An underused Native American proverb states:

“Listen to the voice of nature, for it holds treasures for you.”

There can be few statements as true as this. It is one we should remember and learn to use so that we can every day be a little lighter, a little more inspired and a little more aware of the miraculous wildlife existing alongside the manmade world of paved streets, walled gardens and work.

Yet it is easy to forget and to become oblivious to the ordinary everyday elements of nature even when it is living and breathing right next to us. There is always some form of wildlife in close proximity. In the rural areas, we have deer flourishing, badgers tunneling and the soft hoot of owls at night. In the cities, the urban fox nonchalantly strolls the streets, squirrels charm the tourists in exchange for unsuitable snacks and birds chirp earnestly from wires. Wildness tamed just a touch. That wildness weaves it way amongst us and nature moves through our day in all sorts of curious disguises; fungus on a tree, blossom floating down like snow and the hum of that irritating picnic wasp!

We are known to marvel at nature documentaries which zoom in on the incredible complexities of the natural world. Our favoured tend to be those exploring the exotic, the unknown; penguins surviving in the Arctic, poisonous frogs in the Amazon or lions on the African plains.

But often the most extraordinary can be found in the ordinary and here the real treasure lies, accessible to all.

Take for example the typical weekday morning. As soon as I awaken, the dogs bustle around me, thrilled by the new day. It doesn’t matter if it is exactly the same as yesterday. They have no time for my weary sighs as they leap and yelp at the thought of going out into the mysterious ‘wilderness’ of the garden. These are creatures which never shed the enthusiasm of a child, who were once wild and now have become man’s greatest companion. So used to them, we often forget to marvel in their incredible abilities; agility, intelligence, loyalty, alertness.

As they bound outside, squirrels dive for trees and rabbits for holes, a flurry of gentle fur and bushy tails. The deer in distant fields lift their perfectly carved heads and gaze for a moment before bounding effortlessly out of sight. The garden is filled with bright, dark eyes peeping from branches and amongst leaves. Yet self-immersion fuelled by the clock ticking means I forget to take a moment to acknowledge all those other lives; wild animals breakfasting, creating homes, providing the family with food, surviving, not so different to my day.

On the way to the train station, a ginger cat sits on a brick wall leisurely cleaning her fur as a cunning pretence that she is too busy to notice the hedge mice darting in and out. At some point that seemingly soft paw will dart out, claws extended and take the life of one of those mice before presenting it as a doorstep gift. All in a day’s work for a ginger cat, her sense of purpose and the streak of wild within which remains despite years of domestication.
Just in time I see the trail of ants leading to a piece of cake dropped by an earlier journeyer. I jump over them not thinking much of that colony focused on its vital cake task, crumb by crumb for however long it takes.

On the train I spot a family of foxes living by the tracks. The cubs play whilst the mother watches, the whiskered nose twitching and ears pricked and alert incase of danger on the horizon. At the station a dove has trapped her foot in wiring and flutters helplessly to escape. Whilst assistance is sought I see her mate waiting close by cooing reassuringly, not leaving his partner despite the danger.

All of these ‘ordinary’ creatures I see in the first hour of the morning. I don’t stare or take a picture, usually I don’t even notice. If I saw a giraffe or a zebra I would be astonished and transfixed but if you think about it dogs, squirrels, foxes, even ants are no less incredible, no less extraordinary, no less awe-inspiring. The fact that an ant is one of the world’s strongest creatures able to carry 50 times their own body weight and capable of living up to 30 years is as impressive as a cheetah being able to run 70mph or an elephant living to 70 years.

It was Aristotle who said so simply “in all things of nature there is something of the marvellous.” All we need to do is recognise it in the wildlife around us and that in turn will enable us to recognise just how extraordinary our everyday lives are.