A mo­ment’s med­i­ta­tion by Nor­folk Wildlife Trust’s wildlife evan­ge­list, Nick Ach­e­son

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - nor­folk­wildlifetrust.org.uk

Go home to na­ture, urges Nick Ach­e­son

Stop. For a mo­ment of your hec­tic life bring your whole mind to the front edge of your nos­trils. Feel the cool late au­tumn air split as it flows into your nose. Feel it tickle your lar­ynx and fol­low its path down your tra­chea, split­ting again through your bronchi, and fill­ing your lungs as your di­aphragm plunges, your chest ex­pands.

Now for the clever bit. Lis­ten to the flow of vi­tal oxy­gen through your mil­lions of minute alve­oli into the thread-like cap­il­lar­ies in which they are wrapped. Watch as each oxy­gen mol­e­cule is seized by haemoglobin and bound to red blood, to be borne away to your cells and used in res­pi­ra­tion.

Oxy­gen. Its name trans­lates id­iomat­i­cally from Greek as ‘pro­ducer of acids’ since, at the time of its de­scrip­tion in 1777, it was con­sid­ered a key com­po­nent of all acids. ‘Pro­ducer of life’ would be a more apt name. It is the sine qua non of al­most all life on earth and – as we have found life nowhere else – of life her­self.

But back to those red blood cells. The oxy­gen they bear does not ex­ist sim­ply of it­self; it has been made bi­o­log­i­cally avail­able to you. The oxy­gen en­ter­ing your mus­cles from your blood was re­leased, be­fore it ever reached your nos­trils, by a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in the leaf of a plant.

Again, stop. Con­sider that. The en­ergy re­quired to power your eyes and your brain, as you read this ar­ti­cle, was re­leased by the chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in your tis­sues known as res­pi­ra­tion, fu­elled in part by bil­lions of mol­e­cules of oxy­gen. From plants.

I’ve barely be­gun. The glu­cose re­quired in the same re­ac­tion also comes – es­sen­tially – from plants. And the chem­istry which forges the glu­cose and frees the oxy­gen – mak­ing it bio-avail­able to us – is pow­ered by the great­est bun­sen burner in our gal­axy. Without the sun beat­ing on the leaves of plants you could not be read­ing this.

There’s more. The plants which, en­er­gised by the sun, freed the oxy­gen cours­ing through your veins could only do so us­ing wa­ter gath­ered by roots as fine and far-reach­ing as the cap­il­lar­ies em­brac­ing the alve­oli in your lungs.

The chem­istry of these roots and of their re­la­tion­ships with bil­lions of soil bac­te­ria and fungi, their in­ter­ac­tions with the roots of num­ber­less other plants around them: these things are of a beauty and com­plex­ity which star­tle and amaze. More things in heaven and earth, Ho­ra­tio.

Bring your mind back to your breath, slip­ping ef­fort­lessly into and out of your nos­trils, un­no­ticed un­til you choose to no­tice.

You are not the phone chim­ing in your pocket. You are not the spread­sheet flash­ing on your com­puter, dig­i­tally de­mand­ing your at­ten­tion. You are not the num­bers in your bank ac­count, your fears over Brexit or Trump, nor the im­ages flick­er­ing on your flatscreen, trick­ing your eyes and your brain into be­liev­ing a story which never hap­pened. You are an an­i­mal: a story which has hap­pened and is hap­pen­ing now, a link in an evo­lu­tion­ary chain reach­ing back to the start of life on earth and for­ward to who knows where. You bear a code al­most four bil­lion years old, handed from life to life since oxy­gen first made this puny planet hab­it­able.

Brexit be damned. To the blood cells bear­ing oxy­gen round your body it is noth­ing. In the epic flow of life, from prokary­otic be­gin­nings to pri­mates ca­pa­ble of con­jur­ing com­plex thought

‘You are not the num­bers in your bank ac­count, your fears over Brexit or Trump, nor the im­ages flick­er­ing on your flatscreen. You are an an­i­mal’

in their minds from strings of squig­gles on pressed plant pulp, it mat­ters noth­ing. You are an an­i­mal.

So be an an­i­mal. Re­joice in the wild around, from the mer­est mol­e­cule of oxy­gen to the whirling com­plex­ity of a star­ling flock com­ing to roost. Breathe in oxy­gen freed by plants and know that you are breath­ing.

Di­gest food, from plants and an­i­mals, and own that your life comes from other lives, made in soil, air and wa­ter. Hear the au­tumn hoots and shrieks of owls and feel a broth­er­hood: in blood, air, wa­ter, genes and glu­cose.

Lis­ten to the fox yowl in the night and hon­our your kin­ship in chem­istry. Be­long to a food chain, know­ing where your nu­tri­ents are made and aware of where they will go when, to re­turn to Ham­let, you shuf­fle off this mor­tal coil.

Love the soil and the air and the rain and the damp, dank smell of rot­ting birch leaves, their nu­tri­ents har­vested by my­c­or­rhizae, re­turned to roots, de­liv­ered to leaves and given to you.

Feel the flow of air through your nos­trils. Go home to na­ture.

Fungi, Roy­don Com­mon

East Wretham Heath

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in flight

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