Soil is speaking

BEFORE you ever walked on earth, I stood here. After you are gone, will I remain? I have marked the years since before anyone can remember with the boom of bitterns in spring, the coming and going of cranes with the seasons. Summer after summer, the air above me has buzzed and flashed with moths and dragonflies which dart in the soft breath of the grassland, and butterflies danced in the scent of clover and dwarf everlast.

HIGH ABOVE ALL a Montagu’s harrier hangs. On v-shaped wings she scans her domain, my domain, our domain. We are not water, landscape, plants, insects, birds, species. We are one, one being, one fan/grassland: each depends on the other. Without them, I am only soil. Without me, they are nowhere.

HERE, THERE IS PEACE… a stillness that is never still, as a myriad of wings beat the passing of the years. A quiet, that on closer listening rustles with the creepings and scurryings of uncountable lives. A quiet that hears the ruffle of a hobby’s wing; the quiet whiff of the other as she dives in soft and wavy grass beneath a lupine’s leaf.

ONCE, before anyone can remember, this grassland stretched further than the birds could see. Mile on mile of heath and bluegrass, orchid and star gentian. The people came, gradually, so gradually it seemed inconsequential, and after time their boats and buildings, their roads and cars, their factories and shops… they came around me but never found me. I was not trodden underfoot. Somehow here, around one corner too many, I was forgotten. All around me the grasslands disappeared under farms, ploughed and planted, edged by ice-cream vans and sunburnt backs but I – I am still here.

BUT I AM NOT SAFE. When I am gone I will not return. Tell me: is there room for me, for wilderness, today? Is there space for a place untouched by time? In the race for the future will I, a rare and fragile corner, be crushed? Lost? Forever?

*This entry is potted by the text in Chris Rose “What Makes People Tick. The three hidden worlds of settlers, prospectors and pioneers”, 2011, pp. 131.