Nature Rap

I’m special agent Tom and I’m a nature detective.
My flow is pretty weak but my words are effective.
I don’t have a badge.
I don’t have a gun.
But my bat detector is set to stun.

I’m a naturalist, not a naturist.
I keep my trousers on when I’m looking at tits.
The great and the blue.
The crested and coal.
All my homies need is a nesting hole.

Trails in the grass and tracks in the dirt.
I crawled through the brambles, tore a hole in my shirt.
Trapped on barbed wire.
Fox shit on my shoes.
It’s started to rain, I’ve got the badger sett blues.

A skylark in a country park.
A scratch mark on some tree bark.
Sunrise on the equinox.
Making friends with a city fox.

Grab your field guides and join my collective.
I’m special agent Tom and I’m a nature detective.

I’m a nature lover, not a nature fighter.
Don’t be jealous of my A3 weatherwriter.
Don’t envy my hand lens.
Don’t diss my chest waders.
Save your rage for knotweed and the alien invaders.

I travel around in an old Citroen van.
Full of bottle traps and my beat up trailcam.
The idols I worship,
Are Rose and Rackham.
I was raised on Attenborough and schooled by Packham.

Winter hits and I’m trapped in the office.
Dreaming of hedgerows and the hazel coppice.
I’ve still got the fieldfare.
I’ve still got the redwing.
But I’m counting down the days until I hear the first cuckoo sing.

A bullhead on a riverbed.
A barn owl in a farm shed.
Barbastelle in a woodland dell.
A brown smear and a strange smell.

Grab your field guides and join my collective.
I’m special agent Tom and I’m a nature detective.

I hang around at night in weird locations.
I swear I’m not a pervert, it’s my eco-occupation.

Grab your field guides and join my collective.
I’m special agent Tom and I’m a nature detective.

Elegy

Endless winter holds the countryside in a brittle embrace. I sit forlornly, watching steam rise slowly from a mess of brash where the oak had stood. Columns and curlicues of vapour, liberated from the ruined xylem of a dying god. A murder cloaked by the illusion of progress.

The people in power call them veteran trees. They plot their locations on a map and write their names on a list. They’re national treasures, they say. Jewels in our natural environment, they say. Until things change. Until they stand in the way of the new town, the quarry or the new road. It was the important new railway that did for this majestic specimen, and a natural treasure was quickly reclassified as a nuisance. Dying and dangerous, they now said. A health and safety nightmare. Think of the children. A death warrant signed in chlorophyll, so that the bigwigs can get to Slough three minutes earlier.

According to official records the oak had stood for over six hundred years, but the records tell less than half of the story. Nowhere in the record books does it describe the fragile acorn laying dormant in the subsoil, bound into the foundations of a temple to a sun god. Nor does it describe the passage of epochs to which that humble seed bore witness, trapped motionless as the temple fell to ruins and dynasties rose and fell a few meagre metres above. The relentless churn of life and death on the surface had no influence, until the day that the acorn was dragged to the surface by the erratic action of a primitive ploughshare. Awoken by sunlight and damp, new life erupted from the torpid husk, and a new chapter began.

Six hundred years is a long time. Astrophysicists will tell you differently, however they generally think on a universal scale. Not me. I think of a man of wood rooted in the same spot; six hundred years is a very long time when you can’t even go for a walk. A consequence of such a long life, however, is that the world changes around you. The tree had stood watch over the reigns of kings and queens, through uncountable changes in government, and through periods of war and piece. Religions rose and fell whilst the surrounding landscape changed beyond recognition. Urbanisation and agriculture replaced woodland and heath, marshes were drained yet the tree survived. Wind, lightning and drought all took their toll, as did pollution from the noisy new machines, but the roots stood firm. Sturdy and steadfast, until today.

The important people were right when they said that the tree was dying, and yet their definition was so lacking in nuance as to be laughable. We’re all dying, every last living thing, albeit some much more rapidly than others. To categorise an organism as dying is to ignore the glorious value of decline, and in some ways the tree had never been more alive. The term ‘tree’, a singular noun, is troublesome – a tree is host to a vast ecosystem, and a dying tree is truly comparable to a great metropolis (and is ultimately equally as unsustainable). The dying tree, with its labyrinth of damage and decay earned over many centuries, is home to unfathomable richness and diversity of life, from magpies and mosses to moths and mycelium. Each parasitic in some way to the mighty host, just as mankind clings leech-like to the natural world. On many nights I had listened to the faint chatter of roosting bats within the cracked and crooked limbs of our tree, and had closely watched the hole in the trunk where the tawny owls lived. All gone now, forever.

I ponder sadly the toll taken on our environment, and wonder when the flywheel effect of our destruction will take us past the point of sustainability. Perhaps we’re already there? I turn my face away as the rising vapour dwindles, unable to bring myself to witness the final ebb of spirit at the close of a life well lived. As I trudge slowly down the sunken lane to the village, I reach into my pocket and touch the small heap of acorns hidden within. Acorns that I plan to scatter in a small act of defiance to those that relentlessly destroy. Each a potential new veteran. Each my own minor act of treason.

Inglorious

 

The vixen lay dying in the undergrowth, wracked with searing pain where the cruel snare bit deep into flesh and sinew. She was used to being hurt, indeed her whole life had been one of pain and hardship, but she knew that her struggle was nearing an end. The hunters had found one of the places where she came to drink, and had concealed their crude wire traps in the bracken that lay along her regular path to the woodland stream. Traps with one purpose, to devastate that which had previously been so full of life and spirit.

Her final act was to drag herself into the undergrowth, as far from her natal den as her maimed leg could manage. Her kits were strong and nearly full-grown, yet their chances of surviving the winter without her were slight. She knew that her moribund form would attract attention from animal and human alike, so finding a secluded spot to wait for the inevitable end was critical. Her final act of motherhood would be to try to keep the evil fuckers as far from her younglings as possible. In seclusion lay safety, and in safety lay a chance.

The fine divide between life and death was a constant in her short life, and she herself had been the angel of death and destroyer of worlds. She was a killer, but she was different to those that were soon to take her life. She killed to live, and to ensure the survival of her offspring. She killed because she was part of nature, and nature is primal and vicious. Yet she never killed when she didn’t have to, and she never killed for pleasure. Her conquerors were different. They were not part of nature, but instead saw it as something to be owned and controlled, to assert dominion over. It’s true that their species had once killed to live, but those days were many generations past. Now they killed for sport and took pleasure from apportioning pain. They hunted for the sheer joy of taking life, self-proclaimed gods intoxicated by their own importance.

None of this mattered now, of course, as she lay still in the undergrowth. Her breathing grew laboured and shallow, her eyesight milky and dim. The fading light of day picked out the crystalline sparkle of the leaf litter, the cold air turning evening dew to the first hoar-frost of winter. She had so nearly made it. She had so nearly escaped the brutal end met by so many of her kin, and yet the hunters had won in the end. In some ways her ending was more peaceful than those meted out to others of her kind, be it by the crack of a shotgun or evisceration by the baying hounds, however the result was always the same. One more life exchanged for a fleeting moment of satisfaction, soon forgotten. One fewer scrap of beauty in the world.

She thought she could feel the sun on her back as she closed her eyes, never to open them again. The hunters never found her.