Dressed in a teared Dragon Ball T-shirt and an older than Methuselah dressing gown, the cup of tea warms my hands. My breath materialises in the cold morning air. Far, very far indeed, the Pyrenees’ snow reflects the first sunbeams.
The earlier rising wood nuthatches visit the bird feeder where I left the unnecessary breadcrumbs. At each step, pine leaves rustle under my slippers as I approach the composter. It appears to be tossed and turned; the fox was here again, or was it the genet?
I move down to the pond and sit on my stone. The frogs aren’t around yet at this time, but I can see the midwife toad tadpoles snaking under the duckweed. I raise my view. Oh, I should clean the birdboxes soon, I’ve already seen some tits carrying away pieces of moss from the dead cork oak.
Let’s have another cup of tea. I greet the loquat and some metres further I stroke the spiralled shape of the Gaudí pine tree, recalling that day some twenty years ago…
- This tree must be cut down, it’s in the middle of the way – said the worker.
- No – I answered – not a single blade of grass is to be cut unless it is absolutely necessary.
- But the excavator…
- Avoid it however you prefer, but do not touch it.
Bloody bulldozer syndrome! Such an excessively extended damned illness amongst humans: concrete houses planted in the middle of devastated pieces of land where a stunted apple tree and a demanding lawn uselessly expect to compensate for the brutal and tragic expulsion of its original inhabitants.
Standing up in this same spot, some months before saving Gaudí, I had been enlightnened.
I had only just signed the title deed of the land and I was taking in the view, hoping to discover how it felt like to be “owner”, like in old films where the father says to the son “all this will someday be yours”.
Owner of trees, birds, plants, butterflies, the breeze, the fragrance of the wet soil, the sunshine on my back…
Suddenly I had felt ashamed. That piece of forest and its inhabitants had been there since the dawn of time. Who on earth did I think I was to proclaim myself an owner of such treasure?
It changed my view.
I spoke aloud.
“I wish to live amongst you, belong to your community. I long for your acceptance, protection and even love. Embrace me and I’ll do my best to reinstate you from where you should have never been disturbed in the first place. Embrace me and I’ll help you regain the planet.”
I got no answer. It seems nature isn’t impressed by humans’ patronizing speeches…
But I went ahead anyway and here I am, drinking tea, as a good Englishman, confined in the Garden of Eden I dared to name La Clariana de Fabra (Fabra’s Clearing), putting together my love for nature and the passion I have for the language glossed by Pompeu Fabra (Catalan).
(Clearing: open space in the clouds or in a forest through which light flows in.)
But, have I really done my best?
The house, made of wood, which was already in those days built following sustainability standards, blends with the surroundings and you can’t even see it as you move away from it.
The forest is not only almost untouched but thriving with live more than I’ve ever seen before.
The pond I built has contributed to recover local species which were endangered, and the nest boxes provide refuge to birds and bats that have difficulties to find natural holes because the forests are too young.
My reward: happiness and fulfilment.
Yet I am still missing something.
A cup of tea won’t solve the lacking, but it won’t hurt either.
As the kettle boils again, I observe through the window the apricot tree, which has rebelled this season and hasn’t produced any fruits.
As a human being, my relationship with nature continues to be unfair. I must to explore new ways to demand less from nature and contribute more to it. Find the balance.
Reducing one’s ecological footprint mustn’t necessarily be based only on producing less CO2, less waste and squander less energy (this must be done too, though!), but also become an even more rewarding activity to be proactive, inviting nature to win back our surroundings and furthermore, to win back our souls:
Close the umbrella during a downpour, swim in the river or sea in winter, walk through a forest away from the paths. Our daughters and sons touching creatures, getting soiled, knowing which frog is that one they often see.
Kettle jumps and I swiftly pour the boiling water into the mug, where nature presents me with the essence of the paper encapsulated leaves.
It can be done; I say to myself. Allying with nature. Without giving up our human condition.
A small lizard hides in the dry-stone wall I’ve been building piece by piece during the past years. Every trip to the neighbouring forest ends up with one or two small rocks carried back and placed here and there. It’s truly amazing how the wall has grown and naturalized, homing plants and small creatures in its countless crevices.
Then it hits me. I understand what is missing.
I must be multiplied.
Not like bread, nor adding pages to my family booklet, no. Not me.
La Clariana is as naturalised as it can get. What is needed is to multiply Clarianes, renatured spaces, havens for nature.
I ruin, as a good Englishman, my tea by adding milk to it.
And as its first sip slightly burns my throat, my uncorruptible optimism, based on true facts, leads me to imagine a world where in every home, be it a house or an apartment, with or without a garden, in a city or a town, someone puts on their new view glasses, brews a tea and gets ready to be happily reconquered by nature.
I take another sip, and I speak aloud again, but this time to myself, so I don’t need to expect an answer.
Let’s do it.
With patience, tolerance, step by step.
Humanly, let’s rewild.