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Ronan's report

Saturday October 7th, 2012

Treading softly, I edged my way to the corner of the wood. The wind was in my face taking my scent safely away across the moor. The noise of the wind helped mask any unintentional noises I made as I crossed a small ditch and slid under a barbed-wire fence. The spongy and mossy peat-bog silenced my steps and I felt like a wobbly ninja, moving like silently and unsteadily across the moor towards my target.

Slowly I peered around the corner and down the edge of the wood. And there they were, fifty feet away. Three roe deer. The two does were happily grazing away, but the buck saw me instantly. He didn't panic though, calmly standing his ground and continuing to slowly chew. His soft eyes stared at me unconcerned, his black and shiny nose twitched.

I wanted him to stay there, with his does, for them to share some time with me. But he didn't. The buck knew something was amiss and after a minute or so he simply turned his head, almost casually leapt the fence and disappeared into the dense pine. The does followed immediately.

I was left standing there, jilted, again.

Jilted, but unbowed.

I'm used to this. Nature does not return our affections. It remains wholly unmoved by our love for it.

My evening drive back from Edinburgh has me heading southeast out of the city. With the sun behind and a little to my right the autumn evening light has been spectacular. Dark stormy clouds of marbled purple roll over red-brown hills and a pewter sea, contrasting sharply with spotlit golden wheat fields. The landscape seems to glow as if lit from inside.

One evening an isolated rain shower dead ahead was picked out as a splashed fragment of the brightest rainbow and, climbing the hill into our valley I could look back at giant pillars of rain over Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills, with the sun so bright that the moor glinted and shone.

I stopped the car at the top of the hill, wishing I had a camera, falling in love with the view once again, wanting to stop the clock and to fix the clouds and the sun in their perfect positions.

Then the rain shifted with the wind, the sun sank a little, and light was gone.

Like catching the eye of a lovely woman on a passing bus. Your head is turned and your heart leaps. And the bus carries on. Nothing to be done.

You can't stop the world, and the world doesn't care.

It's very odd, isn't it, that we invest so much emotional capital in something that is supremely indifferent to us?

I love fly fishing but it doesn't love me.

Sure I get something out of the relationship: Feelings of satisfaction, triumph, privilege, belonging; perceptions of grace and beauty. But the world itself cares not one jot whether I go fishing tomorrow or the day after, or at all.

Nature doesn't love us back. Sometimes it seems to hate us. Flooding rivers, bright sun, strong winds, midge bites, an awkward overhanging branch. All of these can make it seem like the world is against us. But it's not personal, even though nature may sometimes be able to claim just cause.

With the advent of the human race and for the first time (in our part of the universe anyway) a small part of nature can make value judgements on itself. Is this just an incidental side effect of billions of years of evolution?

Our feelings of affection for the world about us: the softness in the gaze of a deer, the sparkling beauty in a rainy sunset, wonder at an emerging mayfly and a rising trout, could all be useful in our drive to survive. We want to wake up to another sunrise, to see the fresh green of next spring, to catch another trout. To do this well we must work out how best to fit in with nature, how to live with it and within it.

We are indifferent to the universe's indifference, just so long as it takes us along for the ride, letting us love it.


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