The Simple Little Things

How often do we walk past things without really noticing them?  Little tiny “weeds” in grass verges.  A spider’s nest.  A small resting butterfly or moth.  The answer is that most of the time we don’t even notice that these things are there.  By not noticing we run the risk of two things:  first, that by not noticing that they are there, we also won’t notice when they are gone; second, that we miss out on a huge amount of beauty available to everybody who is willing to take the time to look, listen and appreciate.
It is very easy to be drawn to the showy, the colourful and the rare.  We are all guilty of that, myself included.  I have got excited and taken hundreds of pictures of the showy orchids in our wet meadow, but failed to notice or appreciate the beauty in much more common wildflowers, such as vetches, clovers and trefoils.  We are happy to spot the bright-coloured peacock butterflies, the comma butterflies, and the red admirals, but dismiss the large and green-veined whites as common, and run the risk of missing large and small skippers completely, as they make their unobtrusive way through the meadows.  Ringlet butterflies, and meadow browns, are much less showy, but seriously beautiful in a much more subtle way.

In larger landscapes, too, it is the little details that make the difference.  Our new ponds in Betty’s Wood look lovely, but how much more lovely do they look with the first growth of spearwort, and the mayweed growing round the edge?

So this weekend I made an effort to notice, and record, the little details that make a place so special;  those small unsung things that have such great beauty if you take the time to notice and appreciate.  Common things, like birdsfoot trefoil, grass grains, small skippers and spearwort.

When you start to notice these details, you realise how much of nature passes you by.  It is easy to get emotional about saving tigers, pandas, huge ancient trees and majestic birds-of-prey.  But it is much less easy to get excited about saving pieces of grassland, or ancient woodland, or hedgerows that can be home to important, if overlooked plants.  And in turn they support important if overlooked insects, upon which a whole food chain of birds and mammals depend.

If you don’t see, and don’t appreciate, it is easy to destroy without even knowing what you have destroyed.  Easy to “tidy up” verges, easy to clear up patches of waste land, and easy to put developments onto areas that support nothing showy, spectacular or rare.  Until, of course, they become rare because we have already destroyed most of their habitats.

So please, notice the simple little things when you are out and about.  Notice the flowers in the un-cut verges, and the insects feeding upon them.  Notice the beauty of common flowers and little brown butterflies.  The simple little things are the foundation upon which everything else is built.  We forget that at our peril.

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