Despite thirty years in a wide variety of conservation roles, from fundraising to international advocacy, I had never worked at the sharp end, on the ground. So I jumped at the opportunity to be seconded to work at two of our top wetland nature reserves.
World Wetlands Day, on 2 February each year, unites all such places around the world. It is a reminder that wetlands are among the most beautiful, vital and threatened places. My secondment comes to an end in two months’ time and I have been reflecting on a host of memories. I have a favourite, and it’s a simple one that could easily have passed me by on any other day:
All experience of nature is about content and context. Rarely would a gull be the headline act in the Infinite Variety Show, even if it is the world’s daintiest. But it will have been the smooth light of the first after-work walk of spring; the sense of emergence that this always brings. This would have made me stop to study closely how this swallow-gull would play the faintest breeze to gain advantage over the dizzy midges, and to make a feast of them.
To mark my departure from Norfolk I have been writing a cycle of nine piano miniatures. None is much longer than a minute, and they will be for players of varying abilities.
For World Wetlands Day I am releasing the first, Reflected Sky. This is a computer rendition using sampled sound. Get in touch if you'd like a copy of the sheet music.
The remaining pieces, all responses to moments spent in the company of nature in Norfolk, will be ready in March. They include a piece that tries to capture the rolling, puppetic rhythm of that little gull's flight, and one that surges and crashes like the tide on the night of 5 December 2013.
For a celebration of more of the world's great wetlands, click here.