I swiped my security card and the waist-high glass barrier slid back to allow me to pass out of the brutal concrete building. The Autumn wind, hitherto reserved for places far north of North London, corralled a small, random selection of leaves and debris and half-heartedly deposited them at my feet. It felt like the season was product-testing its gusts and I had happened to walk right into them. I almost expected to hear an apology from Nature HQ, ‘Oops sorry mate, didn’t see you there,’ but I was left to feel fortunate that swirl and drop was a one-off incident. At least it wasn’t raining.
I walked along the campus road and took a bite out of last night’s foil-wrapped leftover pizza. I was impressed that the herbs, tomatoes and cheese, coupled with the weighty carbohydrate base had retained their flavours and noticed some Silver Birches whose white petals were quivering in the breeze.
I am not a tree expert, but I know that Willows hang out by water to imbibe water and that Horse Chestnut and Oak drop conkers and acorns to regenerate their species. I also know that Silver Birch trees offer neither flowers nor petals but on this occasion, were happy to pretend. As I used my phone to capture the event, I had the impression that the trees were flirting with me. As I was gawping and trying to capture an eye full of the underside of the silver leaves, the trees channelled the spirit of a troupe of Parisien Can-Can dancers lifting their skirts to a musical crescendo at the Moulin Rouge. I clicked away at the spectacle to capture the moments of voyeuristic reveal.
And yet, this was self-delusion. I was fully aware that I was not documenting rare flowers on trees and I also knew that the leaves’ white underbellies must have been designed for a reason of nature. The facts, however, did not matter. I was witnessing nature allowing something to appear to be something else. Like fish that mimic sand to hide from predators and stick insects pretending they are sticks, it was something beautiful and interesting.
I walked back to the office block whose windows never open and whose air conditioning tortures its incumbents by freezing then broiling them simultaneously. I felt blessed to have had a few moments in the cool bright outdoors.
The trees and wind were playing a charming yet harmless trick. Nature takes pleasure in toying with colours and textures and despite me accusing it of flirting, the aim is surely nothing more than allowing the smallest things to be momentarily spectacular before the chlorophyll evaporates turning green to red then yellow then brown like a weirdly synchronised traffic light.