Recently I experienced a bit of interest in plants. It was a couple of months ago when I was in the middle of revising for exams. Flowers stopped being just shit and became strange and wonderful. When the exams were done I drove to a forest park on the coast to try out the new perspective.
After parking the car, I initially strayed onto the fairly crowded coastal walk and beach part of the area. I climbed down from the path onto a rocky shore intending to examine the pebbles. I think I did turn one over in my hand and look at it. But I could feel people on the path looking at me. ‘Aye, nice one mate’ they’d be thinking. I stopped with the pebbles and sat down on a mound, bent forward with my forearms on my thighs and my hands clasped together. I’ve noticed this is Tom Cruise’s default posture on chat shows:
A siege mentality, that’s what that is. I started to feel harassed again after a minute. ‘What’s he sitting there like a mopey cunt for?’ was the question now. I quite quickly resigned myself to the fact that this wasn’t happening. Me staring at pebbles wasn’t going to be rich enough an experience to justify a big struggle. I got up and began picking up pebbles and skimming them into the sea. For whatever mad reason, skimming stones feels legitimate. I can imagine Obama skimming a few stones. Obama staring at pebbles in a kind of ignorant way isn’t such a great image.
I skimmed as many as were necessary to make it look like I’d wanted to and that it wasn’t a purely evasive move then I scampered awkwardly back up the bank to the path, looking like a weird man-child. After some further ignominy, I finally found myself alone in the forest part of the area. Blissfully alone and to remain that way for the next hour and a half or so, bar a couple of joggers and one guy walking his dog. I think my first port of call was a leaf on a tree. It was a thing of beauty. Velvety on one side and on the other side glossy with two columns of slightly concave segments separated by ridges. And the whole thing a vivid green.
Another highlight was a plant that had round, coffee-coloured pods on the end of thin black stalks. The pods were like paper that had been pasted and dried out, the tiny balloon underneath popped. I was keen to have a closer look. Plucking the petals off a flower seemed a bit revolting at this moment in time, though I had done it a minute before when my curiosity had gotten the better of me. I had squirmed when I pulled aside and plucked a couple of petals from a little wall of purple, revealing an obscene naked stigma. But the pods were dry and cracked and looked finished. I pinched one between my fingers and it split open. Inside were probably about a hundred minute seeds, just loose, filling the it up halfway like they’d been dispensed into it. I had expected the pods to be empty so was a bit taken aback. There was a lot going on here.
The afternoon in nature wasn’t turning out to be the Terence Malick movie experience I was after. By 3/4 of an hour in I had become jittery. I caved in and started shooting large stones like basketballs from a pathway, trying to hit a big tree stump next to the river way down below. Then a dangerously steep climb up the side of the valley away from the path tempted me. I got a cheap thrill when I nearly started sliding backwards halfway up. Back on the path I took a running jump and swing on an overhanging branch and landed just before the point where I would have landed on my back rather than my feet.
I was headed back in the direction of the car by that point and was soon on my way home.