Take care of them, old friend:
these tiny children cling to you,
your squat and withered form, still strong,
your lap just right to climb upon,
their youth so bright, against your ancient skin,
so dark and worn by countless little
feet, as in the park you’re seated,
patiently, wise hawthorn tree.
It’s unusual for us in the North of England to have a long time without rain. Although at times it’s literally possible to have every type of weather in one day here, leading to ‘The Weather’ being a prime conversation starter, our default setting is generally damp. Us Northerners have a tendency for arthritis because, ‘Eee, it’s damp Up North’. Pretty much every house I’ve lived in has been damp. Damp. Damp. Damp. Like the proverbial (mythical?) Inuit range of words for snow, we are connoisseurs of rain. This summer is not one of those times. It seems we are having a long hot summer. The grass is brown. The water company is asking us to conserve water, the moors are on fire (see my previous post HERE) and this week when I went for a walk in the woods I could see all the plant life, even the trees, wilting.
Some trees have areas of leaves completely dead and brown. The wilted but still green leaves felt pretty dry too, like they were starting to lightly toast. Thankfully, since then we have had a small amount of rain. I noticed that some trees had isolated patches of dead leaves, rather than a general dying off. I’m speculating that the tree is deciding to sacrifice a certain section rather than risk the whole tree drying out. That may sound surprising—trees making decisions. But it’s not surprising when you look at the research and latest understanding of tree behaviour and communication. I’m going to have a search through the book I’m reading at the moment, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben, to see if he can shed any light on it. He explains that trees learn to conserve water, storing it up in winter and rationing it in summer. The trees round here don’t usually have to cope with this much rationing, at least not on a regular basis. At last we’re having some rain showers this last couple of days, and for once we’re appreciating it, but it is looking like the hot dry weather is a pattern for this summer, so we’d all better adapt.
Recently I have had a few poems published by Poetry24.co.uk who publish poems based on recent news items. Today they have published my poem ‘A Resignation Letter From Mr Johnson’ based on a Channel 4 FactCheck article claiming Boris Johnson lied about EU safety regulations in his resignation letter (read the article here).
The curse of our times is time. The measuring of it, the chopping up and counting out, the whittling away, second by second, minute by minute, birthday by birthday; the expectation of our days numbered. How freeing it would be to not know how old we are. We have to live with this knowledge of life expectancy the whole of our lives. These predictions, how much do they become a self-fulfilling prophecy? As we age we become fearful, of the years slipping away, time accelerating in our minds as we slice the year into segments. As we reach forty, we think, ‘my life is half over’. What if we thought, ‘I have at least the same amount to live again?’ What if we didn’t even know? What if we measured our age in terms of how we felt? How much do we feel old because we know we are? Sure, we feel our bodies age, but how much do we fulfil what we expect because we expect it? Like listening to a doctor’s prognosis for the terminally ill, have we allowed statistics to define us? Our knowledge of our numbered days hangs over us, the overhanging overwhelm—our doom—causing us to ironically waste those precious numbered days in worry, denial, avoidance, distraction, procrastination, panic and despair. We are wild-eyed maniacs, manically multitasking, accelerating, as if trying to live life on multitrack means we live more life—rather than living more dilutely and divided and exhausted—as if we could somehow cheat time and nature. Turn it on its head: if we had no idea how long we might live, would we waste less time complacently in our youth? We have to walk the path between the illusion of immortality and the terror of mortality. Somewhere in the middle ground is the way to make the most of life without living in such a hurry we miss the savouring of it. Let’s not waste time counting it, cutting it up and mentally leaping forward and back along the neurons of socially constructed timelines. Let’s not mistake the measuring of the thing for the thing itself. Let’s be in the now, at least some of time. Otherwise, when are we going to remember to live?
I am honoured to once again be a contributor to Earth Pathways Diary 2019. This is a stunning creation, full of beautiful artwork and inspiring words. It is far more than a diary. I know I’m not the only one that still has every year’s diary I’ve ever bought. Earth Pathways is an ethical, cooperative, not-for-profit organisation. They offer seed funding to other ethical businesses and fund tree planting, as well as supporting the diary contributors, through giving us the opportunity to sell the diaries and promote our work. You can participate in supporting this amazing cooperative and the contributing writers and artists, including myself, through purchasing these beautiful diaries. I am selling copies of the 2019 diary to UK addresses at £14 each plus p&p £2.50. It might seem early but they always sell out before the end of the year! You can order via my PayPal link here. Please ensure your address on your PayPal account is correct and up to date, or add a note when you make the payment if you want it delivered to a different address.
I saved your life today,
spider drowning in the bath.
Just in time I saw your struggle,
lifted you out, limp and crumpled,
ever so gently touched you with
a tissue, to draw away the bead
of water clinging, surface tension
like an amniotic sack,
to let you take a breath.
You were so still.
I laid you in the corner,
hoped you would recover,
in a little while returned to find you gone.
And so I smiled.
One day I could be swept away by wave
or mountain, with no regard for my tiny life.
No doubt my actions sometimes unintentionally
crush tinier souls than I.
Blessed with consciousness and empathy,
the least I can do is save a life
when I have the opportunity.
Who am I to measure worth in terms of size,
when mighty trees look down on me?