• I saw a hare… where?

    A hare standing in a grass field
    The photo I didn’t get (Photo by Vincent van Zalinge)

    “Here hare here”

    So says the note found by Uncle Monty on the door of his Cumbrian cottage in the classic 1980s film Withnail & I. But the hare – that larger cousin of the common rabbit that few of us are very sure about – is not something you see here, there or anywhere. 

    Until today. 

    Today I walked within a couple of metres of a real live hare, startled it, and then watched it lollop across the field to the far hedge for a few minutes. I couldn’t believe how big it was. I knew they were bigger than rabbits, but I didn’t know they were that big. 

    Strange thing is, I grew up in rural Herefordshire. I’ve recently spent another few years in a Herefordshire wood, and yet my first sighting of a hare was on a scrubby field next to the fast encroaching urban sprawl of southern Malmö – Sweden’s third largest city. 

    Sweden has wildlife

    I know this. The elk, the bears, the reindeer. This is a country with proper outdoors. By regional standards, it’s populous – but it still has a population the size of London in a country the size of Spain. 

    But Hyllie – a suburb that has sprung up next to The Bridge to Copenhagen – doesn’t scream wildlife hotspot. In mid-November, it looks like some bleak noir version of Dubai. Cranes, bricks, dust, mud, piercing security lights, diggers, noise, tower blocks, etc. 

    My apartment is in the midst of all this. Funny thing is, there are rabbits living in the building site outside my bedroom window. They scurry all over the building sites. And now their larger cousin, the hare, keeping to itself a field or two away. 

    Nature surprises you where you least expect it. 

    Since we’re getting back to nature, Ever Wanted To Be A Bear?

  • Love your opposite

    Consolations of the Forest book by Sylvain Tesson
    What we think about when we think about love

    Watching people in airports is a great pastime. During a session in Copenhagen this week, I noted, not for the first time, how sibling-like many couples are. 

    They say opposites attract, but it’s amazing how often we choose a mirror image of ourselves. We choose self-love, in effect. 

    My polar opposite on Earth

    Which made me wonder whether it wasn’t a very well adjusted, secure person who is able to find the capacity to love one entirely different from them. That would be love. 

    The thought then chimed with something I read in the novel I took with me on my flight: Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin in the Middle Taiga by Sylvain Tesson – a wonderful mix of raw backwoods simplicity and highfalutin intellectualism. 

    Here’s what he had to say after a few months alone by Lake Baikal:

    Wouldn’t real love be the love of what is irremediably different from us? 

    Loving a Papuan, a child or one’s neighbour is hardly a challenge. But a sea sponge! 

    Considering how quick we are to love the comfortable and the familiar, it’s a good exercise to put yourself in the headspace of loving that which is weird and unfamiliar. 

    Love thy stranger

    On the human level, this is a case not so much of Love Thy Neighbour as Love The Person You’ve Never Seen Before In Your Life. Feel love for someone truly from another place, climate, race, culture, age. 

    Beyond the human, as Tesson himself goes on to suggest, it’s about getting as uncomfortably far away from mammals as possible. Dogs, cats, rabbits, bears – they’re easy to love. Ants, reptiles, sharks, spiders? 

    Then comes the real test

    What Tesson doesn’t extend it to, but which is perhaps still pertinent, is the love for anything, however repellent. Could you feel tenderness for carrion? Could you love a cancerous cell? Ultimately, could you as a living thing feel love for death and decay?

    One way to feel what an animal feels is to move like an animal. Find out more in my blog Ever Wanted To Be A Bear?

  • If we go local do we end up divided?

    To drop in or drop out? (Photo by Karim MANJRA)

    If we all go local, will the walls go up? It’s a paradox I mused on this week when I visited Hay Festival to see the incredible Spell Songs – a musical reimagining of Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’ The Lost Words – a book that’s spawning its own eco-activist movement. 

    Extinction rebellion!

    Everything right now happens in the shadow of Greta Thunberg – the Swedish teen who is bringing the adults of the world to attention about the crisis of climate change. So, too, Hay Festival. Her presence was everywhere in talks on every environmental subject of importance. 

    No more air miles

    Greta has famously given up on air travel. She visits European leaders by train from Stockholm. Her stance is common. I know many who have limited or abstained from planes, cars and anything that has been brought a long way to reach them. 

    There’s a balancing act here. If we go local enough for long enough, will we simply develop silos? Stop flying. Go offline. Eat food grown within thirty miles of your doorstep. All cool. But limiting. 

    If we all followed through on this for long enough, would we simply reinvent the pre-industrial age? Would foreigners become like fairytale beasts? Would the diversity of the world start to evaporate from our minds? 

    I am an internationalist

    For those who prize internationalism over nativism, climate change offers a tightrope. You wanna do all the right things, but you wanna keep waving to the others over there. You wanna stay connected.

    It’s a sweet irony that climate change offers a rather neat excuse for nativists and protectionists the world over, and yet they are generally ideologically inclined towards denial. 

    The right spells

    What I saw from Spell Songs at Hay Festival was eco activism. It was from-the-gut passion for the natural order of which we are a tiny part. It was a slow-down, do-less mantra. But it was offered by musicians celebrating the coming together of music and culture from around the world. 

    Are you local, or are you global? I am both.  

    When I showed my son The Lost Words, he began making up new ones. Discover some of them in my blog

  • Ever wanted to be a bear?

    Silver birch trees next to a frozen lake in Finland
    Prime swinging trees in Finland

    Last month, I met a woman in Finland who teaches what she terms “evolution training”. Since I love moving outdoors – and particularly love swinging from trees – I immediately wanted to know more. She told me. 

    Her name is Pauliina Toivanen. She is not only a natural movement trainer, but also a serious snowboarder, surfer and wild food forager.

    How to start moving like an animal

    “You start from the human and go down through the animals. You start using more of your body,” Pauliina explains. Step 1: move like normal. Just walk. Step 2: move like you would if you were riding a horse. 

    That’s where being human ends. “Next, move like a bear, then a pig, rabbit, lizard and worm,” says Pauliina. “That’s what children do. They have to build their body from worming movements.” 

    Now here’s the neat part:

    “Finally, go back to walking like a human and realize that you usually don’t use many muscles.” The resulting awareness is what Pauliina terms – in true somatic language – “a good natural scan of your body”

    So, to recap…

    • Step 1: Walk like normal
    • Step 2: Move like you would if you were riding a horse
    • Step 3: Move like a bear
    • Step 4: Move like a pig
    • Step 5: Move like a rabbit
    • Step 6: Move like a lizard
    • Step 7: Move like a worm
    • Step 8: Walk like normal again

    Try it. Go on, no one’s watching…

    Want more ideas like this? Check out my post: You are how you sit

    Want more Baltic natural madness? Check this out: The Baltic cure for fear

    Want to learn more about somatic natural movement? Click here