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Slow Down and Look..A Week of Celebrating Slowness..

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Monday 22 February 2010

Slow Down and Look..A Week of Celebrating Slowness..

My first week of dipping my toe in the manic buzzing twittering world that is social networking has been very mixed. I have found some good information and some awful dross. I am wondering if Twitter is really just a big community of snippet kleptomaniacs? Do they actually read what they retweet or just skim the headlines?

Since starting to research bees, a good six months go now, I have wasted hours being directed to countless sites that have very slight “information”, mostly copied from other sites, often without attribution and often completely and utterly wrong. I don’t want to rant or be a luddite but I really wish more people would just slow down and try to process the information before “publishing” it as fact.  I am as guilty, sometimes but I do try to be accurate. So this week I am slowing down, and am taking a step back and applauding the slow, the careful, the quiet and the considered. Hmmmm… after only a week this perhaps does not auger well for my new pushy self-promoting self does it? :)

The Charm of Just One Square Metre

One person who knows about taking his time is ecologist Dr  Patrick Roper who for the last six years has been studying just one square metre of land in his garden and recording some of his findings on his blog. He says, of his wonderful  project:

There is considerable fascination in the surprising variety of life in such a small area. If it were larger it would be regarded as a favoured place as several legally protected and nationally scarce species have been recorded.

It also raises the question of how well we know anywhere and is a living demonstration of nature's constant dynamic of one habitat changing to another and species coming and going, flourishing and declining.

In his recent post Tussocking” Patrick has taken a lump of grass to see what he can find there after a hard winter.

“This excision leaves a hole of course, but this might fill up with interesting things in due time.  Or you may even find something in it - I found a mauve plastic clothes peg, a survivor from the days when a washing line passed over the area.”

Metre tussock 017_thumb[1]

When I saw this I could not help making a comparison with Durer’s  “The Large Turf” (or as we more affectionately call it “The Great Sod” ). Reading about Patrick’s finds…

“..two garlic snails Oxychilius alliarius; several Entomobrya nivalis springtails; the bark louse, Lepinotus iniquilinus; two rove beetles, Stenus flavipes and Tachyporus chrysomelinus; two herb hammock spiders, Neriene clathrata;and a woodlouse, Trichoniscus pusillus..

….I found myself wondering what had been creeping in and out of the daisies, yarrow, plantains, dandelions, and pimpernels that Durer so carefully and sensitively painted.


In a delightful short BBC feature from “Springwatch” a couple of years ago here, you can see Dr Roper in his Square Metre.. (do have a look and see the sword swallowing grasshopper). He imagines that he may, one day, be found as a petrified remain, transfixed and crouching by the edge of his small world. That, I guess, is what slowing down can do. 

In this tiny place you can share the comings and goings over the “Great Plantain Desert”, follow an ant along “Troy Track”, ponder “The Waste”, catch up with what might be occurring down in “Volepasture” or who is hanging out on “Butterfly Rock” as was this crane fly, from A Spring Cranefly - Dicranomyia chorea  in 2007.


And Patrick must have the smallest pond in England. There are many other delights to be found in his various blogs. I was very pleased to find him.. not least because my languishing PHD project parallels so much that he has to say. Thank you Patrick! I feel it is time to shake the dust off the files and have another look.

This is not a quick fix read, you have take your time and be willing to get down to ant level and consider the small things in life, to whom that one Square Metre is plant city. Your rewards will be manifold if you do.  Just don’t tell me you haven't got time to slow down and look!.. just don't tell me that.  Stop talking, twittering, emailing, blogging, messaging, texting, slow down and just look.

I really did just that today, just for half an hour,  and saw a kingfisher fishing.

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Blogger Jeremy said...

Hear hear. I strongly support your ideas on taking the time to at least try to understand what is going on, rather than relentlessly copying and pasting, even though I am guilty of some of that myself. And thanks for the link to Patrick Roper's sites -- which I will save for when I have to appreciate them.

23 February 2010 at 09:59  
Blogger Unknown said...

What a great blog post. A reminder to us all to slow down and just 'look', just 'be'in a place. This highlights what for me is one of the greatest pleasures of wildlife watching- the simple pleasure of just sitting silently still in particular place, waiting and watching as nature comes alive in front of your eyes in levels of detail that a normal glance just wouldn't take in. I shall also be looking up Dr Roper's work as it reinforces something I was lightly discussing (what else in 140 characters!) on Twitter the other day - namely that the most likely palce to find a new species is in your back garden!

23 February 2010 at 10:36  
Blogger Dan said...

I'm sure there a lot to be said for slowing down, if only we could all try it at the same time! Some people seem addicted to speed!
On the subject of the reliability of information, I've been trying to find out if Einstein really said that quote about the bees - I'm still none the wiser! (he apparently said that if bees disappear, the human race will follow within four years)
Best wishes

23 February 2010 at 13:19  
Blogger Ellen Rathbone said...

Hear, hear! Well said. As a naturalist and environmental educator I find myself constantly banging my head against the wall of modernity. Students come for programs, but they are plugged into their iPods, or what have you, as soon as I stop talking. Technology - that's all they care about. And with the impending closure of many of our state parks and the elimination of entire interpretive divisions (like mine), it seems that our governor feels that nature and nature education are things of the past and no longer important. It's a sorry state of affairs. So, I'm glad to see someone else who is promoting "slowing down". Good luck.

23 February 2010 at 16:34  
Blogger Shady Gardener said...

Years ago I purchased a book (rather for adults as well as children) entitled One Square Foot. Taking the time to examine everything in a random square foot of land.

A person cannot create anything as wonderful as what you can find in the natural world... just oook at your Spring Cranefly! :-)

24 February 2010 at 01:22  
Blogger Shady Gardener said...

PS This is not a honey bee, but a fat bumble bee. Check out my post:


24 February 2010 at 01:31  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Thanks you so much all for your comments.. my slow response is not purposeful but just that I seem to have got very behind with my work this week.. How can that be!! well its too much reading and not enough drawing!

Jeremy ... thank you so much, your comment made me laugh particularly because you, I am sure deliberately, left out that troublesome word "time"..

Mark are so right about just watching, I have been forgetting to do that recently myself. We are often so intent on getting to see the wonders of other laces that we do forget how wonderful the UK is. being an expat has really REALLY made me appreciate the wonderful diversity there is in the UK. I will be back in May and looking forward to it.

Dan ... I am not sure about that either.. I have heard it bandied about (on Twitter) too. It's a bit like the "bumble bees cant fly" story.. which I did research and blogged about somewhere. Sometimes the rewards of trawling are very slight!..

Ellen... I can feel the steam rising from my head!! Its an uphill struggle to try to make people be quiet and look. I used to do a nice thing called "silent walking" with some of my students. It was unbelievable how difficult it was for some people(and these were adults to just keep quiet for half an hour) I was thinking of issuing gags! :)

24 February 2010 at 16:56  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

SG.. thank you as always! I am going to look that book up. My languishing PHD would like to see it! Bee is gorgeous

24 February 2010 at 17:02  

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