Krill... now there's a word that doesn't start many sentences, especially ones that are meant to be entertaining - of course, if you have an audience of hungry blue whales you're onto a winner straight away.
However, I digress, these tiny and diverse micro-crustaceans are an essential component of the aquatic food chain, providing creatures big and small with the sustenance needed to survive. In fact, 8,000lbs of krill is needed daily to feed a healthy, hungry blue whale.
Incredible when you consider the blue whale is the largest mammal to have ever occupied the planet. It's the little things that feed the big things...
Then there's our somewhat idiosyncratic language, appropriating natural phenomenon to explore, explain and often, cover up, larger truths. Think about the hidden depths behind phrases such as:
- 'a shrinking violet,'
- 'pushing up the daisies,'
- 'grass roots,'
- 'nip it in the bud,'
- 'from little acorns...'
Little natural images which imply much bigger sentiments: shyness, anxiety, death, beginnings and endings.
And stories too... think 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' or apocalyptic disaster movies, '12 Monkeys,' '28 Days Later,' or 'Contagion.' And the classic, 'War of the Worlds.' The tiniest, natural elements effecting the greatest of all global changes.
There is a point. Of course...
A few years ago I was chatting to someone about wanting to do something with their lives, how they felt trapped and resentful and ready to scream. I was reminded of the phrase they used and the anecdote attached to it.
"It's the little things, you know?"
"Well, it might seem stupid but... I really hate the way they hang the washing out."
"There's a way to hang the washing?"
Of course, they weren't offering up their partner's inability to hang out the washing properly as the sole reason for making a life-changing decision. What followed was a litany of seemingly innocuous actions, non-actions, gestures, comments that had led to them feeling like this. Each, individually, seemed petty, meaningless and certainly not grounds for divorce. I had an image of them packing each little thing into a suitcase, day after day, year after year until they had to do that thing we all end up doing when we're packing, sitting on top of the case and trying to close the catch and contain the mess inside. I told him about the image.
"I hate the way they pack as well.'
So we talked about what they were planning to do about it. Leave... was the plan.
"You know the suitcase you've been packing for years and years?"
"What of it?"
"Might it be better to unpack it first? Then you won't have as much to carry."
See, the problem in packing away the little things is that they become the massive things. The things that feed the whale, that grow into giant plants to giant kingdoms and a world of trouble. And I know it's easy to say that we need to talk to each other and unpack the little things but actually, what is the alternative? We keep lugging that suitcase with us wherever we go.
One of my favourite books is 'Wild,' by Cheryl Strayed. There's a great movie of it too, starring Reese Witherspoon. But it's the backpack that is really the star. 'Monster,' is it's name.
After a tumultuous life, Cheryl starts off on the Pacific Crest Trail to immerse herself in nature to be alone and to escape from all the little things that had become one massive problem leading her down a path of self-destruction. In her backpack are all the things she thinks she needs to survive the journey and it is only when she accepts the help of others that she starts to shed the weight that is holding her down and making the journey that much tougher.
“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.”
We are all amazing. We all carry things through life and wonder at our own power. But we all carry things that we can unpack and leave behind too. We just need to accept help. It is our connection to others that can bind us but it can also empower us.
In my work, connecting people with nature, we often observe how the little things make such a difference and how their absence or their presence can cause nature to flourish or fail.
Without the bee, the honey would not exist. And without honey, life is less sweet.
"A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside." (Winnie the Pooh).
Don't pack the little things away, they are important because they are important to you. They matter because you matter.
Nature would be nothing without the little things either, Nature accepts that truth to survive.