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Stop! Look around, take time to breathe!

By Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity

I believe I am very lucky in where I live. True, it was a choice my wife and I made together, but not everyone gets such a choice.

When I take my dog for a walk, or when I just want to have a walk by myself or with family, I have fields, woods and forests within a few hundred yards. From our kitchen window I can see almost nothing but trees.

So, I get to see all of nature’s annual changes. Including, yes, the ultra-muddy and marshy ‘dog days’ of midwinter. (I know ‘dog days’ normally means late summer but, believe me, all the dogs I know prefer the squelchy fur-clinging mud!).

However, more than all these delights, what I find particularly inspiring and life-affirming is the wildlife I see and hear. From a few foxes and badgers to lots of pheasants, partridge, voles and other ’small-furries’. 

In early spring, I especially love to hear the numerous bird calls. Now I readily admit there are very few specific calls I can identify. But I do know we have skylarks, nightingales and other songbirds in our woods. They, along with the two types of woodpecker and barn owls, whose calls I do recognise, are very pleasant and welcome accompaniments to my ambling, especially in the early morning. I would go so far as to say they are uplifting. That said, the bird call I find most inspiring is neither harmonious nor particularly tuneful. It is a very sharp, and fairly short screech. Not from one of the owls, but from a red kite.

Hearing them call inspires me to look up and watch these amazing, beautiful creatures soaring above me on thermals or the slightest puff of wind. And, because our house is high on the slope of our valley, I can even watch them from our kitchen, bedroom and, on warm days, from our deck.

They are remarkable birds with such grace and inherent beauty. But what is even more inspiring is their story. 

Some twenty years ago, these birds were hunted to extinction in our part of the UK, as it was believed they, being ‘birds of prey’, took young lambs and small dogs. Not true. Although they are ‘raptors’ they mainly eat carrion i.e. meat already dead. They only revert to live prey in extremis.

So, just over ten years ago two pairs of young kites from northern Scotland, where their numbers were almost too high, were reintroduced to my area of England. 

It obviously suited them, as now we have more than twenty pairs. Sometimes I can see almost all of them climbing a thermal outside my home. Making the sky look like a wonderful ocean pool for them.

Not only does their inspiring recovery remind me that a significant planned change can prove highly beneficial, but also that ‘Life’ is a precious thing to be valued.

Many talk about ‘work-life balance’ as if life and work are different things. Work is only a subset of life. Work should always know its place and you should never let it take over.

Remember the Red Kites of Thames Valley. Sometimes allow yourself to soar on thermals, sometimes plan radical changes and always, always, remember to stop, listen to the bird song, then breathe deeply. You can be certain that ‘work’ will benefit too.