I come from good nature-writing stock. My mother, Susan Crow, has always shared her observations about nature, instilling in us all since childhood a love and appreciation of the natural world. My brother, Alexander Crow, the eldest of my siblings, studied the concept of bushcraft from an early age, sharing scraps of knowledge with us as we (or at least we elder ones) would go off adventuring down the Stenness Burn or climbing the stacks and exploring the caves of Deerness.
Nature-writing has, perhaps unsurprisingly to some extent as environmental concerns reach a fever pitch (though, sadly, something tells me we ain’t seen nothing yet), become increasingly popular over the last few years. Perhaps as a backlash to a capitalist way of living, perhaps as a form of soothing literary balm or a way of understanding ourselves; there has been more of an interest in the thoughts and experiences of those who live and seek to understand their natural landscapes in recent times (ironically, in inevitable turn, capitalism has now turned its head towards nature-writing and the marketability of its current fashion).
I have always loved immersing myself in writings about nature and the natural world, yet increasingly I am shocked by how much I don’t really know. I have sporadic shards of knowledge about places and landscapes in which I have grown, but it’s less that I have glaring gaps than I feel these spots of knowledge are scrappy floes in a sea of ignorance. Perhaps it’s because I am getting to the point where I want to share more with others. Auri is now nineteenth months old, and interested in everything: and one of her favourite things is to go on walks and explore the great outdoors. I want to be able to answer questions, to enthuse, to share not just love and appreciation but knowledge with her – as it was shared with me when I was young.
I need to start somewhere and, as this strange year is forcing many things to do, everything slipped into place in my mind about three months ago, mid-lockdown. We are fortunate in having The Woods straight out of our backdoor, more or less. A hop, skip, jump: and there they are. Scapa gets at least two walks a day in these woods (more at weekends, when she’s not off gadding about on her pack walks), and when we can we have been sharing these with Auri. Since the start of lockdown, Auri has graduated from crawling to walking to running full pelt through the woods, stopping only to collect stones and twigs (which she presents to us, and which we keep for a couple of minutes before discarding unless they are to be added to The Collection that is constantly growing on the dining table) and to investigate funghi or greet trees.
On Easter Sunday, Euan, Auri, Scapa and I took a walk through The Woods and recorded it for our friend, Wishdokter. I shared it online in early May, and it started my brain whirring. I had long wanted to dedicate time and energy to recording the seasons in some manageable way, and decided that The Woods would be the perfect place to start: a few thoughts and observations here and there, starting small, to see if my memories and theories about certain phenomena happening earlier than they used to year on year turn out to be correct. Hopefully, this small journal of observations will be both manageable right now in these time-fraught days, and expand into a habit as the years progress.
So, welcome to #TheMistySolitudes. Over the next year, I will share weekly observations and thoughts about The Woods. I also plan to utilise some of Euan’s #SplendidTrees expertise, and updates will inevitably at times also include Auri and Scapa’s latest escapades.
Let’s see how this goes.