Saturday, 7 December 2019

Crossroads

What would we be doing with our time if we didn’t have an interest in the natural world around us?I’d not really given this a thought, but a recent Blogger exchange with Ric has changed that. What indeed...

Was there a moment in your life that switched you on - seriously switched you on - to becoming almost obsessional with wildlife? There was for me. I’ve blogged about it before. It was the moment a Jay hopped across our back garden lawn and ignited my 15 year old mind. There had been opportunities for this to happen before, times when I had acknowledged a bird, butterfly or mammal but had not felt inspired enough to delve further. Had that Jay not appeared in front of me, would another event have occurred in later years which would have had the same effect? That is hard to predict. I can only imagine that as you grow older, and your mind becomes less malleable, such events would lose their potency, and would be out-competed by any passion that would have been subsequently embraced.

So, no Jay, and no other ignition further down the line. Where would I now be spending my time?

Seeing that most of my mid-teen years was spent birding, I need to look at what ‘floated my boat’ just prior to that. I did have hobbies. I collected stamps and coins. I played football and cricket. I was in the schools athletics team. I went and watched football (Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Sutton United). I read avidly. I painted. Any of these could have become addictions. Maybe I would now be one of those Spurs supporters who go to every game, home and away, spending thousands of pounds each season on tickets and travel; or I would be an exhibiting artist having honed my artistic skills through years of fine tuning; all those history books I devoured might have found me wandering fields with a metal detector or volunteering with an archeological team; or maybe another thunderbolt from a completely different sphere would have struck me and carried me off.

Chance plays a big part it where we go and what we do with our lives. When we reach a crossroads we don’t always knowingly decide which road to take, as we have made our choice by instinct and might not even be aware that we have. It is not until much later that we can look back and see where our life-choices were made.

I’m so glad that the Jay did decide to hop across that lawn back in 1974. Without it I would have missed out on an awful lot.

14 comments:

Ric said...

Sounds like you had a moment like L. Evans did with a Green Woodpecker, Steve.

I never had a light bulb moment myself. I mean, I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of nature around me. The Ladybird series of 'What to Look For', was something I grew up with, along with publications such as,'Tell me Why?'

My grand-parents had a farm, so wandering the fields finding Skylark nests and seeing Hares was part of the journey before the age of eight.

The first birds that really caught the attention were like you, a Jay, a Tree-creeper and Tawny Owl. Those I knew the names of when I saw them. But another bird which I saw when I was barely five years old from no further than about four feet, burned it's image into my mind that I can still see it now.

A tiny jewel of a bird appearing in front of me on Chorleywood Common stunned me with it's distinct markings. That zonking eye stripe and bright colours stunned me. But for some reason, I think I already knew what it was. Fifty odd years later I'm pretty sure it was a Firecrest.

Yes, I think that was the first bird I was aware of.



Steve Gale said...

Thanks for sharing this Ric. One of the wonderful things about blogging is sharing our thoughts and personal histories. Great stuff!

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I'm off to Donna Nook tomorrow hope to see something inspiring there

Stewart said...

You already know my background from my blog posts Steve. Like Ric, I have never had any other interests or hobbies. It may have been a book that really started the ball rolling.I read the first edition of Heinzel Fitter and Parslow in 1972 from cover to cover, amazed at the illustrations, when I was 8. Even my other interests are wildlife related, from Art, Photography, Gardening, Walking etc. The only thing I do that isn't is watching films and listening to music. Am I bothered? Not at all. There is enough interest in our field to last several lifetimes over, taking in science, art and even intellect and philosophy. I love it!

Derek Faulkner said...

Wildlife and birds in particular, have never been an obsession in my life, they have simply always been a part of it, ever since I joined the Kent Ornithological Society in 1959 as a 12 yr old and have been a member ever since. We all have side interests that come and go as we progress through life, some stick longer than others, but I guess the only time that wildlife took a back seat for any length of time was in the 1960's when I spent a few years enjoying most of the excesses that came with those years. After that came marriages, playing sport and trying to be normal but always supported by an interest and involvement in wildlife.

Steve Gale said...

