I’m getting used to my new work-place, which overlooks a nice chunk of Norfolk marsh – in fact, today I’ve been happily distracted by watching a female hen harrier cruising over the place. But that’s by the by.
It’s so dramatic a view that it does take some getting used to. I have developed the habit of turning to look as a purposeful distraction fro the computer screen – so when I do so my mind tends to be somewhat vacant. And therefore open to unexpected sensations.
And the other day I knew a moment of real fright. Not a very long moment. Perhaps 0.5 seconds. But in that brief chunk of time I knew terror. I knew it as a physical sensation rather than a conscious thought. It was rather like being stabled by a knitting needle – in a jocular rather than a murderous fashion – on the space between the floating and the false ribs.
There is a line of thin scrub between me and the dike, and as I was watching there was a twitch in the stems. It was the win, of course it was the wind, but being inside I couldn’t feel it and so my mind couldn’t make allowances. And it responded to this warning twitch as it meant a good deal more than it did.
For this fraction of a second, before my rational mind cut in again, I fancied there was a large predator ten yards away and advancing hard. A lion, perhaps – through from the twitch it was more likely to be a hyena.
Two things of interest here. The first is that though humans have mostly lived safe and citified lives for the last two or three centuries, part of our minds is still untamed,. And part of it still responds to such stimuli. That is why the wild world completes us: why we still have such deep need for it.
The second is that my own prefatory responses are in good training, thanks to wild places, especially to the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. I’ll put up my favourite campfire story – the adventure of me and the very angry lion – in a day or so.
I know what it feels like to be seen as prey, and as a result my predator-reflex is in pretty good shape. I’ve knows such twinges of terror when they haven’t been at all ridiculous.
We were all born wild. And part of us still knows it.