Matter of Survival #30DaysWild – Day 12

#StayWild Tip: Showcase your finds on a nature table like feathers, fossils and bones.

As a young kid of about eleven or twelve I had a maroon-coloured gilet. I loved that thing, and wore it most days as it had loads of pockets with little pop-stud closures. The reason I needed so many pockets was because, as a desperately amateur naturalist, I liked to carry “essential equipment”. The gilet would hang from my skinny little shoulders, distorted by the weight of what I could stuff in the pockets. If you look closely at this photo of me and my younger brother on the Isle of Arran, you can see what I mean.


The things I would shove into the capacious garment depended on where I was going, who with, and what I’d be doing when I got there, but essential equipment often included:

– Whatever Collins Gem book I was currently obsessed with (I had a good collection of these miniature reference books, and was particularly fond of Garden Wildlife, Dinosaurs and the SAS Survival Guide)

– A pencil and sketch book

– A small plastic telescope (surprisingly good)

– A pen knife (or two)

– Interesting pebbles, bones, feathers or other wild artifacts (brought from home simply because I liked touching and looking at them)

– A survival tin, containing fishing line, fishing weights, fishing hooks, matches, wire, sticky plasters, a handwritten Morse code sheet, elastic bands, string, and other bits and bobs I can’t remember.

I’m not sure what unfortunate event I anticipated that would require surviving, but being prepared seemed pragmatic at the time. Bear in mind I had never gone fishing, nor traveled by plane, or even traveled outside the UK at this age.

I would often come back from walks and trips with even more “stuff”, and like many kids interested in nature I had a nature table (well, shelf). I remember it had all manner of treasures on it, from shells and feathers to dried leaves and bones. Pride of place was a piece of iron pyrite, or fool’s gold, which I had acquired at a gift shop somewhere and was very, very fond of.

A few years later, the treasures were replaced with tapes and model figures and passed out of memory. I had discovered music, comics, girls and delinquency and no longer spent time wide-eyed and wild in quiet places, looking for foxes or ant nests, content with my own company, unhurried and peaceful. I don’t remember what happened to the gilet, or the iron pyrite.

Nearly 30 years later I find myself thinking about young Jamie a lot. He’s been through much since then; a lot of kindness and adventure but also a lot of pain and disappointment too. I am satisfied by the way in which things have come full circle, and how my passions are more and more the same as they were when I was naive, content with simplicity and unafraid of solitude.

I am at my most content in wild, peaceful places. I take binoculars, books and a pen knife everywhere I go. And, like little Jamie in his maroon gilet, I enjoy collecting souvenirs that remind me of wild encounters. I have an excellent gilet collection, and still consider abundant pockets to be a hallmark of quality.

Below is a small selection of the wild findings that sit on my kitchen window sill today. Each is a bookmark in place and time, and evokes a memory of a particular adventure. Collecting things from the wild, in a responsible and non-destructive manner, offers a chance to connect mindfully with the sensations of experience, and to forever link touch to memories. An object can be a guide and focal point for reminiscence, even meditation, of a time when we were calm, content and cheerful.

Little Jamie would have a field day with these šŸ™‚










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