Wonders can cease

The caterpillar is a work of mother’s art. It can hold my eye for eternity I WAS RECKLESSLY SELF ASSURED AND UNWAVERINGLY COCKY

We are anxious. The dry air is rich in song and we have a host of familiar feathered friends home again, from the screeching swirls of swifts to the almost impossible to see wrynecks. The orioles and bee-eaters bring respite. But colours are missing.

Our Priorat home, Mother’s Garden, is really a thigh-high fennel forest. We have left this hardy plant with its deep tap root to spread randomly on open land in the hope of riches. I walk looking for the pattern of lime green, black and orange clinging to a stalk or side shoot. For the first time in 22 years I have found none. Nor, subsequently, has there been swallowtail butterfly brilliance on the wing.

The caterpillar is a work of mother’s art. It can hold my eye for eternity. Like so much in nature there is nothing in the human imagination to match it, not even close, as it is with all biodiversity... if we can but stop, cease self-obsessions bend and see.

I will keep looking. For my search always brings other discoveries. Relief comes in the company of the sturdy, life-force Cleopatra butterflies that love the Mediterranean buckthorn bushes and patrol the woodland edges. Their burst of yellow on green tinted wings leads me hither and thither, mindfully. Then I look back forlornly at the rampant fennel.

We could not, of course, see the earlier migration of the painted lady butterflies passing overhead hundreds of metres above us. Symbolically out of sight, out of mind, like the griffon vultures that while cruising at great altitude can spot an animal carcass 5km away. Or the crow eagles that will rise more than 5,000 metres. We hope some painted ladies may call in at the farm as they have always done. I cross my fingers, too, that there is enough dampness in the north shadow of the ridge for the swathe of strawberry trees (cireres de pastor) to bear fruit and give life to the beguiling pasha butterflies.

There is a faded photograph of an idiot – an inebriated me – belting away with sledgehammer at the roof beam on which I am standing. The pointless conservatory had to go. I, on the other hand, was recklessly self assured, indestructible and unwaveringly cocky that life had to be taken by the horns. I had in that hedonist time of life lost touch with the once bewildered boy within, who walked and absorbed alone in nature and who was acutely aware of consequence and the diverse world, the critical need to balance and sustain.

The conservatory was not the only thing that came crashing down. I have lived and I have learned, fundamentally how little I know. I stupidly forsook my early years’ innocence and the essential art of treading softly.

In a nutshell – thank goodness for second chances, for second childhoods and the possibility to flag the short-sightedness of our sledgehammer world .

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