Challenging Habitat Blog

Sometimes it is simply necessary to have a big horizon.

Even, or more accurately, especially during lockdown.

Sometimes my daily walk in nature is spoilt by my mind not letting go.

Thoughts are occupying it like wire wool: persistent and abrasive.

It happens when I allow (perceived) urgency to take precedence over importance.

What I mean is this:

My walk in nature is important for my wellbeing, it is a time to relax, exercise and fill my lungs with fresh air, have fun games with my dog, see, smell, hear, feel and simply be, here and now.

When I allow the wire wool to tumble around in my mind, I have lost what’s important in this moment. Instead, I am caught up in work(overload) or a futile frustration about something I can’t change anyway

… you know the sort of thing that keeps you awake at 3 am sometime …

Today was such a day. Something so apparently urgent spun around in my head that I wasted most of my precious time outside. Blind to my surroundings, unaware of myself.

Until a flash of colour caught my eye: a fungi reaching out to me from among the dead leaves.

It brought me right back and with a smile on my face I remembered what was important in that moment.

Reflecting on this, the ‘urgency versus importance’ conflict may be a useful consideration in other contexts, too.

Could the simple question whether something is important, urgent or both, provide clarity for decision making in work, play and relationships?

(…and whose urgency is it anyway?)

This feels like full circle: lesser celandine is back in flower.

Back in April, during the first lockdown I wrote about this bright little flower before….

…and we’re still in lockdown.

It feels like a long while!

Blue sky, sunshine and a fresh wind in my face: happy moments and feeling alive.

As the second covid-19 lockdown in the UK draws to a close, I won’t be alone in, once more, evaluating the important things in life.

For me it’s having positive, loving and healthy relationships.

With nature: being outdoors, experiencing it with all senses, exploring and observing, learning and understanding, connecting deeply and striving towards sustainability.

With people: family, friends, communities, humanity in all its diversity and self.

Clarity. Stripped down to the foundations of happiness, wellbeing and resilience.

For me, ‘necessary travel’ was to the coast today.

To experience the expanse of the sea and walk with a friend.

Even on a grey November morning being on the water is wonderfully good for my soul.

The last mist is lifting over the still water and faint song of birds is all around.

Leaves have changed colour and fallen since I’ve last been here, only beech and oak are holding on.

The reeds lost their gold.

A flash of electric blue and green across the water and into the reeds. It lights up my face with a big smile – to see a kingfisher is pure happiness!

A damp November Sunday under COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

‘Damp’ is one of those understatements I adopted while spending half my life in Cornwall: the rain showers are interrupted by brief spells of light rain.

I am walking my dog down local country lanes in a chill wind and rain, with falling leaves under grey skies.

Not much cheer?

That depends on the perspective:

The rain is washing soil off the land and getting me wet and dirty. Bit it also replenishes our water resources.

The cold spells death to vegetation and the wind rips leaves off trees. And this reveals the colour and texture of other parts of nature: fruit and lichens, bark and branches.

It provides nourishment for organisms that live off dead plant matter and it prepares the space and conditions for renewal.

Am I looking at the end or the beginning of a cycle?

Or both?

A new dawn (perhaps in more than just the literal sense).

I begin the second nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown with an early morning paddle on the Tamar estuary.

It’s beautiful.

Thick mist is drifting down the valley, I hear a barn owl and watch the aerobatics of a murmuration of starlings over the reeds.

Two egrets alight.

The sun, still hidden behind the hills and fog, illuminates the moon high in the sky.

And eventually the blue of the day wins over the dark.

I’d like to take this as a sign of hope in the US presidential election…but on the morning of the 5 Nov 2020, that jury is still out.

Emerging from a good night’s sleep to a peaceful, sunny morning in the Narrows of Raasay fills me with joy and gratitude.

The exhaust repair successfully completed, we’ve set sail as soon as leaving the dock and are cruising comfortably South at 5 – 6 knots, now powered by the wind.

Sustainability in practice!

We’ll pick up this theme with the installation of a wind generator aboard in the next few days.

The gentleness of the motion and tranquility of sounds of wind and waves around the ship is good for the soul and everybody’s mood is lifted.

As we are progressing from Lewis to Harris, we get busy with casual observations of cetaceans before we even start our dedicated survey: pods of porpoises, two minke whales traveling together and adult common dolphins with juveniles. Joe identified the sighting of a species new to our voyage as striped dolphins.

The slight sea state allows crew to carry out maintenance aloft.

Meanwhile, voyage crew relax in the sunshine while not task with watch duties.

From my vantage point on the bowsprit, I observe the distinct change in behaviour of a pod of six common dolphins: I first see them cross our bows in NEly direction, turn due north to meet us, then play in our bow wave, turning belly-up and showing their underside for a while, travelling south with us, before departing in SSWly direction.

Is it as much fun for them as it is for us to watch?

Even as the blue skies turn grey nature’s spectacle is awe-inspiring.

Soon we’ll be anchoring and taking more samples for analysis.

Darwin200 day 12: fair winds

My day started at 06:00 with a profile of the water column to check salinity, oxygen saturation, temperature and pH.

After breakfast we commenced to be busy with Happy Hour, which means daily cleaning chores around the ship.

Based on subtle changes of these parameters, we decided to take samples at four different depths, including near the bottom at 25 m and near the surface.

After breakfast, y watch was allocated to scrub the deck during Happy Hour, the daily cleaning of the ship routine.

I took the opportunity to sample what went down the scuppers from the port poop deck with our plankton net. Analysis under by microscope to follow. But it’s not looking too pretty!

Then it was all hands on deck for setting sails: inner foresail and gaff, spanker and three squares. And we pretty much tacked and braced throughout the day, and still going strong now into the night.

An impromptu yoga class led by the ship’s medic Jo on the welldeck made use of the stable motion of the ship running down wind. It finished with a loooooong plank and let’s just say that the young men caved in before the mature women…👍😂💪

After lunch, we run our daily cetacean and macroplastics surveys and analysed samples for nutrient concentrations.

A lovely moment occurred when I spotted two adult bottlenose dolphins with two juveniles playing in our bow wave.

Magic! Especially in the spectacular settings of Skye to starboard and Uist to port.

And now, a big moon and the first stars appear on the darkening sky.

It is a privilege to be here and in such good company!

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