I engage with nature every day. Not spectacular nature, tourist nature, remote nature, adventure nature but just 'Bob basic' every day nature. Back yard nature, park nature, suburban street nature, these are all part of the day-to-day habitat in which I live my very ordinary life. I love the birds, flowers, trees and grasses, geckos and skinks, the occasional hawk and snake in the park. Around where I live there are also bats, owls, tawny frogmouths and flying foxes. As well as permanent residents such as myself some species visit occasionally and sometimes seasonally.

While I myself engage with nature at every turn it is also true that, apart from flies and mosquitos, other living things do not of their own volition engage with me. It seems that while I need nature, nature does not need me. No hard feelings but a very one-sided appreciation.

There have been two exceptions. Once when I was painting the back garden a large colourful butterfly landed on the canvas. I could see its proboscis trying to remove the nectar from the flowers of my painting. That was great fun and I took it as compliment. The second experience was just the other day. Early in the morning, before busying myself with the day, I was sitting in the back yard playing my steel-string guitar. It is a lovely guitar and its full body produces richly resonant sounds. I was deeply self-absorbed in my improvisation when I became aware of another sound very close by. Just above me was one of the turtle doves that I feed. The dove had its soft right eye cocked on me while trilling along with my playing. The deep continuous cooing rippled the dove's throat feathers while I rippled my fingers over the fret board and strings. I think we were both pleased with the duet.

These experiences taught me that when I am simply myself, uncontrived and unselfconscious, then I am just another creature coexisting unconditionally with other creatures in my habitat. I am no different to the rest of nature. The butterfly and the dove have deepened my understanding of myself and of nature. All of this was unanticipated and spontaneously happened in my own back yard. None of this was the result of anything flashy.

I wonder what it would take for me to find a way of simply being myself in presence of other people?

Eric McClellan
EricEric has been interested in biology since a small child living in Queensland, where all the creepy-crawlies are larger than life and just cannot be ignored. After completing a Ph.D. in biological science, which was before almost anyone reading this was born, his working life became a complex mosaic of challenging but interesting occupations across many different industries. He is now a post-graduate student of philosophy and studies Japanese. Eric once published bad poetry and sold ordinary paintings; he plays guitar without panache. Eric is happily married and his young daughter is currently working at a hospital in a remote community in Kenya. Each year his parents move closer to 100. As seen in the accompanying photo, Eric enjoys solving problems.