Sunday, 19 February 2017

Mudlarks and fossils

We took the children out for the regular weekend wander - Aberlady this week, with the promise of fossils and Kit-Kats, and I found myself wondering: why? And what will stick?

Slipping and sliding in the tidal mud, caught between trust and the anxiety of thinking for yourself as you follow me out to the ancient bones of scuttled boats, rotten ribs spilling their last meal of rocks, hoping the quicksand doesn't get you?

The bubbling call of a curlew is wild music that grips me with a spasm of longing and loss, I don't know why. Oystercatchers carry me back to summer nights far inland, lying in the dark, the sound of a Cairngorm-born river outside. What will they mean for you?

"Where's the sea?" you ask. We can only hear it, far out across the sand and mud flats. You see, the further out the tide goes, the faster it comes in. Maybe approaching walking pace across Aberlady Bay.

It's cold. Your auntie found a coral fossil but you didn't. How much further is it? No, you're too big to carry now.

Did you overhear the joke we made about building a house with bricks foraged from the foreshore? Only half a joke because I'm running out of illusions about where we are and where we're going, and I'm looking for new stories with less cheap comfort and more scope for action.

The world is changing but it isn't coming to an end, and that's the frightening thing. The future doesn't look like it will be an upgraded version of the present. In the same way, evolution is widely misunderstood: it's not about getting better, improving in some objective sense. It's about adapting to the conditions. Nor is it a process of smooth and gradual change; instead, periods of stability are punctuated by times of rapid change, as conditions break down and clever adaptations become useless, redundant. The parameters of the game are reset. Your move.

So we have to choose carefully what to do, what is worth keeping, and what to let go, with an honest eye to what the situation requires, with an eye to the world outside our culture.

Because whatever you think, this is your home for life. Remember that and you might be okay.

More information about looking for fossils at Aberlady can be found here. Please note Aberlady is an SSSI so do read the information in the link about responsible fossil hunting.

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