The Joy of Unknowing (1)

We have just returned from a few days away in Shropshire, which is one reason you haven’t heard from me recently.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather, and spent the time walking and reading and mooching around towns and villages. And finding time for the occasional meal and cold beer, of course.

Yes, we did some lovely walks. And I find it a natural thing to be constantly identifying and photographing whatever I see when out for a walk. I have always been interested in all aspects of the environment, be it the plants and animals, the geography and geology, the weather, or the historical impact of people on the environment in forms such as old trackways, deserted buildings, or ancient boundaries.


And we have spent several fantastic days surrounded by an environment rich in all these things, as we have walked through woods, fields, and open hillsides, seen ancient settlements, butterflies, birds, and many wildflowers, and all this in an area of some of the most complex geology in the UK.

But sometimes I feel myself tiring of the constant need to identify and record everything; it is really a way of trying to own them.

And when you post on social media too, it can feel at times a little like a competition to put up the best pictures of this or that wildflower or bird or mountain, which naturally need to be identified and named. Especially on Twatter, whose format seems to encourage this.


So, on our first morning away, as we walk up a track heading into the hills above Church Stretton, under early morning blue skies with the air crystal clear and beautifully cool, I decide that for now I am just going to exist in the moment.

Because by doing this, I am relieved of the constant necessity of deciding whether this bird is a rook or a crow, or whether that flower is greater stitchwort or lesser stitchwort.


Because it doesn’t really matter.

And for now, instead of having to always know whether it is this or that bird singing, I can allow myself to simply think there is singing. There is birdsong.

Or, even better, there is a sound I find melodic, and it pleases me.

By doing this, I can relax and centre myself, which is something I feel has been badly lacking in my life recently. I have struggled with social media in any case, feeling a huge pressure to post new material and to read the many I follow, even when I don’t feel up to it.

It feels like a return to a much simpler time in my life. I can enjoy the views of the hills, the sounds of the streams and birds, and just concentrate on being.

This must have been part of the pleasure I felt as a child on every occasion when I could roam outdoors. Certainly, I was curious about what I saw, but since I knew so little about them, there was always an openness to the experience and the excitement of discovery. I would see butterflies I had not seen before, and I would just get the thrill of seeing them without having to know anything more about them. I would see wildflowers I didn’t recognise and just enjoy the shapes and colours.

Naturally, you cannot really unknow things in that way, just as you cannot really return to that point in your childhood, but it is possible, even if for only a short while, to let go of the need to identify and quantify (and therefore own) everything, and simply exist in the here and now.

42 thoughts on “The Joy of Unknowing (1)

  1. An epiphany of a break for you, Mick! 😀 Sounds as If you’ve had a wonderful and complete restorative break for your mind and soul! Shropshire is a beautiful part of the UK and one I visited regularly when my father-in-law was alive … lovely memories.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Erm am allowed to say it’s a ringlet? One of the pleasures of walking as a youngster with dad was butterfly spotting and it doesn’t leave you in the same way that the simple pleasure of being outside and away doesn’t. Glad you had a good time. Looks stunning

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are, Geoff. Butterflies were always my speciality, too, and I always end up chasing after them to try and identify them if it isn’t immediately obvious. I must try and do that less, though.

      It was stunning, Geoff. I managed to just switch off for a bit, which was exactly what I needed to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lesley

    I’m glad to see you back Mick, and even more gladdened to hear about the good your holiday has done you. This is one of the best posts I’ve read on WordPress!

    I totally get what your saying. Living abundantly in the moment is exactly what we all need and, often, research and photography gets in the way of that.

