Episode 10 Nature’s Embrace
Words and Music–Richard Allen
Produced by David Barratt at the Abattoir of Good Taste
Vocal and Guitar–William Thaumatrope
Ukulele and everything else–David Barratt.
Nature has always had a very important role in my life: none more so than when it has not been there for long periods. I suppose it stems from the fact that I grew up in a little house by a river. No it wasn’t on the prairie (it was England) and nor was it quite as rural as the lake district (it was almost suburbia). Still, when I eventually read Wordsworth at school who claimed that nature “fostered me alike by beauty and by fear,” his words struck a chord. My earliest memory is of lying on my back in the pram and opening my eyes to the blazing sunlight. But nature’s beauty for me was more a sense of melancholy and drift as I spent endless hours of solitude near and around the water, catching the eddies of currents, the plays of sunlight in the ripples, the rustle of weeping willows in breeze, and feeling, indeed, at certain moments, as if I were as of a piece with this landscape in some larger pantheistic whole (yes, I also thought Wind in the Willows was written for me), until I didn’t.
Fear came from a number of sources. The riverbank gives way and I plunge 10 feet to the ground finding myself miraculously still standing up. I slip one cold rainy day and fall into a swollen, swirling current and barely able to swim and about to go under I reach out and grasp a tuft of grass with my right hand and haul myself out. Truly terrified, I am chased by the lock keeper, a giant of a man, because I was continually drawn to trespass on the weir that led to the enticing “other side of the river” where the gates were locked. My irascible father hunts me down having told me not to go too far (I thought he had meant “down the river bank” but he actually meant “away from the house”), and hauls me back to the house by my ear. All these memories haunt me, indeed, they sometimes feel as if they are traces of a life that was not my own, like many a childhood memory.
I wish I could say that this led to an intellectual interest in nature that turned me into a zoologist or botanist, or even into an environmentalist. But that never happened. I have never had a head for naming and classifying things and I was not particularly curious as a kid as to how it all worked. I was preoccupied instead with the sensory world of nature — how it affected and was affected by my feelings. Hence the incredible appeal of Romantic poetry, Rabrindrinath Tagore, Werner Herzog and the films of Terence Malick. I know the whole post-enlightenment romantic credo has been criticized as a specious response to industrialization, and in the case of the English, as a veiled assertion of national identity, but that is to ignore the deeper resonance that nature has had to human beings in all cultures and at all times. The sense that however much we like to grant ourselves autonomy, we are a part of it and it a part of us, and however much we scientifically understand it, the process that is nature remains an essential and abiding mystery.
The road is long I am alone
I need some time away from home
The sky is blue the fields are green
and I am leaving where I’ve been
If you ask me what it is I need
I don’t need nothin’ just air to breathe
Give me time before I’m old
To heal my spirit and free my soul
Sometimes its hard to be be strong
Not always easy to get along
But meditation is not for me
Its in the wild that I feel free
If you miss me please be kind
You’re in my body, you’re in my mind
When I return you’ll recognize
Your sweet face within my eyes
Give me the country let me see the trees
show me the rivers let me feel the breeze
and I will climb the mountains face
and swim the waters of nature’s embrace