Tag Archives: climate

New Year

As we make the time, so we make the weather.

Wishing you and your world a year of kindness and simplicity.

Here’s a reverse renga made from a selection of verses from the year renga I kept in 2020. It’s a good touchstone practice for days that make strange demands – a river to swim in and carry you along.

There should be a little more space between the verses which I can’t quite make happen in this format, so best take a breath as they unfold. Hope’s there’s something among or behind the lines for you to ponder and take with you into the new year.

Be well.

L

x

Le Temps 

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.

                                                            Albert Camus

I

*

            You give me a word

            for the heart’s weather 

driving into Newcastle

as if we were travelling

to Samarkand

            how to feel sad

            without being sad

spiked with caffeine

overnight snow

dreaming yourself into existence

            bars of rain 

            on the sitting room window

one more winter

the same larches

an untranslatable decade

            the flowers don’t know

            it’s November

every year 

her body 

remembers his birthday

                nothing blowing

                against nothing

out at sea

all night long

a blue moon

            two hours lost

            in charcoal, pencil, ink

our first visit back 

to the cinema

it’s 1968, Chicago

*

            light the fire

            burn the day away

another Monday

uncertain 

how to begin

                sunlight you want

                to call miraculous

filling the day from end

to end so there’s no room

for nothing

            plant wallflowers

            a spell for overwintering

slow Sunday afternoon

watching Casablanca

you weep on the sofa

            2.30 pm around the brazier

            Autumn Equinox

a moment knows

something’s almost over

but not what it is

            pale lines of rain

            against the ploughed field

I paint the stone rise

in the kitchen

a colour called Thunder

            listening to Meredith Monk’s book of days

            time stops

stay with the ragged joy

of ordinary living

and dying

*

            your birthday: balancing

            pebbles on a burnt tree

rain all day

the garden rises up

to meet it

            the longest day

            stripped back to nothing

the only yellow flower

on the gorse bush

a yellowhammer

            the here and now

            and the mental there and elsewhere   

the yard white

a sudden shower 

of sky stones

            on top of the Iron Age fort

            we see beyond ourselves

without water in the taps

your mind full of nothing

but water

            distilling time impossible

            I try anyway

good thinking always happens

at the moment of speechlessness

jellyfish swim behind her

            you die 

            you are still here

a few seconds lag

between our chat

connects || separates

*

            the first swallow

            and tears come

storm moon and hailstones                                                               

I warm myself                                                                                    

at your fire

            the rowan’s shadow 

            ticking clockwise

punctuated equilibrium

how earth evolves 

in sudden ruptures

            every day the same                            

            every day different

Spring Equinox:

I am a tilting cup

a tremulous star

            in ceremonial kimonos                                                           

            they look back from the future

do not stand

in a place of danger

trusting in miracles

            our molehills                                                               

            are mountains

my driver knows

hardly any English but says

we need more water

            a dead man’s tattoos –

            fail we may, sail we must

on the windowsill                                                                                           

a bowl                                                                         

of borrowed time    

   

[Quotations from: Jane Hirshfield, Donna Haraway, Siri Hustvedt, Moroccan proverb, Andrew Weatherall.]

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Zing!

Friday 25th

At Singapore Botanic Gardens I’ve been reminded that the word Zing comes from the botanical name for the Ginger family – Zingiberaceae.  I’ve spent the past couple of afternoons trying to get my zing back in the Ginger Garden, drinking ice-cold ginger beer.

When I left England in the snow it was hard to imagine just how hot it would be out here and now that I’m here it’s impossible to remember feeling cold.  I think perhaps for the first time in my life I have understood how important trees are simply for shade, respite from the sun’s glare.

Tuesday 29th

I am just getting acclimatised now it’s nearly time to leave.  There’s so much to take in here – both in and out of the Gardens – almost overwhelming for a woman who lives in a field in Northumberland.  Today will be my last visit to the Botanic Gardens – 74 hectares landscaped around a central core of original rainforest.  I’ve been most days and still need longer to see everything.  Stunning flowers and trees, all beautifully arranged.

