Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cows, Geese, and Kat's Summer TicTocc Challenge

So there we were, dog-of-small-brain and I, plodding through the rain, or, ‘swishing’ to be precise, yours truly decked out in waterproofs, much to the dog’s embarrassment, when we could go no further. The field our footpath crossed was full of munching, snorting, black and white cows.

I like looking at cows, I love their soft, soulful eyes. But I’ll walk miles of detour rather than pass through a field of them. Being a country lass, I’m not sure why I find them so scary. I have a vague recollection of my teenaged self being chased by cows while hiking as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, but I’m not sure if it really happened. We were probably making such a squealy-girl din, the cows were trying to get away from us. But however it happened, I am afraid of cows.

I try not to be. I got chatting to the farmer down the road whose dairy herd haunt our favourite walks. He explained that cows aren’t menacing, just curious. So if you’re in a field with them, they’ll want to come and have a look at you. Particularly if you are small and sporting cow-like black and white splodges, à la dog-of-small-brain. So since that conversation, I had been very brave. I’d walked through a number of cow-filled fields saying loudly ‘hello cows, how are you?’ dog cringing and hoping we didn’t meet anyone who knows him, while trying to think non-scared thoughts. It seemed to work well until a couple of weeks ago during a spot of hot weather. (yes, I have trouble remembering it too) I don’t know whether the heat made them as cranky as me, but they were not friendly. A couple of them ran at us, admittedly thundering to a halt when I paused, but it was enough. We don’t walk through cows any more.

To avoid them this morning, we had to pick our way, trespassing, across a field of stubble. But we hadn’t gone far before I saw a grazing flock of Canada Geese. I counted at least fifty. They eyed our progress, flapping wings and craning long necks, debating whether or not to flee. Crossing my fingers they wouldn’t take-off, thereby alerting the farmer to our soggy selves lurking ‘off piste’, I got out my camera.

I’ve never been very good at taking photographs; digital cameras were invented for goons like me. As a child I’d fire off films-full of snaps, badger my mum to send them away for processing, wait what felt like weeks for them to return, then eagerly open them only to find that, yet again, I’d taken entire films of photos with my finger across the lens. Or my hair. Or half a finger. Or my hands had shook. In the end I decided I was rubbish at photography, so although I have a camera, taking pictures is something I rarely do.

Recently however, I was perusing the internet (for ‘perusing’ read ‘messing around wasting time’ ) and came across an entry by Goddess Leonie guesting on ‘Roots of She’. Writing about making time to be creative, one of her suggestions is to take a camera out with you while walking. It is such a fiendishly simple idea, I thought ‘I can do that’. And Kat’s summer TiccTocc challenge was lurking at the back of my mind. It is, amongst other things, to have a go at something new. Why not photography?

So in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been taking lots of pictures. Digital cameras make it easy to take a half-decent snap. This morning’s pictures haven’t come out particularly well, but I was using the ‘no shake’ function in the wind, and I’ve never tried it before. Maybe it doesn’t take as good a picture. Or maybe, and most likely, it was the operator…. I couldn't manage a more close-up picure of the geese either. This is as good as it got.

I like taking pictures because I am a frustrated artist. I’ve been out and bought the sketchbook and the pencils, but I’m not sitting down to doodle. I’m afraid of the paper and pencils sitting there looking all artist-erly in their box. I’m afraid because I can’t draw, and I’m afraid to spoil the paper by trying. Silly isn’t it, the obstacles we throw up to stop ourselves doing things. The other problem is that I lack patience. It takes ages for a non-artist like me to try to draw something. A digital camera gives you an instant picture.

I watched a programme some months back in which the (dishy) vicar Peter Owen Jones (is it acceptable to describe a vicar as ‘dishy’?) was trying to live without money in a series called 'The Simple Life'. He met a woman who produced the most amazing drawings and paintings of flowers and plants. She talked about how the process of making her pictures was a contemplative, meditative act, and it really appealed to me as a wonderful way of appreciating the beauty of plants. I love the old detailed sketches early botanists made before cameras had been invented, and I’d like to do that sort of art. But until I find the way, and, I suppose, the will to make time to learn to draw like that, photography seems my best choice to capture images of the things that fascinate me the most.

What things would you do if only you were brave enough, and what stops you? Go on, leave me a comment....


  1. A couple years ago I read, "Go into a pasture where cows are grazing in the distance. Shout to get their attention and then suddenly lie down. The moment you do, they will hurry over to investigate, encircling you and staring down at you with unmitigated bovine fascination."

    I don't suppose you'd be willing to test that and tell me whether it's true?

  2. Haha! Tim, I wonder if you've ever heard of the (amongst other things) animal behavioural expert Temple Grandin? She does that - she's a much braver person than me!

  3. I haven't heard of Temple Grandin. I'll see if she has an answer. Thanks!


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