And probably a lot of us feel this way at the moment, in this year where so much has been uncertain and nature just carries on doing her thing. And then again, we’re losing species every day to climate change at an unprecedented rate, with insect and marine life some of the worst casualties. The natural world has seemed such a soothing presence over the last few months but knowing that it is so under threat makes me even more thirsty for it right now.
The awful thing is, I was one of those children who always had my head in a book. We’d be in the car, driving through heart stoppingly beautiful places and my parents would beg me to look out, look out of the window, look! But I’d be in some other enchanted kingdom, or somewhere far back in time, maybe chasing ghosts through catacombs or sailing a little boat on the river Nile. At home I was out on my bike all day, racing with the neighbourhood boys, pretending that I was riding a fine Arab stallion or sometimes a dragon, flying above the clouds. Yeah – funny little kid, with an over active imagination.
My student room-mate joined the orienteering society and went out yomping with them every weekend, coming home absolutely shattered, grinning from ear to ear with her cagoule spattered in mud. I’d wave her goodnight as I minced out of the door in unsuitable shoes on the way to a club. The countryside was all very well in theory but all that fresh air played havoc with your hairdo.
I’m making up for it now with a huge appreciation for the natural world and the way that just getting my hands in the earth, walking through woodlands or hearing birdsong makes me feel right again when nothing else seems to hit the spot. Most of my art these days is in praise of, and inspired by nature. It’s the thing I keep coming back to, yet find myself unable to capture. Looking, really looking at a tree or all the colours of the sunset is hard and it is almost impossible to do them justice. It’s much easier to draw a cat or a cup of tea. Perhaps the only thing to do is try to create an impression, a mood or a reminder to go outside, breathe in, look up. And maybe it’s all part of the same continuum in the end as the ghost stories and the clubbing, just using your senses and your imagination to look, really look, be curious instead of taking these things for granted, to wonder at their shapes and colours and patterns. And if you’re really brave, try to draw them.