On Saturday I got a tour round the Herbarium from one of the researchers here.  Around 650,000 species, with space for a million.  Also an insight into the Orchid Propagation Laboratories.  More on this later…

Wednesday 30th

On the brink of my departure, much of my time in the Gardens here (the Gardens by the Bay as well as the Botanic Garden) has felt like a puzzle – as if the gardens themselves are translations of the natural world and I am trying to make translations of translations.  Singapore styles itself not so much as a Garden City than a ‘City in a Garden’ and this refraction creates a surreal quality.  Quite often I have felt as if I were in a dream, Alice in Wonderland.  Even more so when I hear of the 5 foot snow drifts back at home.

I’ll post some photos later when I’m back in more familiar apple territory.

there is garden

and there is the opposite

of garden

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Resilience

On Wednesday I paid a visit to the North East’s first Big Eco Show at the Stadium of Light.  I wanted to know what a community I wasn’t familiar with were saying (and doing) about Climate Change and related ecological issues.  It was heartening to see such a focussed and energetic exchange of information.  It seemed a fitting venue for this current work that is asking for our unified attention – almost a shrine to collective effort, celebrating two of the North East’s abiding stories – football and mining.

It could be seen as self-interest that businesses should prioritise environmental considerations, or even see them as commercial opportunities, but I got the sense that this wasn’t a cynical exercise.  Most of the people I spoke to did seem to have the planet and its population’s interests at heart.  It was good too to hear how much government legislation is increasingly holding businesses to account.

Many set-ups in the North East have found themselves seriously suffering after what one speaker called ‘Thunder Thursday’.  It is anticipated flooding will only increase in the coming years and so businesses need to build their resilience, speeding up recovery time.  Various organisations are working towards helping folk make this possible.  The way LOCOG handled sustainability in their development of the Olympic Park kept being mentioned as a model: that environmental awareness can no longer be an optional extra and needs to be an integral part of a project or practice’s raison d’être.

I had the start of what I hope will be a continuing conversation with Teeside University about the carbon footprint of my Botanical project, my ‘Resource Efficiency Pathway’ (lots of Newspeak opportunities here!)  Given its scope, it’s important that I should build this into my approach to the work and find as many practical, creative solutions as possible.

If anyone has any helpful suggestions, I’d be very happy to hear them.  Do post a comment below.  Thanks.

Would that we were all as resilient as the buddleia blooming out of the cracks in the city streets…

I’m writing this on the morning of the Autumn Equinox, sitting in my garden, enjoying the level light and mild air.  Tomorrow I go to Harnham for a week, on retreat – a deeply sustainable way to begin this project I think, where I want to bring a thoughtful spaciousness to both how I write and what I say on this loaded subject.  And particularly not fall into the trap of being worthy or didactic about it.

As I sit, Bruno the postman brings a mixed assortment of brown envelopes.  The most uplifting contained a new pamphlet – Earthwords, poems to celebrate 40 years of Friends of the Earth.  In it Gillian Clarke writes ‘A love song to the earth is more powerful than a sermon’.  There are a couple of poems of mine in it, including this one, set up at Dhanakosa, on the edge of Loch Voil in the Trossachs:

AT THE RETREAT HOUSE

In the midst of the wild, loch on one side,
mountain on the other, someone’s planted
a garden. It takes more than hope
to barrow ten tons of gravel and spade
and rake it level round L-shaped beds,
to coax those plants strong enough to dance
with the season’s short span into flower –
tangled nasturtiums, astrantia’s tethered stars.

It’s a gesture towards what’s possible,
our instinct for cultivation, how much care
we bring to the landscapes sculpted
inside us. At its heart, a hedge of box
shelters four pear trees trained in a spiral
towards open sky, the promise of harvest.

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