humans woud have been outside for a lot of the time. And they needed to understand the outside and work with it. If they didn’t know where and how to hunt and gather and later on, how to farm the land to get food, then they’d starve. That was a pretty strong incentive to get it right. Not that it always worked and these days we’re luckier, in the West at least, that we’re not doomed by an exceptionally cold or rainy winter, a dry summer or just being unable to grow our own food. There are shops. There are scientists and agriculturalists and even national and international systems of trade and distribution, so maybe the biggest hardship we’ll know is the ‘shortage’ of courgettes last summer or the priceof strawberries going up.
But it doesn’t take long for the knowledge and competenece about the natural world and how to make it work for us, to disappear. A few generations of not living on the land and a lot of that knowledge has gone – or only survives as a token: growing chrysanthemums and a few tomatoes and feeling pleased with ourselves.
Here in Fryslan, it’s been possible to get back to nature – a bit! We’ve got less of the civilised infrastructure than when we were in our house; I’ve mentioned before the getting of drinking water, emptying the chemical toilet and refilling the lamps rather than turning on the tap,operating the flush or flicking the switch. And although the NL has less exciting scenery than the UK, because it’s basically a man-made country, they have succeeded in bringing nature ot the people. Flowers, trees, water and rough uncultivated areas wherever they can. As proof of the ‘wildness’ , we saw two hares on Saturday.
In this park in Leeuwarden, the trees are just beginning to get their leaves and some are flowering.
The grass has been cut this morning. There are lots of flowers springing out of the ground and there’ll be a succession of them throughout the summer.
When I look at a flower or a tree, I realise that in many cases, I’m looking at something my very distant ancestors also recognised. What’s more, they’d have known more about each plant than I do. Having been brought up in an inner-city area, I didn’t have enough familiarity with nature as a child. And consequently, I’m shamefully ignorant about it. When I was teaching Science, students would usually groan and complain when the topic was anything to do with plants. It seemed they wanted Biology to be about ‘cutting things up.’ But of course, all life on Earth depends on plants and without them we wouldn’t have air to breathe or anything to eat.
So I’m off to learn more about these green things and hopefully be able to do more about ensuring that we don’t ruin our planet, to the detriment of future generations.