Friday 4 November 2022

Developing your sixth sense

Wild Signs and Star Paths: The Keys to Our Lost Sixth Sense In 2018 Stuart Heritage wrote a review for the Guardian of Tristan Gooley's Wild Signs And Star Paths and I immediately added the book to my "to be read" list. This year I finally got round to it.

Gooley explains what he's going to do in his Introduction: "I will show you how to sense direction from stars and plants, forecast weather from woodland sounds, and predict the next action of an animal from its body language–instantly."

So far so good. I read on with fascination and try to look at what's around me in my urban environment. First, the sky. Living by the sea I stand on the shore and the heavens stretch before and above me. Gooley tells me that "Two main factors influence whether clouds will form: the amount of water vapour in the air and the temperature" and I consider why so many mornings this past summer there has been low mist clinging to the hills. "The island cloud... doesn't appear to go anywhere," so perhaps now I'll be able to spot where Corsica is, even tho' I can't see the land. I also understand why Lancashire gets more rain than Yorkshire: Gooley explains it's because the prevailing winds travel over the sea from the south-west.

My interest starts to wane when we get to trees and animals. In my urban environment the gardeners prune and shape what few trees there are. I've never seen ivy on them, and even if I had, I'm certain I wouldn't spot where deer had been eating it. There are plenty of pigeons seagulls, and ducks, and during Covid I heard a blackcap. Pigeons "spend time assessing us with regular head tilts, giving one eye or each in turn a good look at us. Once they turn their back it is a sign that they are no longer worried by us." The gull's "circle meant they were stopping for food." From my balcony I hear small birds call to each other. There's one on look-out duty on top of a lamp post tweeting to others hidden in a tree, and now I know that it's not always the same bird, since "Most species with sentinels have evolved a rotation of the duty."

The problem tho' is that so much of what the book tells me to look for is in the countryside. I never see deer nor rabbits, only dogs, and they're often dressed in silly coats, being carried, or tethered to a leash. The amount of information in the book is overwhelming, and I find myself reminiscing about the I-Spy books we took on holiday when I was a kid. Now there's an idea...

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