Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Sense of Porpoise

We've heard a lot in the news this winter about freezing weather and snow. Here in the North West Highlands, where it is usually wet and stormy in winter, cold weather is often welcome. Cold temperatures mean high pressure which, in turn, means fewer storms and drier weather. It's annoying to hear weather presenters consistently making the mistake that we should all be glad of 'mild' weather in winter.

Today is a case in point. Fairly cold (around -2) last night, and the weather today is clear and fresh with light frost on the ground and the sun splitting the sky. The only clouds are high and wispy-thin. A fat waning-crescent moon still hangs: a fading watermark. Take a deep draught of that chill air and it will clear your sinuses.

My head is clear today, too. A morning TV feature reminded me about "mindfulness meditation" but that's really just another way of describing the process of stopping, taking in your surroundings and "being in the moment". How you do that is up to you. I don't find it easy to plant myself in the present but I know that it feels good when I manage it. The brain is "plastic", so it's possible to change its structure by doing this kind of thing.

Now to the Porpoises. We saw them at the weekend - a pod of three crossing the bay. We didn't get a photo, as they were too far out to sea and didn't hang around for long. They are distinguishable from Dolphins by their shorter and more flattened dorsal fins. They are apparently common here but we've never seen them in the bay before. Probably harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena.

I like porpoises. They don't spend their time engaging in pointless acrobatics like their dolphin cousins, preferring to keep to themselves in order to avoid being attacked - often by those dolphin cousins.

The way they crossed the bay was a case in point - they only broke the surface twice in the whole stretch, and then just for a moment.

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