a roof of stars

star tree blue star tree blue

Image copyright Laura Joy

I'm a writer and a traditional musician living in Sussex with a love for the natural world and for walking in it in particular.  I thought this was as good a time as any to offer some thoughts as we grapple with our new reality.  I wish all my readers well as we navigate this slightly strange horizon.  I look forward to a better day when we can all meet free of restrictions and able to see this old world with new eyes.

By Jim Hindle, May 11 2020 01:28PM

And so the days roll on. Has it been two months now? Even longer? We wait for a change in the days, some uptick of experience where we can all walk bold and bright and put away this tribulated moment.

Is it enough for now to think of the bird on the bough, the flower ringing loud from out the wood? Spring is still a heady brew, the jackdaws make their way from roof to roof, scavenging the gleanings in the tiles and wrens sing out like crests of sun made audible, a buzzard soaring somewhere like a memory of grace.

And can we still believe or even dream that there was once some kind of covenant, a pledge between the world and us, when we were humble husbands and the earth was vast and it never seemed there’d come a day when her resources would ever run scarce?

I walk through the invisible arms of the green in the air and only know that this is our inheritance, as sure as the ground and the sun and wonder whether, if we still took care of all the world would that improve our worldly lot, the sum of our existence in our too-brief lives that are spun down generations past and generations still to be so that we are no less a part of this unbroken chain than the thrush in the dawn of the day.

When the virus has played out, when immunity grows or the vaccines come good or we somehow fudge or stumble or calculate our way into some sense of better reckoning will we remember all this? That we are as dependant on the leaf of each tree as they are upon our every action when we hold such great responsibility? We have a chance, if only just, to change our ways and that is a charge for for each and every one of us in our collective surge – for just as surely as we hunker down in flats or bedsits or other dwellings relatively palatial, humanity is at a crest of knowing how we all can be, alone together as the saying is but reaching out as if and in the knowledge that our very lives depend on it, depend upon it like the air that drifts so sweet down city streets as we enjoy deliverance from engines.

We can point fingers at wet markets, the demand for wild meat in certain far flung corners of the globe, even if it’s useless now to cast the blame. We can draw quite obvious conclusions, anthropomorphise the natural world when anthropocentricism arguably forms much of our original sin. If this was the will of the world we have wounded can making reparations in our will and intent and every action help right the ship? Whatever the cause, however meaningful or arbitrary, there’s certainly poetic truth that this human crisis rides on the back of that of our ecology.

As wiser minds than mine have pointed out ecology and economy share the same root; ‘Oikos’ in Greek. ‘Oikos’ translates as home, ‘Logos’ as knowledge. ‘Nomos’ as management. And so ‘ecology’ gives us ‘the knowledge of home’ where ‘economics’ mean ‘the management of home’. How can you manage a thing you don’t know? We cannot have one without the other. Just as home means a place for the family, ecology implies a knowledge of the families we share this planet with.

Would it help in our hour of need to promise to the world outside our doors that when we all come through from this we’ll make a place again for the green in our lives; honour it, give back to it, make a greater space for it in our hearts and in that of our children?

We all know that so much of what we’re going through is far from easy. Nothing I say here is meant to make light of or ignore the challenges so many people are dealing with. But we all know the situation as it is; it doesn't need further rehearsal here. Suffice to say we still have choices in how respond to all this, with the attitude and stance we choose to meet it.

The very experience of having something so fundamental as human proximity removed can counter-intuitvely hold a strange potential, an enforced denial that will make our eventual freedoms all the sweeter when they are finally restored. We will certainly be less likely to ever take them for granted again. Temporary separation can strengthen our inner reserves. Even as we open up to one another, reach out across seeming divides, our spirits tempered by the distances but still unbowed, we can all walk out of this the stronger, warmer, ready to make the most of every moment, to not turn a blind eye to given opportunities, to see each neighbour as a sign of, an expression of humanity itself.

And we have the chance, made all the starker by any dwelling on mortality, to step up to take care of the living green lungs of our forests, the bloodstream of our rivers and oceans, the land itself, the very earth: our heart. For we’re bound to protect this as surely as we care for one another, as surely as when this current crisis is finished it will feel like stepping out from a cave, into a world all the newer, the brighter, its potential simply ringing in our ears.

