A few weeks back, The Beaver Trust put out a call for guest writers, and received a monumental list of excellent creatives. I was honoured to be included in this lineup, and chose to explore one of my greater passions; Storytelling. Whilst it has not been released on The Beaver Trust website as of yet, I have been given permission by the awesome Sophie Pavelle of The Beaver Trust (who features in the blog itself) to release it on my own blog, and it will be available in due course on their website, enjoy!.
The Beaver Trust Blog: https://beavertrust.org/index.php/follow-the-beaver-story-of-re-wetting-our-land/
Take a long, deep breath.
Inhale that scent.
That cocktail of pine needles and heady tones of damp leaves underfoot. Now look around. What do you see?
Do you see what I can see. Brush strokes of charcoal cloud play around the corners of my sight. Sunlight, red like hot coals, pierces the whippet thin branches, holding the heavens hostage like a caged bird. My eyes follow their wrinkled trunks to the moist earth, passing over their rough hewn skin and following the ruts till I reach the tangled roots below…
A rich. Earthy song skips to my ears.
I am pulled from the trunk to the sky just in time to catch a blur of tail and a hint of red. A Robin passes me like a miniature freight train, painting the air around me with his shrill notes and colouring my thoughts with hues of autumn.
I wake up.
A rustle to my left, a sharp crunch to my right and a gust of wind plays around my legs and boots. I become aware of all around me. Lighting my heart up with the sounds of a world that is neither silent nor overwhelming loud, this world is in complete harmony with itself. And if we just pay attention, we could perhaps play a part in that orchestra.
That is the power of story. It reaches out to you from a place you cannot tell the origin of unless it is the will of the storyteller to reveal it to you. Nature is the best storyteller of all. It is both subtle and immense, at times bone crushingly powerful.
I fell in love with storytelling early on. Books I thumbed through became like food, I was hungry for the passion and emotion these authors crammed between their pages. They opened up entirely new worlds to me and I truly mean that; when you read about or watch people using stories, whether that be books, poetry, films, articles, audio, in whatever medium it may be, as a means of escape, this is immediately true.
Our entire lives have been governed by stories. Narratives of history, curriculums, documentaries and movies are all a means of seeding ideas, great surges of people all mixed up in the same soup, all seeking to out-swim the other in a race to tell others what they think. To tell their own story. We want other people to think what we think, to feel the same excitement or anger we feel. We want to change the world and to be at the centre of that change. And that’s not a bad thing.
I want to change the world. To change perspectives and influence ideologies because that’s what stories do, they change how we think, whether that be subtle or direct, they give us food for thought, we bite down on what has been crafted in front of us and even if we don’t like it we take away a small piece with us.
My Octopus Teacher. A documentary that caught my eye on Netflix as I scrolled, just passing the time. The title alone intrigued me, I have more than a basic interest in cephalopods, my course having taken me into their world, the madness of their existence poking its way into my head even before then, their problem solving and intelligence for such a small soft being are renowned and here was a tale unlike any I witnessed before. It took a hold of me and refused to let go.
Press play and light music spills across the screen. Sun-kissed waves come slowly into view and the sound of the sea brushing up against the coastline fills your ears, allowing you to drink in that feeling of flying over a watery stillness that owns much of our planet. I simply cannot do justice to the deliciously lucid movements of those waves, washing over the soft edged stones and rocks of that bay. This is a story I both want to live and feel like I have already been a part of.
This is followed by dark kelp forests cloaked in the magic of the oceans deep, and crystal clear scenes of carnage in the wake of villainously dubbed pyjama sharks, harmonious fronds of seaweed flail almost helplessly across a myriad of corals against a backdrop of blue. The tone shifts from sombre to blurry excitement, torn with agonies of loss as the organisms we have grown attached to are ripped from us, as is the cold but fair reality of life. The story is told and crafted by filmmaker Craig Foster, over-toned by his candid and off the shoulder narration of events as they unfold and punctuated by his raw emotion that he injects into the tale. It follows his intimate and growing relationship with a boisterous little octopus, all set on a canvas, a canvas that is his falling out of love with film making, the stress of telling stories you no longer love and the pain of losing passion.
This tiny little cephalopod, shooting through the froth and spray of the sea and showing us how emotionally connected to the us and the world even the most alien looking of life really is, ignites his passions for storytelling and film making once again, the purity of her existence and the hardships of her life pull him out to sea again and again. He learnt about himself, about how we have to let go, and about how small and fragile life is on this earth. As I watched him I felt close to tears, I felt that passion and related to it, that need to tell my stories but also to tell the stories of others. The manner in which he captured scenes of the ocean, brought us back home with him to South Africa and the stunning marine wildlife and rich, complex ecosystems that exist there, made us feel like a part of his family and a part of the relationship with the octopus he has connected with. I fell more in love with the ocean and her mysteries than I had ever done before. I wanted to tell stories with the same passion and sadness he did, I wanted to tell it raw like he did, but I wanted to do it my way.
Again, this is the power of storytelling, it can be uncut and unfiltered love like this, a long and intricate tale of friendship without barriers. It can be powerful and punchy, a bright and intrepid view of the earth, a story with a message that is clear and a means for help.
Beavers Without Borders, a story I came across not long ago. I became drawn to its indie feel, the picketed, brisk speeches that weave its beginning talk about the controversial reintroduction of beavers to the British countryside. Over-toned with an upbeat musical sequence, and the beautiful countryside I have grown to love so much, I feel more comfortable here, the rushes of excitement connected with this land are familiar, they are not the same excitement as I felt before, but difference does not designate worse at all, and I hold my breath just as much for the chorus of this song.
Sophie Pavelle narrates a journey around the Isles, visiting spots our buck toothed carpenters have made their home after so long in absence. The breathtaking views of bodies of water, coupled with our beloved Beavers making numerous appearances, really bring a smile to my face.
This is a story of happiness. A reason to laugh, sometimes we become so entangled in the sorrows of today’s ecology we forget that there are lights at the end of the tunnel. I am instantly brought to a sense of reason as Sophie tells us of the people who help bring these animals to their rightful places, looking out for one another, and smooth graphics that explain the thought processes behind much of the movements and pathways that these scientists, ecologists and activists have taken.
It asks us why we have taken so long to accept an old face, and why we must ask ourselves why our land looks the way it does, is it for us? Is it healthy? Why have we slept on the idea of rewilding for so long? And for how much longer can we keep this façade up. I was immediately brought back to reality, in a way I could understand, because to fly and float through our dreams is all very well, but to enact real change we have to tell the stories that are close to us, the stories that matter and the tales that can work to save our environment.
This is that story, thank you Nina Constable and Sophie Pavelle for bringing this to life.
I’ve heard some say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. Well I think stories are the soul speaking right back at you. And if I can tell a story, change a perspective, speak to someone through what I create and through what I believe, or create a narrative, then I’ll have lived a dream once had and still going, by a young, brown, weird little naturalist, sitting bleary eyed at the dinner table, enthralled by the words he read all those years ago.