by Jeannie Maclean

Head waters, clean pools,
Wet ditches link life across
Our thirsting landscape

My Pledge: to watch my language

All summer my eight-year-old granddaughter wandered with me in the Glen where I live. In heavy rain the river, unusually, burst its banks. Sploshing through puddles on the road in her wellies she spotted small fish. She declared, “I won’t go in the puddles now, I don’t want to hurt the fish. What will happen to the fish?” she asked.

I explained they were already dead because there wasn’t enough water for them to breathe the way fish do. I told her the reason why the fish were on the road was complicated. She skipped beside me as we made our way home.

I promised I would let her explore some of those reasons.

Fresh waters are among the most threatened habitats in our modern world. We have carelessly, recklessly allowed our habitats to become polluted by industry, agriculture and ignorance. Species have disappeared and even by creating cleaner freshwater habitats many will not return. Pollution, Pesticides, poisons – not words I wanted to use in explanation.

Instead she spent hours on an inflatable in the river, staring at the riverbed, seeing live fish, watching shadows and reflections, light and beauty in the clear water. 

She looked in ditches and pools at different plants and creatures, smelled the difference between clean water and chemical pollutants, heard swifts swooping over and sweeping a pond of insects, watched frogs cross the road to spawn in a lochan, and knew they had succeeded when the heron arrived to take his fill. She declared Woody Louise her best friend, a woodlouse she found in a dry wall. 

She touched everything she needed to understand how each part of nature relies on another, that everything is interconnected and includes us. 

As adults we know rapid change is needed to avert environmental crisis, and to strengthen biodiversity. We need not frighten children with apocalyptic language which causes paralysis of thought. They already care. As part of a healthy ecology we can nurture their natural caring and curiosity. Wildlife trusts and school projects which offer this learning must be supported.

A summer with an inquisitive eight year old, figuring out how a spring begins the burn which begins the river, finding newts in pools and bog cotton high on the hill, connecting all this, like a jigsaw puzzle, with truth and knowledge, gives me hope. 

Read Lucy Cash’s 26 Habitats freshwater centena and essay.

Read Erica Reid’s 26 Habitats freshwater centena and essay.

One thought on “Freshwater

  1. So tender and true – a simply beautiful piece of writing from Jeannie with layers of meaning and an impassioned plea to love nature by learning more about it, and what better way than through the eyes of a child – yes, we should all pledge to mind our language.

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