By Jim Hindle, Apr 5 2020 02:26PM

Is this the time to look for compensation? At least we finally can say it’s truly Spring. Those that can will walk and listen to the birdsong and maybe even find a little peace; unlooked for or prayed for, unlikely but making a pure kind of sense. God knows we need such moments. A friend of mine watches a raven for how long he doesn’t quite know. Others gather weeds along newly familiar paths. I shelter from the suddenly seasonal sun, think about summer, feel a strange sense of assurance that might have nothing and everything to do with my own one temporal fate.

Will things be different after all of this? Will the flights resume, the factories stutter back into some kind of guttural life? Bars, cafes, shops stammer open like nothing has happened at all and we’ll wipe away the salt of weeks alone or crammed in close confinement? Gratitude right now seems pretty likely; a bloody-minded courtesy, acknowledging we still can breathe, we still can take in each day in the air like it was our first.

And somehow we must all of us come through; survivors, witnesses, beleaguered or hopeful and strong. It’s no time for sweeping statements, triumphalist crows that we know when the end is in sight, or that this is all part of some grand scheme of nature, that there is reason for this other than some random roulette. We can give in to terror, despair but we might as well be optimistic or look for very major silver linings.

It’s not some random fantasy to say there may be some grace in this, or chance of it, if we can take the perspective that we might in the long run be getting thrown a line. A frenetic world of global commerce, global travel has just hit the brakes. We might as well enjoy the sudden peace. We have a chance to stop and think, reflect on the lives we’ve been leading. Can we imagine our way out of this?

Maybe we’ll be able to step forward into a world where just-in-time networks of supply and demand are replaced by something more resilient, that we can source and grow the goods we need a little closer to home, where we’re all weaning off a glut of luxury but still live well and maybe a little more honestly, not dependent on imports whose source we can’t name, where conditions of labour or livestock are hushed out of sight. Maybe we’ll see a return of the domestic economy, hollowed out in the 20’s and 30’s, where we’re all a little more self-reliant. How many containers of latest electronics does the world really need? How much of our once innate ability to source our needs at home or close to it are we happy to continue to acquiesce? How much do we really want to spend large parts of our working week in little boxes, hurtling their cargo to horizons whose value we’ve only too nearly forgotten?

No one would wish these times on another or any others we do not consider our clan. For we all connected now, connected in brightness and grief. But we owe it to ourselves and one another, to everyone huddled in hospital beds and most of all to the children to see there are gifts here if we can only see them as such. Somebody somewhere appeared to hit pause and now we can think and plan and even dream. We can think on the state of the planet today, her all-too-clear signs of distress, how we can help her, the habits we can break, how we can renew our commitments (or make them at all if now new), how we can seek to redeem the unspoken bond we have broken, a rift that may have something to do with our current plight, as if our collective survival rests in a natural corrective.

Whether we see the virus as a desperate manifestation of the will of the world to endure or something far more arbitrary is arguably besides the point. Whatever the reason for it and whatever our thoughts, we can see that while no one would wish for the virus, it’s still giving us a chance. The kind of world we all step into when the its threat recedes may depend on the degree to which we can reimagine our world, reimagine our place upon it, how we can serve it, cast away the things that hinder or obstruct.

We’re used at times like these to being told we are enduring a great trial, are being put to the test, tempered, told we must be strong. And all of these are true. We can pull upon the deep well of our inner reserves; our patience, compassion and will to endure. We can show the extent of collective resolve, our ability to adapt and our strength in adversity’s face. And we can meditate on that which can bring us all peace; our own peace of mind and that of those all around us; at times like these its necessity is only made clearer than ever.

But there’s another element as well; that we are being given opportunities, if we can see them. The degree to which we can make the most of them may depend upon our ability to walk with eyes open, to imagine, and dream again, dream harder. Our future remains a thing we can all of us shape. We now have a chance to just stop and slow down and reflect how we do so. We have a little time. And perhaps time is all that is called for, for now, that all our haste and rush, our daily and global migrations, our obsession with efficiencies has been for so long such a part of the problem. We have the chance to remember to just be ourselves; an estrangement its high time to heal.

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