My wife loves nature: the sound of waves lapping against a rocky Norwegian coastline; the scent of her favourite spring flower, the Lily of the Valley; the feel of the forest floor when she is walking in her wellies; the taste of the berries when she is out picking; the sight of the sun’s rays dancing on the shimmering waters of a fjord. (For my UK readers, the sun is that shining silvery white ball that is visible in those dreaded holiday snaps your friends – the ones with the tans – show you when they’ve invited you home, ostensibly, for coffee!)
A walk along a beach with Marianne takes much longer than it should, because she investigates everything her inquisitive eyes spot, intrigued as much by an unusually shaped rock as a starfish; as curious about a dead seal-cub as a crab scurrying for cover under a rock. She enjoys fishing for crabs and is sad that our children are no longer young enough to be used as an excuse for engaging in her indulgence.
I do not enjoy nature as much as Marianne does. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I am a Philistine when it comes to appreciating the outdoors! Early on in our marriage, she persuaded me to go for a walk in the forest close to our home. The walk lasted less than 15 minutes, 13 of which were spent fighting off a swarm of flies that buzzed annoyingly around my head while she walked alongside completely unperturbed and undisturbed. It confirmed my conviction that nature is best appreciated in the comfort of one’s own home while surfing the net! Mosquitoes, too, appear to have entered into a pact to attack me rather than plague her. She seems impervious to the odours and insects (especially the winged wonders) that so disturb me.
I have learnt over the years to distinguish between Marianne’s excited shouts at the sight of some or other natural phenomenon (seriously, how many lambs do I have to look at?) and something that I really need to note, such as the speed limit! She has become accustomed to my less-than-enthusiastic response to the things that so excite her. But, admirably, her enthusiasm continues to spill over and she continues to try to convert me – to be frank, I find it quite charming!
She adores spring. She revels in the signs of life, the sounds and smells and sights – the flowers, the green trees, the animals and birds with their young. Spring means adoration from her, medication for me! You see, the very blossoms that so enamour her cause my eyes to swell and my nose to run. Small wonder I’m no nature enthusiast. One man’s treat is another man’s pollen!
However, living with Marianne for more than two decades has left its mark. I now register the scent of the flowers, hear the birds “singing”, notice the leaves on the erstwhile bare trees. So, walking in a park on my way to the office a few days ago, I stopped to take a photo for her to enjoy a perfect spring scene.
I pictured the many who, later in the day, would choose to stretch themselves out on the green grass and enjoy the sun. Spring and summer draw many out into the open air – many to lie on the grass in the park, some to sleep overnight in tents.
I looked at the spring scene again, and noticed what I hadn’t seen at my first glance, so I took another picture.
On that gloriously sunny spring day, I was reminded that there are people spread out on the green grass of our parks who are not there because they are enjoying the sun and who do not choose to be out in the open air. A sunny day is not a day to be enjoyed, but endured - a day like any other day. When being outside is not a choice made on the basis of the weather forecast, spring is not a time of celebration and release from the rigours of winter. It’s just another season in the year – one man’s festival of spring is another man’s fight for survival!
Makes you think, doesn’t it…