Botany For Beginners
Here on the island of Luing, in the Inner Hebrides, a great deal of the land is pasture grazed by the unique Luing cattle..of which more later. After a few months in residence (not IN the pasture) – I’m increasingly clearer that the pasture itself is unique. Every square centimetre of it is teeming with botanical life..and where it escapes the tread of the beautiful Luing bulls (and the feet of the hiker) myriad forms of insect life pass through, as busily, if at a slower pace, than trains and customers through a city station.
The origin of the word botany came from the Greek word ‘botane’, which means “grass” or “pasture”. Since the original meaning focussed on the idea of a pasture – in it’s earliest form botanical study may have derived from a herdsmans need to identify what was the most nourishing food (vocabulary.com). Pointing a camera up close – it’s difficult to take an uninteresting photo’.
With today’s wider perspectives misted over by low cloud or sea-fog (called a haar in northern parts) and a camera lens that required much wiping; I took a long walk for some ‘short’ views. Light was sharp if grey, and continually but slowly fading. This threw the closest elements of landscape into technicolour relief, to the point of surreality.
Lifting my head in the driving rain, to check that me and my feet were heading the same way, I was regularly startled to find verges and views jump out at me in flourescent tones. It’s strange when your own eyesight registers a natural colour as though’ it had been photo-shopped to shock. As a passing friend remarked “the bracken is now the colour of the bulls”..blood-red graduating to chestnut-brown.
Knowing I’d soon have to make a U-turn and head for home before light fell further, had me picturing all the small creatures hidden from my view making similar plans. I imagined deer and birds sheltering under wind-shaped trees on craggy hillsides..plus parties of insects fighting for the best bunk in the mushroom motel..complete with toadstool toasties and psychedelic cider. Meanwhile I made do with two damp digestive biscuits and dreamt of a hot-toddy beside the woodburner.
The beautiful slate ground-work laid by my clever partner at the back door of home is lit to guide me safely at dusk..and I realise that the move to pastures-new was a good move..not least as I was recently lucky to meet a real-live botanist who lives on a nearby island..
and she is as daft as I am about mosses and lichens.
Not for nothing does my partner call me The Mossochist.
Botany For Beginners