02/05/2014 07:12 BST | Updated 01/07/2014 06:59 BST

That Tree Is Someone's Home

At this time of year the birds are busy building and rebuilding their nests, rearing their young and are generally ravenous and noisy. Eastern philosophy teaches that it is important to provide food for the birds as a way of paying homage to the gods.

That tree is someone's home

At this time of year the birds are busy building and rebuilding their nests, rearing their young and are generally ravenous and noisy. Eastern philosophy teaches that it is important to provide food for the birds as a way of paying homage to the gods. I often tell the story of a well-to-do gentleman who wished out loud as we stood on the driveway of his many-millions-of-pounds home in Central London, that the luxuriant and very beautiful flowering cherry tree on the said driveway would die. I remember biting my tongue as the gentleman said such a terrible thing and all because he really wanted more space to park his expensive cars and the tree was in the way. Just at the precise moment as the man placed his curse on the tree, a blackbird descended onto one of the branches and began to sing quite sweetly. The singing blackbird seemed to direct his melody at us. I think the bird was pointing out to the man that the tree was somebody's home, a perch to rest on and a place to sing from. That sequence of events has stayed with me since and every time I see a blackbird I am reminded of the story.

Birds are not pests. Human beings are more destructive than all the animals, insects, reptiles and birds on the planet. Farmers were infuriated to be warned recently not to shoot crows which 'devastate their crops' or they would face hefty fines. Consider this: the crow is merely being opportunistic and scoffing free food. I can think of several human beings who would be inclined to do the same thing in similar circumstances. But the real issue at hand is the nature of the crow and the nature of homo sapiens. The following story best describes it: an old man went to rescue a drowning scorpion which promptly gave him a fatal sting. Another man who had seen what happened berated the old man for trying to rescue the ungrateful scorpion. The elderly man replied: "The scorpion is being true to himself and acting like a scorpion is meant to act. And I am being true to myself is seeing the scorpion in distress and wanting to help him." The crow is being a crow, the fox, a fox etc. Yet we would prefer that they behaved in a way to suit us.

Much has been made over the link between badgers and TB in cows. I have observed badgers where I live and they are the shiest, most beautiful creatures however that is not the point. The government has had to call off the culls simply because the number of animals being killed was insufficient. The saddest part of this is that badgers typically live in their sets for generations, sometimes hundreds of years. One can almost visualise the badger family as part of the earth they inhabit. And then some marksman comes along and shoots a vital member of that family. Now science is saying that vaccinating herds is not such a bad idea after all.

It's not just crows, foxes or badgers that get in man's way. There are those who think that all trees should be cut down so that they would never risk landing on someone's head! A well-known journalist once wrote a lengthy piece in a leading newspaper about the tree that blighted her view and caused her (expensive) house to be very dark. She longed for the tree to just disappear. Sadly there have been instances where people have been killed by falling trees but look around in leafy England and there are millions of trees everywhere. What would the landscape be without them?


Photo copyright S. van Dalen

As people move further and further away from nature and cease to maintain any sense of connection with the natural world, we are surely doomed to be denatured as well. The scorpion, like the bears and foxes that enter urban environments in search of food, should all be eliminated. The trees should be felled and the birds will have nowhere to live anymore. When mankind finds nature a bother and no longer an inspiration, it is to our own detriment. In a world where everything is exchanged for gain, be it personal or monetary, it is any surprise that our society is awash with specimens pushing prams who think food originates in supermarkets?

I am grateful to be able to walk freely in this green and pleasant land sometimes with only the birds for company. A stroll in the woods under a canopy of trees with the friendly banter between birds humming or belting our their melodies is a sound I have grown accustomed to. I owe everything to nature: it provides me with a place to think, a sanctuary to release the anxiety and hurt I have experienced throughout my life, a reminder of my own mortality and a place where spiritual thinking must surely have been born. Oh no, Nature doesn't bother me at all.


Photo copyright S. van Dalen