Early morning and the sun makes streaks of golden light on the Common. September just around the corner. There is a heavy crop of plums and those we haven’t picked lie rotting on the ground under the tree, blue purple skins and yellow flesh. A dozen red admiral butterflies flit from one to the other and through the branches of the tree glutting on the sweet juice. Under the heavy heat, the countryside is still and there is a faint mist hanging over the trees along the edge of the field. Leaves now are the dark green of late summer. In the shallow pond, set among the flowers in the border for the birds to bathe and drink from, three frogs lurk, eyes and noses just above the water, watching me. We breathe the same air, we share in the same water. We humans are, as Germaine Greer once put it, ‘terrestrials’ – of and from the earth. I am one with the frog and the muntjac deer that browses on the edge of the wood.
Recently there was a news item about a firm which is breeding insects as a source of food. Dog and cat food can now be made from grubs and this provides sufficient of the right sort of protein for our pets to flourish. This is heralded as good news, because it means fewer large mammals being slaughtered and, they said, vegetarians would be very pleased. I am puzzled. There is a photograph of wriggling grubs. Whilst I understand that in one way to kill a grub is less emotionally difficult than it is to kill a cow, or, for dog meat, a horse, it is still killing and the taking of life. And I can’t really see why this would be welcomed by vegetarians. The grub becomes an insect of some sort. Both grub and insect are living beings.
It prompts me to ponder on what I mean by life. Because of course plants are life and recent research indicates that trees communicate with each other in ways we hadn’t previously understood. And we fell trees routinely for wood. Human life could not exist without taking life from some things – plants, bacteria even. I ponder a definition of life as something that is not rooted in earth, that can live freely and move about without having to be hard-wired to a food source. And this includes grubs and insects. Breeding insects as food stuff is surely the same as the wholesale breeding of prawns and shrimps, or even catching prawns and shrimps to eat. Catching fish. All these living creatures, however humanely reared, and many of them are not, certainly do not want to die.
Once you start to think about it, there is so much of heartbreak in this world. I look at the countryside around me in its late summer heaviness and my heart breaks to think that all of this will eventually be lost. And soon, in the evolutionary scale of things. And I ponder the question of attachment. I am so passionately attached to this English countryside with all its flora and fauna, its scenery, its lushness. Where is the letting go, the cutting of ties? I am part of this. Inseparable. I am a terrestrial, connected in every way possible to the raindrops on the sugar beet, the earth beneath my feet, the trees that provide such welcome shade in this hot weather. We are all of a piece, this world and I. I cannot but be attached.