The days are lengthening in the north and, by now, the extra light is just about noticeable. This is a very good thing, as is the return of some sunshine, after a period of grey and cloud. That said, I loved it when it snowed recently, and snowed those vast crystalline fluffy flakes the size of small saucers, each drifting dustily down to catch with another, forming sculpture never before seen by any eye.
I recently sorted out my craft materials and this made me think on a micro scale. I have pieces of antler, bone, shell, wood of many varieties, seeds, beads, stone — worked and unworked, feathers, leather, material, cork in abundance, and much more. It is now neatly packed and ready for use.
As I sorted these items, I found myself looking closely, examining a bead made of Picasso jasper (which is not actually jasper at all) and marvelling at the simple beauty of the thing, so different to the next one, and the next, yet all the same material. The world is full of variety and wonder.
Scale, whether global or micro, is a theme I return to again and again. It can be humbling to examine something tiny like that bead, then consider the path which led to my holding it. The vast forces and time behind that path. Then repeat, over and over.
There is an entire world within that bead, the colours surprise and thrill as I turn it in my fingers and, no matter how many times I examine it, it seems to display a different palette with every view. The world is like this bead, full of colour and swirling depth, each tiny particle a continent, each streak of colour a sea.
Too often we do not take the time to examine either the trees or the forest, let alone the bark, the needles or leaves, the roots and trunk, twigs, buds or branches. We do not look at the other life on the tree, the nanoclimates it can support, life straining for light, life clinging to the dark.
Before Christmas I was handed a small stone by my tiny human friend, Agathe. I kept it in my jacket pocket for nearly a month, taking it out to occasionally look at and examine, or feeling the contours and angles as I walked, all the wear and the tear, the chips and surfaces. I would think about where it had come from, was it carried by glacier, or dug from a quarry, was it a younger rock or something more ancient? How had it been shaped? Yesterday I felt I knew the stone enough to let it go, transplanted from one corner of France to another, laid down to continue its journey.
I have done similar ever since I can remember. My mum would forever be extracting stones or twigs, small pieces of this and that, debris, detritus, and debitage. I still have some of the stones I could not part with and only I know their personal history. When I am gone back to dust, those stories will be released back into the world, each history shed as a snake loses its skin, or the leaf which falls back to earth. This is not a sad thing, but instead I find it strangely joyous — how many stones you pass have a similar history? How many times has that pretty pebble been collected and lost or released? What tiny hands held it for a moment, before passing to an adult? Was it kept in a pocket or pouch, was it cherished?
Scale and depth, story and wonder — we would be wise to consider these things from time to time. They ground us, they add to our connection with the earth.
Perhaps, next time you take a walk, keep an eye on the tiny things and maybe pick one up, think of its story, feel those contours. Then, when you are ready, let it go again.
I’m sure there’s some sort of lesson here. Or is it magic? Look closely, closer, do not blink, what do you see? What do you really see?