Although the writing is not to my taste, the photos in National Geographic Magazine make it worth the subscription for me. A few months ago there was a picture of chimpanzees looking through a wire mesh fence in silent mourning as a the body of much a loved female chimp was carried away in a wheelbarrow. The emotion was obvious. The landscapes can be amazing too. It’s easy to think you’ve seen the world if you’ve travelled a bit. National Geographic reminds me I ain’t seen nothing.
Over the summer I read a beautifully illustrated article on Bowerbirds. Male Bowerbirds spend inordinate amounts of time building extraordinary ‘bowers’ which are at times fanciful and often huge confections to show off their prowess to lady Bowerbirds. A veritable nest builder’s ‘peacock’s tail’, often functionally useless, dangerous and wasteful to build they are the Victorian follies of the avian world.
Some are castles of kitsch, some monuments to consumerism and globalisation – constructed entirely of colourful bits of drinks cans and other rubbish. I saw one with two rows of tall twigs and a pathway of identically coloured purplish bits of slate in between which looked so minimalist it could have graced a home design magazine. It seemed impossible that a bird made it, but the male looking back coquettishly over his shoulder at the far end demonstrated it was his pride and joy.
I think we are all Bowerbirds to some degree. Some are lucky enough to be born with exceptional beauty – their own peacock’s tail, but I fear they are often haunted for the rest of their lives by the physical decline and loss that turns the beauty of youth into the inevitable walnut of old age.
We can all build a bower for ourselves though. And its beauty can live all your life – and sometimes beyond. A work of art, a book, creating a beautiful home, your children, different people have different bowers within them.
Taking 15 minutes to think, reflect and write every day may well be my route to quietly building a slate strewn, twig fronded pride and joy for just for me.