A hammock is one of the better places for tuning into nature. Admittedly your view tends be a little restricted, especially when you close your eyes, but as you lie suspended between heaven and earth, your altered sense of perspective takes you away from the humdrum.
And there above me, also suspended between heaven and earth, was a hoverfly: as if the air had turned solid all around him. Although many hoverflies look like wasps, they’re only pretending, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. But they fly like themselves, as only they can: they’re hoverflies, so they hover. The males are able to hold this perfect stillness in the air.
Yet are they so still? From my privileged position, swaying gently, looking up into the branches of the big ash, I could see the hoverfly hold still – and then dart. That perfect stillness requires complete aerial mastery and shows us all how talented he is, but it also makes him a sitting duck for predators.
So he held still, looking good — and then shifted suddenly. I watched for a while: still, move, still, move, each shift in an unpredictable direction after an unpredictable space of time. This was a male hoverfly, holding territory in this desirable cube of air, hoping to attract a female by means of his handsomeness and his flying genius – but covering his bet with these sudden shifts and starts. No good being sexy if you get eaten before anyone has noticed.
Another male entered the space. They had a pose-off, a hover-off, and then one withdrew. Then the other. One came back. Then the other – and suddenly they were at it hammer and tongs, an aerial dog-fight above my head, and then, just as suddenly, there was only one, holding station, still, sexy and superb, laying claim to this magnificent arena of air.