Simon, Stewart, Derek - thank you for your comments. Even if some of us have had wildlife in our blood since a tender age, and, like Stewart and Derek, it has just been there, it is still an interesting exercise to wonder what subject(s) could have possibly replaced it had it not been there in the first place. There MUST be other interests out there that we would love but just haven’t tried. Hang-gliding, water-skiing, bell-ringing - never liked the idea of them, never tried them, but who knows...maybe they would be obsessions had I done so.

Derek Faulkner said...

Well I did forget one thing that was a serious obsession right through my adult life and that was sunbathing and being obsessed with being as brown as I could be. That led me, through the 1980's, to become a nudist, even going on nudist holidays. Sunbathing has only dropped off in the last five years but prior to that it got ridiculous and came before more urgent family problems and would even see me leave the sun bed out ready in the garden so that I could rush home in my lunch break each day for an hour's tanning.

Ric said...

Derek, that's quite an admission, but should you decide to delete your comment, I have copied it with a view to using it as a form of blackmail later on.

I have other activities myself such as angling, running and cycling. I've done those for decades. Nothing obsessional, just a good level of application. I don't play at anything, but do know my limitations. I'm not directly competitive either.

I've tried all sorts of things, but nothing un-civilised. I've jumped out of aircraft, discovered I've no aptitude for music. I can't string words together to any extent or draw. And an excursion into academia simply proved how thick I was.

The expression, 'Everyone is good at something if only they found out what it was', is incorrect. The expression is really 'Not everyone is rubbish at everything'.

The question then is,'how bothered are you to find out?'

Steve Gale said...

Good points Ric. The answer to your last sentence is “not that bothered at all” although I’d be intrigued to know if there IS something out there that I’d be brilliant at or become obsessional about if only I’d been exposed to it. As for nudism, if I had more to be proud about I’d give it a go...

Conehead54 said...

To some extent I've always had an interest in wildlife. Yet I was born + lived in a very urban part of London & my family had no such interest, yet I acquired the bug. Park visits as a toddler clearly inspired me + so my first connection would have been feeding the ducks (no Canada Geese in those days locally!). In fact I was more familiar with exotic ducks than I was with say common waders. Can remember my excitement seeing my first Redshank from the train along the River Exe as we went on summer holidays in Devon.

I can also remember as a toddler getting excited about seeing Red Admirals at a similar age & at primary school seeing 2 & 7-spot Ladybirds on the school roses.

TV certainly inspired me as a kid with Johnny Morris, Survival + numerous other programmes. I loved the plates in the Ladybird books which had me salivating over them- especially the spring, summer ones before finding the more informative Observer books. Also old cigarette + tea cards featuring wildlife.

In my teens interest waned a bit but still went to uni doing biological sciences. Can still remember my excitement at my first trip to Slimbridge + my first couple of foreign trips to the Camargue + then to the Florida Everglades.

I've never been into sport (I think my father tried too hard as a big sports fan!) + these days natural history is almost all consuming, though also have a passion for a wide range of popular music from all eras.

Today enjoy foreign travel to look at fauna/flora, love doing my local patch, doing surveys + even leading the odd trip. Nature just inspires me!

Steve Gale said...

Thanks Conehead, most enlightening. Where are you based now, and does your blogger name betray a love of Orthoptera?

Conehead54 said...

Hi Steve- currently reside in west London suburbs so plenty of green spaces here. Yes got into Orthoptera about 20-39 years ago- then I could ID them by call. Sadly I can't hear most of the UK ones now, but still hear Field Crickets in Europe.

Like most naturalists I got into butterflies first as a kid, then as a younger adult dragonflies. These days got much more into moths + take an interest in quite a few groups including shieldbugs, hoverflies, ladybirds + try with bees.

Stewart said...

I would have liked to play the guitar or piano...or fiddle maybe...

Yossarian said...

A fascinating thread... very interesting contributions. One thing that interests me (as well as the thought of Steve as a Spurs 'ultra') is self-discovery vs parental-direction. By this I mean my own interest in birds was triggered more by perusal of illustrations in the AA Guide to Birds circa 1969. When my mum sent me on a RSPB spotting day trip in the New Forest (think we saw dartford warblers in a gorse bush about 150 metres away) I was bored out of my head. Yet I've learned nothing... taking my boys out walking when they were young I'd batter them with 'that's a goldfinch; look, another buzzard and, wow, a peacock butterfly'. I hope something has sunk in but self discovery is always the best - sitting in the garden bewitched by an owl sounds best.