Clouds burst. Bulls charge. Birds shit. Sometimes nature just annoys us. Other times, valleys swoop, flowers bloom and sunlight dapples. So, is it ok for us to change nature the moment it irritates us? Is nature only acceptable while it gives us pleasure?
I live in a marina on reclaimed land. It’s beautiful but entirely manmade. Yet it’s amazing how quickly nature has moved in. Seagulls, spiders, worms, oystercatchers, waxwings, ducks, swans…
Those damn seagulls!
Seagulls, of course, are the ultimate survivors. They breed and raise their chicks on our rooftops, pretending they are seaside cliffs. In May and June, they are vicious in defence of their young. Everyone talks about it.
Sure, their endless wailing squawks are annoying. Their dive bombing is intimidating. And sure enough, this year a firm is coming to clear eggs and nests from our roofs. All will be orderly again. But is that a good thing?
It’s ok to be annoyed
The desire not to be annoyed feels of a piece with the very trendy desire not to be offended. Yes, it’s certainly comfortable to live in a world where nothing ever annoys you, but that involves either tight control of your environment or a new mindset.
A nature that is manicured in order that it doesn’t cause any friction with my mind feels lacking, somehow. As Barry Lopez brilliantly observes in his book Arctic Dreams, what is compelling and awesome in being next to an iceberg is not simply its beauty, but also something more disturbing.
“I looked out at the icebergs. They were so beautiful they also made you afraid.”Barry Lopez
This disturbance is the reason some people (like me) enjoy being inconvenienced by nature. I love a storm, or a flood, or an inaccessible mountain. I like that something has been put in my way – something powerful and beyond my control.
If you like your nature less annoying, let me tell you about the day the waxwings came