The Blog

On Perfection, Planning and Losing



In our facile society, perfection is glossy, fabricated, manipulated and made to order. Yet we are surrounded by unmistakably perfect moments - a smile from a stranger, a funny joke that makes us laugh so hard we almost fall over, being told someone cares about us, a warm, soft puppy falling asleep in our lap. Perfection is simple and unfettered, a single moment that once it is gone, is impossible to replicate on demand.

This photograph is one such moment: on the way back from the woods today, it was raining buckets and the hound and I were drenched. This tiny leaf had landed on the road and two perfectly formed drops of rain set sail upon it.

When we just stop from the crazy pace in our heads, we see the most extraordinary things. Right there. Waiting.

Photo copyright S. van Dalen

Plan ahead

Our generation surely does not bother to save like our parents did. Our lives have become so unpredictable that most people will have an average of eight jobs throughout their careers. Whole communities that were made up of generations of families working in the same industry are now a thing of the past. We're the global generation- our peers come from all over the world and usually live continents-away from their families. Traditional families have been replaced by make-do support networks - friends, waifs and strays who all help each other out as the need arises. Long before there was globalisation in manufacturing and supply, there was cross border confusion and cultural schizophrenia of lonely souls. These lost souls exist to this day. Look around you.

The squirrel however has learned to fit in; it looks at a British beech nut and does a tap dance of joy. The grey squirrel was once a foreigner brought in to the UK from the US. The indigenous red squirrel found the grey squirrels impossible not least because they stole all the food and worse yet, developed a maddening habit of eating fruit and nuts in their immature state and not even waiting for them to ripen. This particular survival technique of the grey squirrel ensured that it thrived to the detriment of the red squirrel who, well, preferred their fruit and nuts à point.

In 2008 the credit crunch came upon us. A sort of oxymoron, credit crunch really only signified that the schemers had miscalculated. Those who manipulate and play God usually find that the party eventually ends but like the grey squirrel, their propensity to adapt and prosper also becomes their saving grace. After all, the parallel universe in the trading markets is not exactly the real world.

In the meantime, beech nuts are aplenty in the woods these days and when the squirrels have feasted upon the nuts and thrown away the shells, we can take photos of them like this one. There are so many nuts that the squirrels are exhibiting a trader-like mentality- the ground is carpeted with nuts that are half eaten as if to say "Let then eat cake!"

Photo copyright S. van Dalen


This turtle dove egg had been feasted upon most likely by a crow or magpie. Like a soft boiled hen's egg that we gingerly remove the lid from, the top 1/4 inch was laying a short distance away. The predator had stolen the egg and as any thief is wont to do, would have run off with its prize. Away from prying eyes, the thief would have landed in a secluded spot, sliced off the lid and devoured the rest. The egg measured around 1 3/4 inches - quite a cargo to carry in a beak! As Hercule Poirot would have deduced himself, the thief was probably larger than a sparrow. Interestingly, predator birds do not smash open eggs but ensure that there is minimum spillage of the precious contents by making sure a greater portion of the eggshell is retained after opening. Foresight honed by experience- not dissimilar to humans on a good day.

"The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry." (John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men).

Not everything works out according to the most cast-iron plans or even our best intentions. There will always be a more astute and cunning predator with a razor-like, precision-cutting beak who will outsmart us. The turtle dove carries on regardless, its dainty character unchanged and on a summer's evening can be heard purring gently, as it always does.

Photo copyright S. van Dalen

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