2016 was not a good year. Apart from all the grim and ghastly things happening in the news, that seemed to rock the foundations of the type of society I thought I lived in and promised more un-nerving and disturbing events in 2017, personally it took its toll.
Starting early on Christmas Day 2015 with the sudden death of a beloved aunt I have said farewell to six members of family or personal friends. I know I’m getting older, but it seems too many, too quickly. Then there were the unending procession of public figures from my formative years.
I’ve been struggling with how to keep on picking myself up and believing in the future – “the arc of history tending towards good” as President Obama phrases it (roughly).
In times of doubt I have turned, as so many before, to the natural world. At its most basic, the sun will rise tomorrow, the year will move on and plants will come into bud and flower. I’m lucky to live in an area with a species rich wildlife – there’s lots of it.
Last year I had given up putting food out for the birds as I seemed to be mainly feeding the local squirrel population and, believe me, they needed no further encouragement. So I put a really squirrel proof bird feeder on my Christmas list and I’m delighted to say that Christmas Day brought two offerings. One is a swanky pole with hooks hanging off it with real, hi-tech squirrel proof feeders, They have metal shutters that come down over the food if a squirrel tries to clamber down to it and then springs back when the pest gives up. It took the birds less than half an hour to find the food when I first put it out. And not a squirrel in sight – so far.
The other offering is a clear plastic feeder that you attach to a window with suckers. I have put it on the second floor and it took a few days for the birds to find it. I was woken this morning by an odd thumping sound. Grumpily I assumed the racket was caused by a squirrel. Hilariously it transpired to be a great tit helping itself to a black sunflower seed. It was a very determined bird – standing inside the food hopper it was bashing the seed against the rim, that it was supposed to be standing on, with all its might trying to crack the hard husk and get to the kernel inside. In order to get into the right position it had its rear end wedged right up against the clear back of the feeder. First time I’ve ever been mooned by a bird!
Well if nature can still deliver a laugh to start the day how can I not take the hint. So let’s keep on keeping on and trying to build the sort of world that we want. No-one ever said it would be easy or plain-sailing!