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What are you borrowing from nature?

A week or so ago I was travelling up to London and needed to catch the first train of the day to get to my destination on time. Commuting is not uncommon for me, yet neither is it regular. I work mostly from home so there was something of a feeling of an adventure going on! The weather was lovely, carrying the promise of a good day ahead, and I benefitted from the amazing countryside between our place and the small rural station that I am lucky enough to have nearby. The short journey was one to nourish my senses, and through them my spirit.


On the radio I caught ‘Tweet for Today’, as I was already on the road before six. The bird at the centre of the two minute broadcast was the wood pigeon. I confess my feeling of wellbeing was put at risk as the wood pigeon’s song wakes me nearly every dawn during spring and summer, not always something that I am grateful for! Hearing it repeatedly over the airwaves triggered that sense of irritation that comes with being woken early, at least in the first instance. I do my best to love all of nature, yet woodies do put that intention to the test! Cumbersome on the ground, epic in flight, limited in their conversational range! What about their rampant sex drive too? Nary a day goes by without them bonking on roof ridges, power lines, fence tops. I mean how about a little discretion!? What intrigues me is that while they apparently ‘like’ procreation (forgive my anthropomorphising), and their numbers around our way indicate they are successful and yet, I have never knowingly seen a baby or juvenile wood pigeon. Have you?


My borrowing from nature today is in the form of this picture of Joe Pye Weed, a plant that holds a particular fascination for me. That's another story! (Photo: Jeremy Hinks)


Back to the point. Tristan Gooley, the commentator who was championing the wood pigeon’s song, told the story of his regular early morning walks into his local woods. On approach to the woods he notes being spotted by the wood pigeon sentinels posted at the top of the trees. Their loud take off provides an alarm that alerts others in the area of the threat they have seen.


On taking up a quiet and still position in the woods he talked about becoming at one with the environment, known and accepted by those same sentinels. He described it as ‘being joined in a network of understanding where we can feel and sense everything that is going on around us and we start borrowing from each other. This is what all the animals are doing. Just to spend a few moments as part of that network, is what it is all about for me.’


At the time I was really struck by that sense of being joined by a network which is something that I have experienced when I give myself time just ‘to be’ in any natural setting. What intrigued me more is that sense of ‘borrowing from each other’. What does that mean on a personal, community, and global level?


For me personally, I find it uncomfortable to wonder about how much I take from nature rather than borrowing from it. Am I borrowing all the food that I eat for example. That feels uncomfortably like one way traffic. Having said that in my own small way I do keep a garden in which I do play my part in the growing cycle be returning to nature all that I can. An example of borrowing, perhaps.

I believe the borrowing that Tristan was exploring is as a result of immersing yourself in nature, being accepted by the habitat and become interdependent with it, for however long a period of time you can manage. That interdependence, reframed as the capacity to give and take in equal measure, has physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions that I know I don’t attend to enough. The borrowing in these moments is a sense of shared understanding of needs and concerns, and a willingness to deal with them in a way that doesn’t disadvantage others in the environment.


The consequences of community and global mismanagement, of borrowing from nature, are starkly obvious. Collectively, we have returned to the well far too many times. Is it any wonder that it is running dry? Even as I write this piece I realise that I am about to go off on a rant about the global environmental crisis. To do so would be missing the significance of my response to the words I heard on that early morning commute. It was all about my thinking and feeling around how I borrow from nature. I have a feeling that I need to focus on getting my own house in order. If I do that effectively, and others do the same, perhaps we can come up with a collective understanding of how to borrow from nature, rather than behaving as if we own it. Maybe that might lead to community and global benefits too?

I am sharing some enquiries that came to mind to act as triggers for thought and feeling. I wonder if they interest you, or if you have any of your own prompts for curiosity?

  • How do you borrow from nature?

  • How does nature borrow from you?

  • What do you experience when you return something you have borrowed from nature?

  • What are the consequences to you personally when you forget to return to nature what is not yours to own?

  • What are the consequences collectively when we confuse borrowing from nature with ownership of it?

  • What might happen if you were to borrow more from nature?

  • What might change if you concentrated your efforts being mindful of how you are borrowing from nature?

If the exploration implied in these enquiries interests you, or you are curious about how enquiry on something that is particularly topical for you, please do get in touch with me.

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