We are quietly sat on a bench, my friend and I, as we tuck into the booty of the season spread between us - a pack of mince pies, a small box of chocs and a steaming mug of coffee. Simple fare but totally adequate for this much welcome catch up and mardle about our year, the highs and lows, our engagement with all things wild and thoughts for the future. And I get to steal the occasional glance into her lovely brown eyes, so I'm more than satisfied with the arrangement. But although we are surrounded by the sounds and sights of wild birds; the ‘pinking’ of chaffinches, the chittering of blue tits, the distant squawking of wildfowl on the broad, my friend confesses to unease over her role in the conservation life she has chosen. She loves her job and the wonderful people she works with, but I detect seeds of doubt. Can she really make a difference in the face of so much ill intent? Is there really a point is caring? These thoughts resonate with my own mindset of late since I’ve often found myself wondering exactly the same thing. Perhaps with awareness comes a greater sense of despair; maybe in this regard ignorance really is bliss. But how can you fight against the tide of evil despoiling our planet? What can you do about the speed with which mankind is destroying the wild creatures and wild places that we should hold sacred? Sometimes it is very hard to stay positive; hard to see any happy outcomes.
So whilst we sit and chuckle over our Spartan picnic surrounded by the mild and misty Broadland landscape with the woodland birds busy at the feeders, I sense things need to be rebalanced. For both of us perhaps some revalidation is required. The simple truth is we're not going to change the world. Our horizons need to be set lower and the goals pegged at a modest level. We must put to one side the decimation of rain forests, the mindless slaughter of millions of migrating birds, the rape of Africa, the despoiling of our seas - the list seems endless - and we must instead concentrate on what we can, and indeed do, achieve.
My friend works with young people, running events for schools and families and she is brilliant at this. Who knows how many young minds have been inspired to look at the world differently? And I told her so. She is part of a movement that safeguards beautiful wild places and creates a living, breathing sanctuary for countless creatures. This too I pointed out. She abhors the very notion of anybody harming any animal for whatever reason and as we spoke she laughingly told of an ex-colleague who, thanks to her example, will pick up a worm if he sees it on a wet road and move it to safety. It is amusing, but we both agreed it represents an ability to influence peoples thinking. She has done this.
We moved on to reminisce over those times when a connection was made; the look of wonder on a child’s face when they see a swallowtail butterfly, the youngsters that get so fascinated with the contents of owl pellets that you struggle to drag them away from the soggy mess in the dish, the fascination when a scrum of young heads crowd around the contents of a pond dipping tray, or the excited chatter when something unusual like a grass snake or kingfisher (thankfully) appears. It brings a smile to everyone’s face and for a brief moment makes all the planning and stress so, so worthwhile. And she does these things all the time. How worthwhile is that?
And like the slow parting of a thin Broadland mist the melancholy lifts and we consider our lot with fresh hope. We are after all just ordinary people who have been lucky to work in extraordinary environments with some exceptional people. The big issues facing our planet can never be addressed by us alone; we can only ever add our voice to the mass protest that may make governments listen. But we can make a small difference closer to home and in a modest way my lovely friend has certainly done this. She is a star like so many others I have the privilege to know. Keep smiling young lady because you have so much to give.
Merry Christmas folks! Many thanks for supporting this blog during the year. I’ve found it most enjoyable to write and I hope you have gained some little enjoyment from reading it.