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– The bigger picture

March 19, 2013

monkey and sofia blog the bigger picture headermonkey and sofia blog the bigger picture

Here we are in March already, pulling ourselves out of a long, cold and wet winter, intent on looking forward to sunnier times.  Actually, I’ve been trying to work out if this is winter really has been longer or whether it just feels that way, maybe it’s the excess of cold, wet weeks that have made this winter seem so interminable. Isn’t it strange how time can feel so elastic, telescoping back and forth in our memories making us think that some event was only yesterday when it was actually months ago and conversely, things which have just happened seem to slip quickly into the past.  Maybe that has more to do with how we feel about particular events rather than real time.

Actually, the only thing which ticks along in a fairly regular and even pattern is the passage of the days; they mostly do feel the same length.   This probably means that our minds can just about deal with twenty four hours, more than that and our grip becomes less firm and our feelings more hazy.

I sometimes wonder about our perceptions of things, like how long things really take, time actually passing, distance between events and the changing seasons.  Those things are all in sharp focus here, even if we have difficulty keeping tabs on them or being aware of what is happening.  At this time of year we are willing the lovely days of spring to arrive, wondering how long it’ll be before we feel the warm sun on our chilly skin, when if we could just take notice of the bigger picture, of all that nature around us, we’d be able to see that it was already happening.  March is incredibly different from December or even February when everything appeared to have stopped.  We hardly ever heard the birds singing, we were enshrouded in a muffled grey light, the hills covered in mist, soundless apart from when we were visited by heavy rain or the roaring wind rattling the roof tiles.  But now the light has changed, the trees are full of noisy birds and everything is coming back to life so quickly.  There are lots of wild plants here and they have burst into flower just in this last week, there’s colour everywhere.  Many plants are like the gorse and broom, bright, perfect yellow and the leggy heather so pink that the opposite side of the valley, which is usually brown, looks as if it has been sprayed with a soft haze of pinkness.

The track from our little hut down to the pueblo takes us through high pine trees, big rocks and boulders which are now surrounded by sprays of bright yellow and pink, everything so alive, fresh and vibrant.  Those plants have been there all winter, dressed in their dull winter clothes, blending in with the damp grey background, now they’re covered in flowers.  It’s the same thing as time, one moment things are happening and the next they are slipping into the past, retreating into obscurity.  But isn’t it amazing that nature produced these cycles, dark, brooding, unproductive times followed by the big burst of colour and transient beauty.  Actually I shouldn’t think of it as amazing because it’s the plants which have the real rhythm, it’s what nature does all year through and it’s what we have so much difficulty grasping.  I wonder if it’s to do with perspective, our vision has got so close or short, I’m not sure which but we spend more and more time looking at things near to us, right in front of our noses, like computer screens, television and the ever present mobile phone, that to stretch our eyes away from the immediate is almost alien.

Our little place is hunkered down on a steep hillside.  Pine trees and rock loom behind us and the land slips away in front down into a deep valley.  It’s so steep it’s not possible to get down to the bottom, there’s water there, we can hear it foaming for days after a big rain storm but we’ve never actually seen it.  We’ve plenty of windows to look out of and can see for miles, right across the valley to the mirror steep slope on the other side where we are level with the top of the burnished, pink heather hills.  On clear days we can see to the horizon some sixty kilometres away.  We are accustomed to our crow’s nest view, sky all around, but it’s still possible to be surprised.  Out on our little porch, which protects us from the strongest elements of the weather, I could hear the griffon vultures circling and naturally looked out from under the porch and up at the sky.  When I couldn’t see them it took me a moment to realise that my perspective was wrong, I was looking up when I should have been looking down.  Down to the trees below where the birds were flying, it appears that sometimes we are above the birds.  The trees down there look so miniature but really they’re huge oaks.  Down there is where the sky starts and the tree tops sway.  Our difficulty is in understanding what we’re looking at because we are so high up and trees are usually something you stand underneath.

In the same view we heard a rumbling noise and after adjusting our eyes, could just make out a little yellow shape appearing and disappearing under the trees right at the bottom but couldn’t work out what it was.  A person?  Some sort of bird?  Eventually we realised if it had been either one, we couldn’t have seen them because they’d have been too small. Having dusted off the old binoculars we squinted down and saw a tiny yellow tractor moving backwards and forwards in the lens, ploughing the ground under the trees.  Even though we were seeing and understanding what it obviously was, it took some time for our minds to accept it because the thing was so, so small when we knew those tractors where huge.  Literally, we couldn’t believe our eyes.

But it was a very useful thing because now I often think of the yellow tractor when I’m trying to understand how nature works or how long or far something seems.  It’s easy to be looking through the wrong end of the telescope and not getting a real perspective.

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