Heartbeat of the Earth

It’s a glorious day in England and the late spring is rushing along as fast as it can go. I keep looking up at the sky to see if I can see a great cloud of volcanic ash heading this way but all I see are white clouds scudding along like frisky sheep.

I walk, fast enough to keep warm, because the wind is still cold, blowing in from the north east and bringing the smell of the sea long before I reach it. Sometimes I stop and talk with other dogwalkers; we admire each other’s animals and talk dogtalk. There’s a great camaraderie among dogwalkers and it’s probably a measure of my slightly sick mind that it occurs to me that using the cover of dogwalking might be a great disguise for a serial killer. We greet someone who we don’t know like a long lost relative simply because of their canine companion.

The beach is bracing, the wind whipping the waves into fine spume that makes you wet if you walk too near the shoreline. I feel sand seep into my trainers. Back up and head towards the wood again as I run out of beach. The nudist beach is no more, as much a result of coastal erosion as it was of county council statutes; but few naturists felt the narrow stretch of rough shingle was worth the pains of visiting any more.

   I return via another belt of ancient woodland, taking a short cut across a vast meadow and then back into tree cover again. I love trees. The dog trails behind me, following her nose where it leads and when she does that I stand and wait for her to catch up and feel the sun and the breeze on what little skin I have bared. It feels good. Back into a grove of trees, I remember my days as a warden on a nature reserve, working as education officer and I take a sneaky look around to see if I am watched before pressing my right ear to the nearest tree. A distant hint of moving liquid sounds inside the trunk, faint but distinct. This one is too big. I try a sapling and the sound is thin and thready, like the pulse of a dying bird.

Moving on I reach the final open space of the walk and a parade of trees greets me, spaced out across grass studded with wildflowers making up for lost time. These, like Goldilock’s porridge, are just right. Not too big and not too small. I lean my face against the first, feeling the bristle of lichen like kissing a man unshaven on Sundays. The trunk is warm from the sun and the lichen crackles and shifts as my ear finds the sweet spot. Like a river, the heartbeat of the tree thunders away and the tree seems to lean against me as the wind catches it, like a Shire horse will lean on the farrier as it is being shod. It feels strange, a great affectionate gesture from a loving stranger who has become a friend in the space between one heartbeat and the next. I stand, my cheek against this tree before moving to the next and repeating the experience. Four trees  later and I have moss and lichen in my hair, making me look like a slightly stout dryad, if dryads are allowed to wear combat trousers and National Geographic Buffs.

I cut down the field and back into the first belt of woodland, and stop amid the grove of chesnuts, where the bats inhabit a hole in one trunk and woodpeckers rear a nestfull of chicks every year in the hole below it and here, I stop for a moment and listen to the sound beyond the song of birds and the wind in the trees and further beyond the traffic on the A12 a few dozen yards away now.

So distant that I may well be imagining it, I hear another heartbeat: the earth’s. It might be my own magnified by my melancholy and sensitivity, but it doesn’t matter. Just as the trees leaning into me like horses comforted me, so too does this notion or perception. The earth is herself alive, and sentient and that comforts me beyond anything. Humanity may be doomed but the earth will recover.

    I go home, feeling tired and a little sad but not despairing. That’s as much as you can hope for some days.

13 thoughts on “Heartbeat of the Earth

  1. this is lovely and I can only hope to be this much intuned on my walks.

    “The earth is herself alive, and sentient and that comforts me beyond anything. Humanity may be doomed but the earth will recover.”

    really lovely, almost as if I were there with you.



  2. I saw it on CNN – and I thought of you. Good that you didn’t see any of it – I don’t think that volcanic ash could be good for health. It definitely isn’t good for Earth’s health:-( But at some point in the distant past, volcanoes helped us return from the Ice-age!

    I loved your narration of the dog-walk…it was beautiful:) Thanks.

    Warm Regards,


    • Funny you should say that but it was what my husband said this morning; it could be a good thing longer term to have that blanket of ash cooling us down a bit.
      Now they are saying that air travel is totally down for the foreseeable future. My group that are coming in next week had already changed their travel plans(cost I assume) and instead of flying in to Stansted where I usually meet them, they are coming via the Eurostar and I meet them at St Pancras instead. fortuitous or what?
      The sky is bright now but we had sea mist in until an hour ago. Now I am taking a mini break from study to go and hang the washing out on the line and have a coffee.
      Might even get out with the dog later too.


  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Heartbeat of the Earth « Zen and the art of tightrope walking -- Topsy.com

  4. Hi Vivianne,

    I’ve been enjoying your work for a while now, having found you originally from your post about “Turpentine” – it still makes me laugh. funny how the simplist and silly-ist bits of profundity can heal all ills 😀

    I have posted you on my blogroll at


    Thanks for your Great Work!

    Pete Madstone


  5. Oh I like this a lot, Viv! Now I’ll have to go out to see if I can hear the heartbeat of trees out here, too 🙂 I tell my kids the rocks can ‘talk’ but they don’t believe me. They just think I’m a little, or maybe a lot, nutty, LOL.


    • Rocks are referred to my Native Americans as The Stone people or the Standing People and yes they do talk. But you have to know how to listen. I ask friends to send me back rocks from their travels to exotic or exctiing places and when i get them, I try to hear the rock’s story. Best by palcing it under a pillow at night, having firat laid it for a few minutes on the forehead.
      To hear trees, pick a sunny day in spring or summer, and choose a tree with thinnish bark and not too big, away from traffic. A stethoscope can help (I have some) and be patient.
      thanks Madison.


    • Not that sort of warden; Relax. I worked for the Nature Conservancy Council (whihc is now Wild Britain, having morphed to English Nature for some years) as an education officer, but I was also officially a warden for the reserve I worked for. I even got a lovely enamel badge(which I was meant to hand in when I left but somehow forgot, and have to this day)


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