Firm ground. The firm ground of our earth although it’s spinning gaily in space. Possibly nothing has so many different forms, colours, textures and designs as our terra firma.
And what do we mean by firm. As every gardener knows earth comes in many guises from sandy to claggy, rocky to marshy, poor to rich, the beige white of sandy soil, the red of the iron rich, to the almost black of peaty, and every shade in between.
Still in the natural category but more decorative our feet crunch on gravel,
we like to sunbathe and walk on sand, shells, rocks.
We tread the springiness of grass, lichens and mosses, the pine-needled, leaf strewn, cone
embroidered floors of woodland with their sharp pine or pungent earthy smells. Out of the brightness of day, a world of quiet rustles and bird squawks thrives, a world where damp and intermittent sun breeds mushrooms, toadstools, weird fruiting bodies and bright patterns on tree bark.
Apart from natural mother earth we have manmade firm ground. Necessary structures like piers, bridges and walkways for access, utilitarian wooden structures and architectural boardwalks,
brutal concrete bastions to resist the power of the sea, or the decorative pattern of paving to enhance our strolls or shopping experiences, much more conducive to lingering than bland areas of pavement or tarmacadam.
Some paved areas are modern, others are the restored cobbles of the Victorian era and before, yet others have existed for nearly two millennia. Mosaic floors from Roman villas tell us much about the lives, looks and preferences of those who lived before us on the terra firma of Earth.
In our buildings beaten earth floors, with or without the addition of stone or slate slabs, have long since given way to wood and concrete. In homes these are usually covered with carpets and rugs to soften and add warmth. But in some buildings wood still holds sway, its resilience in demand on dance floors and stages where terra firma needs a spring to enliven steps.
So many different materials, textures and patterns for us to walk over, litter, deface, destroy.
The Mayan civilization existed from 250-900 AD on terra firma now called southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador with part of Honduras. Archaeologists have deciphered stones on which Mayan calendars are incised. The Mayans were highly knowledgeable astronomers who recorded the night skies, their records enabling them to predict with great accuracy future astronomical cycles. One of their calendars, according to some doom mongers, predicts that on 21st December 2012, the date of our northern hemisphere winter solstice, terrible catastrophes will befall to bring about the end of the world as we know it. Terra firma no more.
So between now and that impending demise, which most scientists assure us is only the fantasy of conspiracy theorists, perhaps we should nevertheless take a little time to appreciate the wonders and the beauty of the terra firma we walk on.