Describe your first memorable experience exploring and spending time in nature. Were you in awe? Or were you not impressed? Would you rather spend time in the forest or the city?
Photographers, artists, and poets: show us NATURE.
It was a long time until I saw my first field of wheat. I only knew it from the nature books and pictures, but to actually see and touch wheat heads, was unknown.
I did not grow up in the desert. I grew up in East London, my forests were old buildings, streets smelling of damp dust after rain. The only plants growing were those where seeds found a space between paving stones. Of course there were trees, big trees that no-one really noticed: they were just there. There was no-one that could give me a name for a tree. We had parks with bushes and grass. I think they were just there to compensate for the monotony of houses and apartment blocks to make a green surface in between.
Of course I had contact to wild nature. Nature always finds a way to show people “hello, I am here, and I will take over when you are no longer there”. In our area of London nature had to fight for its right to survive, we humans helped a little by having a war, World war II. Many areas of my part of London suffered from bomb damage and whole streets disappeared, were obliterated by bombs, leaving a flat area for nature to take over.
They were the playgrounds of my youth. Grass, weeds, even small bushes soon found their way and we youngsters had fun, finding strange insects, imagining forests, where anyone would say it is just weeds and bugs. We had nothing else to show us what the meaning of nature was. After a while, when London slowly recovered from the damage of a war, whole groups of houses were collapsing almost on their own. Windows did not fit their frames due to the regular shakes received from the heavy traffic. Doorframes no longer fit the doors and gradually the old houses were dying, never to be brought to life again. The houses were emptied ready for rebuilding. Our playgrounds now had empty houses to explore. The small gardens left behind had not only weeds, but real flowers. Sometimes if you were lucky you would find a straying rose bush, perhaps even Iris plants.
We had a small garden in our little attached house. My grandfather once planted iris, a yellow variety. One day many years later I read that that colour was a special variety. We also had a hedge rose which occupied one wall of our little garden. We had a privet tree. Now and again mum would buy a packet of mixed seeds. The main thing was everything did grow. Part of the yard (the name garden does not really qualify) was just stones and coal grit from the coal bunker we had in the yard. Sounds romantic I know, but coal fires were a normal way of heating in winter in those days gone by. The coal would be delivered in sacks and put in the bunker. There was a small flap that mum or dad would open and take a few shovels of coal for our fire.
Part of the yard was quite fertile and I remember someone giving me three small strawberry plants from school. I planted them and they started growing. I was as thrilled as an eight year old could be. Unfortunately one night someone jumped over our garden wall, probably running from something somewhere, and trampled them flat. That was the respect shown to nature in the East End of London at the time. I loved planting things and seeing them grow. We did not have the money for fantastic plants, but just a packet of corn seeds, nasturtiums or daisies did the trick for me.
Once a year we spent a week at the seaside for our holiday. It was a place called Herne Bay where I saw my first cornfield on the South coast of England. We were staying at a caravan site, one of the cheapest ways to have a holiday at that time. There was a field just outside the entrance to the site with these long stalked plants bearing seedy heads.
“What’s that dad?” I asked.
“That is corn I suppose” answered dad. Even he was not sure, although he had done a tour of Europe at the cost of the English government, dressed in a uniform. He had seen a lot, but probably did not really savour the blessings of nature at the time, although I believe he did realise that grapes were a valuable plant in Italy, being the source of wine: but that is another story.
Today I live in Switzerland in the country, where the fox and hare say goodnight to each other. There are cows at the bottom of my garden, bats fly when darkness reigns and crows, swallows, and red kites populate the skies, leaving some place for the blue tits, robins, woodpeckers and starlings. I always felt that the stork left me in the wrong nest as a child. I have now found my nest. I love every slug, snail, spider, dragon fly and ant that sleeks and creeps in my garden. Even earwigs and caterpillars survive. I just pick the ones up I don’t like and throw them into another field where they can carry on with their insect life. All nature’s creatures survive at my hands. Not that the place is full of creepy crawlies, I just remove them to another place. I admit I kill flies, but they never seem to have a population problem.
I even have two apple trees growing in my garden. One I bought which gives me a wonderful harvest every year and the other I planted from a seed which is now taller than the one I bought, but up to now has never had an apple.
I am now a country girl oldie and enjoy every breath of the country air I breathe.