Though I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how I came across it, I think Twitter was where I first discovered Earthlines. It's my sort of reading matter, it comes optionally as a paper copy (sorry, just can't comfortably do the digital thing, even though I know it's greener) and also it immediately appealed to my sense of guilt that the editors and contributors are everything I'm not - committed, living their belief system, intensely in touch with their patch of the world. Because they work at it. Me, I like to read about such folk and think vaguely that I could be rather more like that if circumstances were different, but I know it isn't true. I know that, though once I thought differently, I'm not cut out to be a rural person (I know, not a prerequisite). I know also that the bit I truly want to match is the paying attention, and if I had any kind of commitment then I could practise that in, for instance, my parents' garden (tending to wilderness in parts) where there is an abundance of wild plants, insects and wildlife of various sorts - even if the birds irritate my mother by generally choosing to eat next door. They might live on a housing estate, but it's one where they regularly used to meet badgers coming down other people's front paths when they walked the dog late at night, not to mention the one that holed up under their shed for a day. For a while there was a partridge roaming about too - just as my father was wishing I could see it and I was staring out the front window, there it was strolling down the concrete drive opposite. Beautiful timing, and its attitude was so utterly relaxed. They have resident toads and plenty of slow worms, a wider range of butterflies in a day than I would normally see in a month, the usual range of small mammals perfectly designed for our past cats to leave as sad little corpses next to the milk bottles. Less welcome local rats, too, for a while, scurrying or sauntering past the back door on their way from somewhere to somewhere else, but neighbours have probably put paid to them, they haven't been seen in a while now.
Suffice to say that there would be plenty just there for me to study more closely if I truly wanted to, so doubtless the issue is, as usual, to do with insufficient will. Maybe one day I'll get there, but meanwhile I walk with a friend round a popular local reservoir, where we delight in the chance encounters - goldcrests in the conifers, a stoat completely oblivious to us and weaving in and out of a low stone wall, deer, a dipper (only ever one, and that rarely), treecreepers, grumpy-great-uncle herons. Though it's not the wildest of environments, we can still watch the change of season, year after year enjoy the butterbur, the first blossom, the orchids, the annoying tendency of the great crested grebes never to do their mating thing while we're around, even if they did once form a heart between them and we waited hopefully for, oh, ages. For now, and perhaps forever, all of this is enough of a thrill, but it doesn't stop me having a sort of lazy envy of people who try harder, live deeper.