The snow had more or less gone by noon when I stepped out again. I had to move two horses from the higher meadow – what we amusingly call a hill in Norfolk – to the lower. And as I was leading the first horse down the slight slope I saw a patch of drifting white. I only had it in sight for a second but it was unmistakable.
A barn owl. Winter colours: white against the brown of the reeds down on the marsh, a sepia landscape in which the white seemed not like the absence of colour but like all the colours at once. A snow owl, not a snowy owl.
Just one of those little epiphanies that the wild world sends your way, almost always when you least expect it, almost always when you’re not looking for anything of the kind and usually when you have your hands full and can’t linger.
Which is kind of the point. The barn owl wasn’t part of a day’s birding. It wasn’t something I’d gone out to look for. It was part of everyday life: an incident integrated with everything else I will do today: write some words, do the mucking out, have a bath, watch the football, cook a curry.
The wild world shouldn’t be something special, set apart, sacred. It should be as much a part of the day as the toast I had for breakfast, as the tea-mug on my desk.
The wild world is at its best when it’s not like a love affair, full of the thrills of passionate uncertainty. It’s more like
marriage, in which every day should be richer and more certain than the one before.
So here’s a thought from a cold day. Don’t have a fling with the wild world. Don’t have a dirty weekend with nature. Marry it. Make an honest person of it. Live with it every day: at the same ordinary and remarkable. And both parties will be better as a result.