Celumë: Nature as its own Historian

Celumë: Stream, flow in Quenya Elvish.

I’ve long been fascinated by the past. History was my favourite subject in school along and has remained a constant interest throughout my life. I’ve held particular time periods in high esteem in different parts of my life.

The Scottish wars of independence, the Russian revolution, WW2, Ancient Greece and Rome, the European medieval period, Renaissance Italy, Victorian London, the Viking expansion, Vietnam, feudal Japan. All conjure up memories, books I’ve read and even where I was when I read them.

Natural history, however, all though not new to me, is not as ingrained as other historical areas. Vikings, WW2 and Picts I studied at school and most of my undergraduate degree is in history. I’ve never studied natural history or science, not once in all the education establishments I’ve been to, and though I would like to, I wouldn’t even know where to start.

The term has always been a bit baffling to me. Is it not the study of almost everything in the world? And even then some. The search for water in space is the search for nature elsewhere.

Natural history can be grand, huge and even epic, one of my favourite overused words these days. Yet it can also be localised and miniscule, from the study of ants to elephants, seeds to Sequoias, the scope of natural history is enormous

While the study of history is essentially the study of people, natural history is the study of the other things on the earth, regardless of whether people are on it or not and surely it works best when people are not.

However, for as much as I’d love to do another degree in some natural or scientific area, I don’t think I’d be able to choose.

Nature has value in itself, without having to put an importance upon it as we would an impressive building, victory in battle or on the deeds of kings. Much as how history evolves, the way we view nature has changed and will no doubt develop in centuries to come, just as the words of Aristotle were once seen as ‘truths’.

Christianity changed this view, as did the industrial revolution. It’s crazy to think that agriculture, environmentalism, or even gardening wasn’t always a thing.

I like to think of nature as its own historian and this got me thinking of the ways we see the history of the world within it. Trees tell you their age once they are chopped down. Fossils can be found from beaches. We dig up peat for fires that is the vegetation dinosaurs would have eaten. Ancient shark teeth fall through our fingertips when we run our hands through the sand.

Easily visible, Hutton’s section of the Crags in Edinburgh gave us an idea of just how old the earth could be. These things are always there, the only thing that changes is our perception of them, and whether or not we notice them.

In Victorian era Scotland the study of nature was considered to be good for your mental health, now there’s a wholly modern idea.

Live Deliberately,


Currently listening to Timewave Zero by Blood Incantation

“I love to ponder the natural history thus written on the banks of the stream, for every higher freshet (stream) and intenser frost is recorded by it. The stream keeps a faithful and true journal of every event in its experience, whatever race may settle on its banks; and it purls past this natural graveyard with a storied murmur, and no doubt it could find endless employment for an old mortality in renewing its epitaphs.”

Henry David Thoreau ‘Journal’ 5th July 1852

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