The landscape that I am thinking about if not some wild stretch along the coast or hill side here in West Cork. It is, rather, my immediate surroundings – our garden, where I have access any time of day or night and can make observations in any season of the year. Let it be during my early morning stroll past the vegetable plots to the back where everything is disorderly and where wild things grow, or let it be during the height of day when the sun is streaming through the tree canopies, or at times when Irish mist engulfs us and brings the clouds real close to the earth. Night time too is good to find and learn to understand the many creatures that are about.
Our garden is small, it slopes down slightly and it has four mature trees giving shade, a chestnut, silver birch, hawthorn, and a Mediterranean oak. These all provide shelter for the many birds that frequent on a daily basis, from the little wren to the hooded crows – all are very welcome.
I find it a source of immense pleasure and joy to observe not only all the plants that grow, but to see and know all the wildlife – every little creature, to find out their species, their lifecycle, their name. To take photos of them helps me sometimes to study one or other aspect of them in more detail. There is always more to learn and discover, and I find a lot of information on Google as well as in books.
Why my garden, and not the larger landscape around me. Well it is down to logistics really, my garden I can go into at any moment, it is a daily ritual, a meditation that I have got so used to that it would be hard to live without it. The wider landscape does get observed too, but not that frequently.
In the garden next door the people keep a pony, this attracts a certain amount of flies to the neighbourhood and that is good. The other neighbour keeps a small hive of bees, and it is nice to have those come into the garden at times. Behind our dilapidated sheds at the very back, where some rotting wood also gives shelter to a variety of insects, the ground, covered in wild plants and grasses, slopes down towards the town, well below us.
And so this small bit of nature, filled with wild plants and herbs has an eco-system all of its own, rich in variety and brimming with creatures, a goldmine for anyone with an interest. Great joy can be found in reading this landscape and finding new discoveries every day. The changing seasons, even the high temperatures and drought recently brought about unique or forgotten surprises, like the very large wasps that we had not seen for many years.
I watch, and listen, and observe, and I find that the natural world is a great source of joy!