Uuuhuu…big breath. I’m down to only six in the household and have a little more room to expand.

Today I managed to take the dogs for a walk over Hannaborough and in just a few days so much has appeared and the countryside has shifted and changed. I love the way it alters and moves, infinitesimally, but directionally and forever forward. It sometimes seems the landscape is locked in time, but remove yourself from it for just a memory flash and all changes.

This afternoon I found lousewort, lady’s smock, oak trees in the initial explosion of bud burst, skylarks ascending heaven high on a note and the first swallow flying over the farm. The deer have rearranged their groups and are subtly preparing to drop their calves. I felt I was walking a bridge between disappearing winter and oncoming spring.

I know I’ve mentioned that when I walk I think. All your debate and comments over the last few posts are beginning to spill through into my consciousness and form ideas. One that keeps pushing itself to the forefront is our unconscious search for the familiar…what we, or our mind’s eye, are used to. Take livestock, for instance. I choose and breed for certain characteristics and traits that appeal to me, no doubt ones that I picked up from the first stock I ever kept. When I go to look at other people’s animals again I tend to pick qualities out that reinforce my ideal. I believe that this mental process is the same with landscape too. I can remember the day I first saw the countryside around here which I now find so attractive – it was alien, uncomfortable and altogether different from anything I was used to. I searched for the familiar, attempting to compare it other far-flung landscapes I knew, even Indian grasslands, African bush, tropical jungle…but without success, of course. So putting this feeling to our debate on the countryside, perhaps this is why we are so passionate about what we see or want to see – we constantly search out the well-loved familiar? What I fondly romanticise about is another’s bête noir. There are even those who adore the flat fenlands…But as we become accustomed to new environments, so we can come to love them too, as I do now the haphazard countryside I live in. And as the strange becomes familiar, so the desire for order and structure, the need for everything to be explicable and classifiable, diminishes, and we welcome rather than fear the unexpected and unmanaged. At least I do!

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