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Jacques Lawinski

Jacques Lawinski

PhD candidate in philosophy and ecology at Université Paris VIII, visiting researcher in Lesvos, Greece. A writer, an activist, and an avid walker, I explore the planet and what it means to relate to nature, finding new, ecological ways of being.
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On a recent walk in the Eastern Hills in Lower Hutt, my father pointed out how many ‘shortcuts’ had been made by people not wanting to follow the curvature of the path, creating their own little routes through the forest. We wondered, ‘why do people not just want to enjoy their walk, what means that they are so hurried to create these shortcuts?’

I’m not sure what the answer to that is, and the response is probably different for many people. The moment motivated me to think about what I had missed on our walk, and go back with my camera the next day, to investigate.

A cicada exoskeleton on a tree

The natural world is full of presence and absence, life and death, and the transformations that take place between these two. This cicada exoskeleton on this tree reminds us of the transformation that takes place in the life cycle of this insect. The sound of the cicadas fills my ears as I take the picture, and occasionally one will fly into my face, or on my neck, only to quickly fly off again.

A small yellow flower on the path

Amongst the very dry soil, there are small flowers growing out of the sides of the bank. I initially simply thought this was a dandelion, like the ones that often grow in the grass. Through using the plantnet website, it would appear to be a Hawksbeard of some sort – something much more interesting, though also just as frequent, it would seem, based on the reported sightings in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia…

New Zealand tree ferns

I love ferns, and the way they spread out, open up, and unfold. This large fern has many layers, too, with different colours of each frond coming out from the centre.

Koru unfurling

The koru, the unfolding fern, is another of my favourite symbols of the forest. I am always overjoyed to find this shape, I can bear witness to the creation of new life, new leaves. Nestled among the e/older leaves, this koru is protected from harm in its first weeks of life.

Tree with tangled branches

One of the magnificent trees along the walk, with its branches providing a great contrast against the sky in the background. We see a few strong branches growing out horizontally, and the rest are tangled and untidy; like a morning hairstyle. There are no straight lines in this picture, reminding us of the fact that nature is often ambiguous, messy, and unwilling to conform to our expectations or desires.

Dead log with moss and small shoots

This dead wood lying on the forest floor is a reminder of how all material inside the forest is regenerated, the wood becoming the environment on which moss can grow, as it slowly decomposes. The small shoots coming out around the wood will later turn into larger trees, using the previous strength of their ancestor to grow.

Ferns crossing, dead and alive

Green and brown, life and death, again the dualities and opposites are clearly present in the forest at each turn. These crossing ferns belong to two different plants, behind which we see the wild tangle of fern branches further from the path.

four leaves unfurling from a plant

Another shape, the four leaves coming out at right angles to one another, supporting the growth of the new leaves from the centre. The vivid and shiny green is remarkable against the brown soil and muted green of the ferns.

Blue berries in NZ bush

“A blueberry!” I exclaimed. “It might be a blue berry, but it’s not a blueberry” was the response. Turns out this is the New Zealand blueberry, tuturu. Its bright purple berries immediately caught my eye in amongst the greens and browns we normally see in the forest. Full and bursting with colour, these berries fall off with even the slightest touch.

Next time you’re on a walk, in the forest, around nature, or even in the city, take the time to notice what is around you. Take a picture of a tree, a form that intrigues you, a colour that you love, a juxtaposition of presence and absence… there is so much to see, when we look.

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