    I’ve always enjoyed your posts. You have such a natural and authentic way with words that make feel I outdoors with you. 🙌

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lesley

        It happens to us all at some time or another. We become so overwhelmed with everything that goes on round about us, but it’s beautiful when we get back to our natural selves.😁

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am really glad for you Mick, it is so important to just see and feel what is around us. Let the beauty and Wonder flood your senses.
    It is important that we don’t become slaves to any media. You keep on enjoying. 🌼


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a fabulous break in a lovely part of the world. Know exactly what you mean about just enjoying the moment and experiencing life rather than recording it. We have always tried to live first and worry about communicating about it later. Much nicer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Mick – sometimes I take a quick snapshot, like jotting down a note, when I think, after I’m home again, I’ll want to look something up, see what that butterfly’s name might be, etc. And quite often, I just admire it, and leave the camera in the bag for the whole hike, if I’ve even bothered to bring it. Other days, I’ll squat in the mud for extended periods, fooling around with the camera, determined to take a decent photo, and that’ll be fun, too.
    But heck I agree that we need to lose the feeling of obligation and constant analysis, I think we’re allowed to ramble around as we please, without scripting every move or having to report in to our Twitter Feed like a parole officer. Glad you had a nice time just “mooching around” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to do that too, Robert, usually to work out what a particular plant is. It’s a useful tool, but I do overuse it at times and realise after a while I’ve not really been appreciating where I’m walking, just looking at everything through a viewfinder.

      yes, it was a perfect way to spend some time. I’m going to make sure I do more of it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s always great to take time off from the mundane of today and return to simpler times. I can only name a handful of flowers, I was always content to admire them without the need to identify them.
    And just for giggles, I overheard my daughter this morning explaining to my youngest that when snakes climb a tree, it means they want to turn into butterflies.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice to see you back, Mick. I loved your photographs. I post loads of pictures to instagram and I never say what bird or flower my picture is of because I never know (haha). Most of the time some enterprising person will tell me what it is thereby increasing my knowledge which is awesome. I don’t accept social media as a competitive environment, I see it as an enjoyable hobby.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Mick. I like the trust you show in your journey. When taking pictures and identifying becomes a distraction, time to set that aside (at least for now). I’m coming to see that we are tuned for playful wonder and following that results in an inner/outer harmony unique to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m like you but I know people who delight in naming things and that’s fine. I envy you – looks like a lovely place to walk although how the heck do you say Shropshire? I’m sure I’d make a mess of it but then I’m one of those damned Yanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I delight in naming things. I suppose that’s natural. I just feel that I (and probably a lot of other people) can get a little bit fixated on having to name everything, rather than just being open to experiencing them. Sometimes it takes a deliberate step back to see that and to manage it.

      And Shropshire? ‘Shrop’ – like ‘shop’ but with an added ‘r’, then ‘shire’.


  11. Very well expressed, Mick. I like to do the same, quite often. My fave thing is to sit and watch sunsets and have the camera nowhere near me. If you’re always looking through a viewfinder (or naming and describing things) you’re not actually experiencing what you most want to share with other people, so you’re depriving yourself of that experience in real time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is very true, Val. I really think there are people who go on holiday and only know where they’ve been and what they’ve seen when they get back and start looking through all their photos – every one of which is a ‘selfie’ (ghastly word!) in front of some ‘sight’.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Good to see you back, and I’m glad you had a relaxing time … we all need that these days. Unlike you, I have no idea what species or type of anything I am looking at, so I only enjoy nature for what I see, hear, smell, etc. I do, however, have some very nice conversations with such things as bees, insects, flowers and trees! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A really thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, Mick, whose honesty opens doors. Revisiting childhood is something of a locked door but I’m trying to do just that, for personal as well as writing reasons, so reading this piece has been a help. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That reminds me of back when I used to do underwater photography. I’d always have to put together a slide show for the dive club, and identify every little obscure “is that a plant or an animal?” that showed up. (Look up hydroids, for example.) Since my flash died and the camera world went digital I never upgraded my u/w gear, so when I dive I can just relax and look around. (Of course I can’t see as well as I used to either.) Still, it’s nice to have a notion of what stuff is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to have a notion, and nice to be able to draw on that knowledge when needed. Nice to just switch off, though, and, as you say, just relax and look around. I think it’s all too easy to get drawn into the idea of having to identify everything, but see nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

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