I’ve just got back from a walk with Harry. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to walk out of my garden and straight into acres of heath and woodland. Some days it’s glorious sunshine and I stop and wonder at the way the light plays through the branches in winter, how it dapples the leaves in summer. Sometimes I take photos with my phone camera so that I can capture the moment and share it with others. First and foremost, I stop and savour the moment, and admire how clever nature is, what a beautiful world we live in. I take a photo to a) record the moment and b) to share because what is beauty of any kind unless we share it with someone?
Anyway, I take photos quite often and post to facebook or twitter. And I’ve been thinking quite a lot just lately, about what we share on social media. To look at Facebook and Instagram etc. you could be forgiven for thinking it never rained. You can’t feel the bitter cold or my freezing fingers as I hurry along the mostly sandy paths. Social media is a perfect world and life isn’t like that – not that I want to share my ailments, my down days, my downright bad days. But it’s easy to look at other people’s feeds and see a perfect life.
This is the gate from my garden onto the common. It needs painting. If I’d been concerned about my world appearing perfect I would have painted it before sharing it with you – or taken a photo of someone else’s gate.
As I walk I see abundant purple heather, gorse, wild broom, straw-coloured grasses that glisten with dew. Silver birch, oak, pine and holly grow abundant and randomly across the land and it is truly beautiful – especially when I stop to drink it all in.
I see foxes slinking through the grass quite often, and deer standing perfectly still until they see my dog – and then they run like hell. Overhead there are geese, duck and starlings. It is a delight to behold. I also look down a lot to avoid stepping in puddles and stumbling in the tangle of tree roots. And looking down is a different experience altogether.
In autumn a herd of cows graze the common and I make a detour if I see them, loathe for them to kick out at me or my exuberant spaniel, Harry. The cows leave booby traps for the unwary and they are not the only ones. Many people ride their horses through the common and the horses leave their own large messages – not to mention the countless dogs – but their poo is not as photogenic as the cow pats.
In winter the ground freezes over and is then sodden and churned up into a boggy mess and then there’s nothing nice about it at all. I’ve slipped and fallen more than once in the muddy morass.
In summer there are grass snakes, lizards, adders and plentiful ticks that transmit Lyme’s Disease. You have been warned. The sun may be shining but there are still things waiting to catch you unawares – and they are not at all nice.
Life is like a walk on the common; sometimes you have to tread carefully, the pitfalls along the way may be many and varied – but there is beauty everywhere and you can always find it if you look hard enough. You have to filter away the bad bits and move on in hope. And you have to keep on looking up – as well as down.
So I will keep sharing the beauty because we need to, as W H Davies puts it, stand and stare. But remember that behind the beauty I may be standing in cow pats and falling in muddy puddles. Such is life.