Patterns in the Sand

How do you see the natural world around you?

I see patterns in nature all the time; everywhere I look, there is order and beauty. They emerge from everything I see, like a flower slowly unfurling its petals in the ethereal golden light of the first rays of the rising sun.

The clouds overhead: not just a cohesion of water molecules to be categorised with names such as ‘cumulus’, ‘cirrus’,  ‘altostratus’ and ‘cumulonimbus’, but rather every possible form of nature that can burst forth from my mind. Cirrus clouds become horses’ tails, a peacock’s tail feather or the feathery plumes of Pampas Grass.

Tiny grains of sand blowing across, at their scale, the seemingly infinite and empty expanse of a beach: rather than drifting randomly on the zephyrs, they form lines, shapes and patterns, creating order. Constantly changing, the exact mechanism that directs the movement of these particles is still not fully understood. Not that this matters; we do not have to understand nature to appreciate it. We simply have to stop and take time to see, to hear and to feel the world around us. We just have to still the mind and allow it the space and time to explore its surroundings.

A flock of birds wheeling, darting and diving in the sky: birds such as Starlings, Dunlins, Knots or Golden Plovers. They all display feats of manoeuvrability and split-second reactions that we, more advanced humans, cannot begin to replicate. Yet can they see, or appreciate, the patterns and shapes that their actions create? Or does this ability only live in our minds?

As I study the birds, animals and plants around me, I cannot help but see the patterns all living things seem driven to create. In my book, A Life in the Trees, I wrote about the patterns I saw as I explored the woodlands around me. I now feel that the riparian world - that realm which lies between the land and the river - will be a central theme in my next book, and the rivers that I am following, as part of this latest quest, provide so much insight into this aspect of the natural world. The Kingfishers, Dippers and Great Spotted Woodpeckers that form a central part of this new story are as much bound to the patterns of the natural world as the tiny grains of sand blowing across that empty expanse.

And, like the river’s rippling currents here alongside me, or the currents of air wafting those ‘peacock feathers’ overhead, I am as bound to these patterns of nature as they are…I only need to open my eyes to see them.