I have found that there is immense joy to be had in connecting with the inhabitants of my little urban wildlife haven. Most days there isn’t anything rare or exotic to look at. Much of it may seem mundane or commonplace – sparrows, blackbirds, mice, insects – but when you’re intimately immersed over a period you notice all kinds of subtle stuff going on.
Right now I’m sitting in the garden, just quietly observing; it becomes a kind of meditation. For a while it seems like nothing is happening; but in fact there is never nothing happening, at any time of year and any time of day. It might be slow, it might be subtle, but something will be going on. There’ll be an animal or a bird or an insect doing something, or a new plant that you hadn’t noticed before. And there’ll be sound; the longer you listen the more layers of sound you realise are there. The intricate web of nature is always there and is always amazing in its workings. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Nature can bring you to stillness; that is its gift to you.”?
This challenges me to evaluate my notions of what is significant and worthy of attention and what isn’t. I realise more and more that the everyday and the mundane are in fact extraordinary: there’s amazingness in the commonplace. The seemingly prosaic or unglamorous species like the sparrow or the earthworm or the dandelion can reveal itself as charismatic when we give it our full attention. It makes you question the whole concept of what is conventionally appealing or charismatic, which surely is no bad thing in this tyrannical age of stereotypical celebrity-based allure. And of course it applies equally to the human species; haven’t you noticed how the most seemingly prosaic individual can become fascinating when you’re delved into who they really are and what really makes them tick?
As you tune into the life of the wild garden, there’s stuff you can see and hear and there’s also stuff that you can’t see or hear but you know is there at a miniscule level. There’s a continuum, an infinite depth of detail: awareness grows of ever deepening levels of interconnectedness of which this little garden is part, of which you are part. And your interconnexion with all elements of the garden is a microcosm of your place on the planet and in the universe. Quantum physics shows us that our idea of being separate from everything else is a sheer physical illusion; our being does not end at our skin, and our bodies are not even solid: they’re bundles of microscopic particles that are constantly interacting with the rest of the universe.
Connecting everyday with wildlife in the garden – even in the city – takes us to an ancient way of being that is deeply embedded within us: immersion in and integration with our wild natural environment. On the clock which times our evolution from creatures which crawled out of the primordial soup to where we are now, our modern detached-from-nature way of living in houses and cities would represent a fraction of a second before midnight. This is why nature writing has had such a resurgence in recent years. Interest in nature and wildness is not some exotic hobby: it’s at our deepest level of being. It’s where we’re coming from, and where we belong, and where we still need to be able to be at times in order to be whole. That’s why, I believe, having a wildlife garden can provide such profound and diverse benefits to all aspects of our wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social.
Realising the importance of this interconnectedness, it’s beginning to dawn on some of us that humanity’s wellbeing and future depends on the fate of all the plant and animal species on the planet, down to the tiniest speck of life. We need to develop what nature writer Mark Cocker calls “a reawakened reverence for life beyond our own species” – and a surge in wildlife gardening could really help with that playing an important part in the effort to reverse humankind’s habit of ecological destruction.
Back in the garden, sensing this profound connexion, for this moment of time I suddenly feel a transcendent momentary sense that nothing could be changed to make anything any better. This is the Tao of wildlife gardening.