“I feel like I’m witnessing the end of the world” she said.
No wonder. It’s mid-January, there’s a tap water ban in the city, and a lurgy that just won’t leave. Everyone’s sick, coughing, hacking.
Out here in the mountains, the comforts and stability I used to take for granted seem further away than ever. Days of cloud and our much-reduced solar system struggles to produce power. A well runs dry, succumbing to the year of drought. A neighbour’s farm is devastated by flash floods, now that the topsoil of the burned forest has nothing to hold it in place.
I note this in full awareness that I’m very much playing at this “life on the edge” thing in a way that a lot of people in the world aren’t. I’ve chosen to live in this adventurous state, off the electricity and water grids. I’m not displaced, desperate, I don’t live in a refugee camp or under a flyover. I can retreat to a café when things get dire, turn on the generator, or, if it came to it, head back to England, to the welcoming well-equipped homes of friends and family.
Only the tap water ban in Bristol has shown me that actually, the places of comfort and ease which I have in my mind to run to – the safety net of “civilisation” – are perhaps not as rock solid as they once seemed..
No one’s safe these days, whether it’s from terrorism, crazy lawmakers, wildfires or hurricanes. For me, as someone who pays close attention to the land, and someone whose life was recently upended by a catastrophic weather event, climate change feels like the most pressing issue.
When the seasons start to slide
Because the fact is, the seasonal courses I’m running, in their invitation to pay close attention to the land around me, are showing me that we’re not just connecting to old ways when we start to ask the land what it has to teach us.
This cartoon gave me pause.
We’re each of us bearing witness to changes that are unexpected. There’s a sorrow there, a grieving, and a fear.
And even though it doesn’t feel like the picturesque, cosy, nstagrammable side of seasonal living, I want to explore more of this. Because when I sit to write the letters from the land, I know that sometimes the land feels like it’s aching. Howling. Grieving.
Everything is mixed up, these days. I remember as a child sitting cross legged on the floor of my bedroom, reading my David Bellamy’s book of the planet, and feeling a horrible knot in my stomach when I first learned about Global Warming and Acid Rain and The Hole In The Ozone Layer. I guess I started to understand then that loving nature was more than knowing facts about elephants, or digging holes in the garden. With that understanding comes a responsibility. An awareness of our impact on this beautiful earth that holds us.
And that knot in my stomach has kept getting bigger, alongside the wonder and the love and the joy.
Living in the hills is an adventure, but it’s a call to action too
I say “call to action”, yet, paradoxically, I’m not certain that more action is always the best way out of the mess we find ourselves in. In fact, that very word – MORE – is becoming an increasingly problematic one for me.
When I look around me, at the mists and damp, I see nature doing less. It’s winter. Time to rest, and be still.
And as I try to bring more of that space and peace and quiet into my life, I realise how much it goes against what is ingrained into us as a society. Where the impetus is to produce more, be more efficient, shout louder, accumulate more stuff.
What if we could contemplate the idea that staying still and doing less was, sometimes, the best way forward?
Could frugality, simplicity, less be the difference the world needs?
Could our stillness be a political act?
“What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”
― Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
Contraction. Inward movement. Stillness. These yin qualities, so alien and frightening to many of us, are what the hills are filled with at this time. January, and I make new resolutions, and top of them all is this: Do less.