He’s one of televisions favourite personalities. He’s natural histories best advocate, an educator of millions, nature’s champion, diversities hero. He goes to bed at 11.30 pm no matter where he is and ignores jet lag for the opportunity to see wildlife. He’s been to places I can only dream of – to the tops of some of the most inaccessible buttes, down inhospitable caverns and deep into mosquito infested swamps. After almost sixty years in television you could excuse Sir David Attenborough for retiring to live out his twilight years in the comfort of his home. But then he wouldn’t be an Attenborough, and besides, he’s only 83. As you read this, Sir David is on his way to Antarctica, preparing to film his next documentary. Granted it is summer in Antarctica, the sun is shining twenty four seven and it’s blue skies all the way, and yet the temperatures tend to hover just above freezing. It’s dry, windy and mostly freezing. The wind can whip up a blizzard in minutes. There are no neighbourhoods, no stores, no roads and very little heating in what buildings do exist. Your nearest neighbours have flippers. It is the most inhospitable, barren and remote part of the world and not one I would rush to visit (I shiver when the sun goes down). But, none of this has stopped the 83 year old adventurer from going to see what he can see.
David Attenborough has always been a yard stick by which I measure the success of a human life. Not only do I believe in his mission – to educate the world about the wonders of the Earth – but I admire his relentless pursuit of those wonders. He will not give up until he has satisfied his own curiosities. I have those same curiosities, but perhaps not the same drive. I’m 36 and I get tired just reading. I go to bed before 10.30 pm most nights, and have lately taken to napping during the day. You couldn’t pay me to run across my own backyard let alone participate in a marathon. Part of this is due to my current status as a newly pregnant woman (hold your applause for now please, it’s too soon), but part of it, I believe, is due to the fact that I am not disciplined to live a life of high adventure. . Sometimes I wish I was more adventurous, I wish I could play guitar better than I can, I wish I could hike across mountain plateaus, take photos of rare plants and animals, scuba dive on the Barrier Reef and stand some place that few others have stood. Instead I must be content to watch others, like Attenborough, do it. I must be content to have my own adventures, which begin and end with sentences. The page is my wilderness. I have chosen this life above all the other choices, and I am happy with that choice. Just occasionally I feel a little envious when I read about my favourite naturalist’s latest exploits. At the end of the day we’re both storytellers, with different mediums and different methods.