When I was a small boy, I had 2 large maps which I used to lay out on the floor. One was of the world and the other was of the UK. I used to put books on the corners to stop the maps from curling up from where they had been rolled up and stowed away beforehand. I used to feel like a giant looking down at both maps. The world map seemed so vast. Each country a miniature representation. I would look at capital cities and know that within that dot were millions of people in real-life, out there someplace, milling about and doing their thing.
The UK map showed just the geographical area in which I lived and yet the scope was still hard to get my head around. The idea that within each place name were people, places, houses, cars, families, lives. I was trying to visualise a person. Just one person. How they might look on that map but again the scale was too large for me to do that. Nowadays with online maps we can zoom in and make out individual people, cars and then zoom out again. That was what I was trying for. I was trying to make sense of the vastness of the world outside of what I knew. Outside of my street, the suburb in which I lived, the wider county and then the country. It was endlessly fascinating to me.
So it was recently, that I found myself in the back garden looking at areas where I could place bird feeders. It was in doing this, I discovered a concrete bird bath. I thought if I could cut the foliage from around it and wash it out, that would make an ideal place for the smaller birds to come and drink as well as wash themselves. I noticed there were a number of leaves in there. I approached to start moving them out from there when suddenly hundreds of tiny little insects began jumping into the air. Their home was the bird bath. When they were jumping they could easily be seen however when they settled back down again, they were invisible. A tiny world within the world of the garden, within the street, within the local area, within a suburb, within a district of a wider town. Worlds within worlds. I left them to it, without further disturbances.
I was that little boy again delighting in the enormity of the world except for a split second I was in insect form looking at the giant of the man who stood there spellbound in that timeless moment. Ever since spending time in hospital last year, I feel an interconnectedness with all things. I have always cared for the natural world and tended to it however there’s a spiritual side to it all now. A feeling of being alive in this moment and so when I am in the presence of other living organisms, whatever the size, I feel a sense of gratitude, awe and wonder that we are all here in this moment, reflecting life back to one another.
I am sitting here now typing this. I have a boy cat stretched out on the floor beside me and a girl cat laying with her head on her catnip toy. Across from me is the Buddleia bush which has grown exponentially since planting it out 2 Summers ago. In front of that is Hypericum and then to my right is a damson tree and to the left a hedge of some sort. Within that will be insects, arachnids, all sorts of creatures and they are all here right now, living out their lives.
Before I was taken into hospital and then into Intensive Care, I was aware of all of this on a knowledge level however subsequent to leaving and returning back to the land of the living, I am now aware of the world around me on a feelings level as well. It’s as if the millions of living creatures, some so tiny you would need a microscope to see them are all collectively in my mind’s eye all of the time.
Everywhere I look is life. The buds are returning to the bushes and trees, the garden looks greener by the day, the sun today has got its hat on, the birds are singing and within the boundary of my home and garden are millions of life forms. Their lives will largely go unnoticed by the many however not by me. Worlds within worlds within worlds.
What a lovely post, Jonathan! I love it when you write about Nature from your unique perspective and your “new” perceptions after the recent hospitalization. Life is certainly a precious gift; yours is a gift back to those who know you.
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