Natural Living - Know Your Natural Neighbours

Natural Living – Know Your Natural Neighbours

by Ruth Lawrence

The summer brings with it a host of amazing opportunities to get close to the incredible wild neighbours on your doorstep.

What does ‘community’ mean to you? Does it simply mean the people that you share your environment with or a specific network of friends, family and colleagues?

My guess is that mostly, we perceive community mainly in human terms. People we see regularly, some we know, others who are acquaintances, more who are simply there who we recognise but have no relationship to. Yet there is another layer to community, one which goes beyond people, stretching out into the natural world we are contained in, depend upon and belong to.

Since we recently made the move from the city to the countryside, I have started to give attention to the creatures that share my local natural environment, those that I share my ‘biological address’ with. I’ve started to recognise individual birds; the juvenile magpie whose tail feathers haven’t yet grown, the baby wrens who perch inches from my face because they haven’t learned to fear humans and the bats who hunt each evening outside our window. I’ve started to listen for the thrush who sings loud and clear as a bell every morning from a particular oak by the footpath I walk along each day. I know that at some point, a heron will glide down to land on the neighbour’s roof to keep watch over their pond and that a green woodpecker will fly out from behind the old horse chestnut to pluck worms from the short grass next door.

All these creatures have territories, homes, routines, enemies and families and the more I notice, the more of a relationship I feel to their lives and wellbeing. I know where a tiny lizard lives so I tread carefully when in his vicinity and I’ve learned which flowers are restorative to a bee too exhausted to fly. All you have to do to feel part of this extended community is simply to notice, allowing eyes to range and ears to listen. Gradually it will begin to emerge and you will feel a sense of belonging to something wider that travels hand in hand with seasons and weather and your specific environment.

As individuals, we can make a difference. We may not be able to halt climate change or environmental destruction but we can create richly diverse habitat for creatures who live around us and in noticing them, we ignite that crucial relationship which means we care and become guardians of our own natural locality.