Features & Opinion

Forget the detail

Forget The Detail

Stepping back from the analysis and simply allowing nature’s magic to bewitch your senses, reminds you of your place in the world.  Kate Priestman explores the importance of switching off for a while…  

Working as an ecologist ensures that I spend many hours in the great outdoors identifying and investigating things: plant species, birds, mammals, reptiles, habitats, ‘potential’, to name but a few; hours spent out in the field noticing the detail of the landscape, labelling things and connecting things together; reasoning, rationalising and responding to the environment around me.

I take enormous pleasure in my work and I use the term ‘work’ in the loosest sense; quite simply, I love my ‘job’ and it is a part of who I am as much as anything else…and therein lies the rub – namely, switching off!

In recent months I have made a conscious effort to take time out, to simply stop identifying and analysing my environment when I am out and about outside of professional duties.  There is a whole level of appreciation and enjoyment to be gained from switching off the brain and turning on the senses, to simply be present in the moment.  It is enough to watch a bird fly overhead and do just that – observe it!  Not think about species; rather, sit back and observe the flight of the bird for what it is, a fleeting marvel, a glorious presence.  When walking through woodland or mosaics of grassland, I make time to drop my focus from identifying and naming plants, or looking for signs of badger, or bat roosts, or such like, and instead focus on the scents of the landscape, the sounds of the breeze brushing past vegetation, the feel of the ground beneath my feet as I tread down beaten pathways, the general acoustics of the avian orchestra and the variations in colour and shape, height and texture of the environment.

I have found that by ‘taking time out’ on a regular basis, my vision expands to see the landscape in a more vibrant fashion.  The world seems even more alive, a living and breathing interconnected entity and a place which I feel truly part of.  The perceived divide between humans and the rest of ‘nature’ is a prevalent and sad state of affairs and whilst ecologists and other wildlife professionals are often acutely aware of our interconnectedness, we can be guilty of always looking at things in a scientific, ‘aims and objectives’ way rather than connecting at a more primal level.   Switching off the brain for a while and opening up the senses, breaks down any perceived barriers and compartments, and opens up awareness through simply noticing the detail of the world we move through, serving as a comforting reminder that we are part of this natural cycle and it is where we belong.  This realisation induces a deep sense of peace and understanding and I believe ultimately, makes for a better ‘professional’.  

Author’s details: Kate Priestman (CEnv, MCIEEM) is a professional ecologist with over fifteen years experience.  Prior to setting up her own consultancy business in 2012, Kate worked in London for over a decade, providing the lead ecology role for a number of high profile projects.  When she is not out in the field or writing reports, Kate works as an artist, author, writer and editor. 

All images are ©Kate Priestman