Mary Colwell is a woman obsessed…. about one particular bird. The focus of her obsession is the curlew, and it is this bird, with its long curved beak and haunting cry - its survival, and ability to thrive - that has shaped her work as a naturalist, writer, conservationist and broadcaster over many years, and which led her, in 2016, to walk 500 miles across the UK and Ireland to raise awareness of its rapid decline.
And that gave her a bit of a taste for a long walk - in 2017 that meant heading out alone to walk the John Muir trail, the most spectacular long distance wilderness trail in North America, honouring the 19th Century naturalist, explorer, inventor and writer, and towering man of faith…one of Mary’s heroes. Mary wrote a book about John Muir in which she said: ‘he found all he needed in the natural world, and was a deeply spiritual man too. Over time he grew closer to God in meadows and mountains, rather than in the pews of a church’.
A lifelong Roman Catholic, that may well be true of Mary herself. When I asked her what Christians should do in response to the climate emergency, she said something that has stayed with me: ‘Choose something to love, and get on and love it’. An animal, plant, place….or, as in Mary’s case, a particular bird. Whatever we choose, it’s about taking a particular interest in, and responsibility for, something that needs our love and advocacy in this ever more precarious natural world. An inspired, wise, inclusive, expansive encouragement I can certainly get on board with.