This post continues my thoughts about watching badgers. I’ve examined my reasons for doing it, and so far
I’ve discussed the fact that badgers are amongst the most striking and impressive wildlife to be seen in Britain (Part 1 – click here to jump to it).
I also think that for those people who are curious about wildlife, there a few better animals to study than badgers. As social carnivores they have such a wide and fascinating range of behaviour that you could watch them for years and still not fully understand them (Part 2 – click here to jump to it).
In this final post I discuss some of the more personal reasons why I watch badgers, or more particularly, why I enjoy being out in the woods at night.
There is something deeply rewarding about spending time in a wood. It is something that few people do, and I’ve always got a perverse enjoyment out of doing things that other people can’t, or won’t, do. More than that, watching badgers is so different, so far removed from my everyday life that it provides a welcome change. During the day I wear a pinstripe suit and talk to people about high matters of business strategy. In the evening I put on a tattered pair of green trousers and a camouflage jacket and lie in the mud. Oh, if my clients could see me then!
Watching badgers gives me time to think. I spend large chunks of time sitting waiting for badgers, just patiently watching as the sun goes down. In our modern fast-paced lives, how often do we get the chance to just sit and think? Really think, I mean. No television. No mobile phone. Nothing. I don’t think very intelligent or deep thoughts, but that isn’t the point. I just sit and think and that’s enough.
There’s also all the other experiences of nature that I’ve had while badger watching. I’ve sat and watched herds of wild deer as they’ve foraged through the woods. I’ve watched a fox stalk and catch rabbits. I’ve listened to tawny owls as they call to each other. I’ve watched in amazement as a buzzard skims between the trees. To me, all these experiences are priceless. They are out there for everyone to see, if only they’d go out and look for them.
Being ‘close to nature’ is a hideously trite and overused phrase, but watching badgers has helped me to be just that.
Think about it. Who, in today’s modern world, really takes notice of the time of sunset, or thinks about the direction of the wind or when the berries will ripen? I think about all these things now as a matter of course, and I wonder why other people do not. When other people see a wood they see a patch of trees. For me the wood comes alive and I see it for what it is – a great web of interconnected plants and animals all working together. I don’t claim this as a great spiritual insight, by the way. It’s a natural result of spending time watching wildlife.
Finally, there’s something deeply and fundamentally satisfying about creeping around in woods, trying to outwit wild and wary animals. It talks to something ancient and primal within you. Maybe this is because I grew up reading Jim Corbett’s tales of stalking man-eating big cats, or the stories of Victorian poachers, but I believe it goes deeper than that. For hundreds of thousands of years man lived as a hunter, and that sort of background is hard to shake off. We’ve only had two hundred or so generations of farming and twenty generations of civilised life. The wild still calls to something in all of us.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that every modern European was made up of three separate men – three separate parts to our character. I suppose he meant women too, but he wrote in different times.
The first man is the Christian. Whether we believe in it or not, we are the products of a thousand years of Christian thought, and our view of the world is always coloured by this. Man and God, heaven and earth – it is all there in the back of our minds somewhere.
The second man Chesterton called the Roman. This is the logical side of our character, the man who values order and reason and laws and straight roads.
And Chesterton’s third man?
‘And the third man: he has no name, and all true tales of him are blotted out; yet he walks behind us on every forest path and wakes within us when the wind wakes at night. He is the origins — he is the man in the forest’.
We all hear the call of the wild. I’ve found my way to answer it.