Watching Stories

To the East

I live inbetween two worlds. To the west, the coast. The plains open to the horizon, the beaches, the fields and the lakes which welcome a whole diversity of birds which are easily observed from the road. One searches with excitement for the unexpected rarity. To the east, the mountains. The forests that close the view and the peaks that cover the sky. The silence of a rare and discreet fauna hidden in the intertwining of trees and rocks. The hours of effort to climb under the weight of the backpack, for furtive observations. There are no surprises here, one dreams of seeing the locals.
On the one hand, profusion and ease. On the other, effort, immobility, loneliness and waiting. The uncertainty of an improbable encounter.
Effort versus Comfort.
Scarcity versus Richness
Absence – Abundance
Closed – Open
Darkness – Clarity
Expected – Surprise
Everytime, my choice remains the same: I go to the East. And in winter in the Norwegian mountains, life is scarce. The difference between the amount of effort provided and the number of observations is disproportionate. When frustration finally wins me, I reconsider the coast and the ease of observing and painting. That’s where this Hooded Crow comes from. Sitting in the car at the edge of a field, the subjects abound and I can paint comfortably, without the gloves or the backpack, without the cold which freezes the watercolor on the paper, or the rain which interrupts or ruins a promising picture. Here everything is easy and fluid. However, I am not at ease in these landscapes. They all bring this diversity but everywhere I look I see only the absence of a wild and free nature. Here everything is just angles and straight lines, fences, fields, roads and gardens. Management, control, organization. There is diversity of birds, but so much, so much more is missing.
This brings me back to a memory of my first year of university. As a young student, I had the chance to follow a research project for some time on the impact of silvicultural practices on forest birds. While I was reading one of the reference book on the question, I came across this paragraph which concludes that thanks to clear cuts, we attract birds from open environments and that therefore, we find a higher diversity of birds. Conclusion, it is a practice to promote. I still remember so clearly my feeling of revolt in front of these lines. I had no words for such nonsense. Because yes, cutting trees attracts species from open environments. So dig a lake and you will have waterfowl. Set up a quarry and eventually you’ll have the rock species.
And the height of absurdity, after some time, the lake fills up naturally and the trees grow back in the openings. It is necessary to intervene again to preserve all this diversity and thus begins the sweet and solid illusion of man as benefactor of nature. Without him, nature deteriorates, shuts down, suffocates. He becomes the essential manager of his environment. Pretentious attitude initiated by a double error.
First, nature is infinitely more complex and the level of ignorance about it is enormous. The second, despite everything we already know, we refuse to understand, because that would imply accepting our uselessness. We refuse to admit that in the vast majority of cases, the best way to protect nature is to leave it alone. Do nothing. A free and wild nature. This sends shivers down the spine and stabs our own species importance right in the heart. Because not only in the absence of our interventions, nature is better off, but we benefit more from it.
On this slippery slope, man has ended up creating a world where everything he sees and experiences has been created or influenced by him. A world recreated in his image, killing the uncontrolled spontaneity. In doing so, he therefore chose an egocentric, or rather speciocentric, attitude. Turning his back on the spontaneous and wild world, he gaze at his navel, his work and his congeners, the rest being only resources, and he goes around in circles in this golden prison without, it seems, perceiving all the signs of alarm.
Wild nature is not the enemy but the necessary complement to our development, both individual and societal. I’m going to the East because spending my life looking at this mirror that our species holds out to me all the time, I’m suffocating. No misanthropy, simple balance.
So dare to do nothing, to not intervene, to not manage ; to let the years pass, and observe, observe, observe.