Thursday, August 12, 2010

Close Quarters

My blog tour is over and I am home. It was intended to last another week or two, but I decided it was time to stop. Somehow, it felt finished.

This time of year, in my corner of rural England, the vegetation along the lanes has reached its peak. The succession of white is nearing its end. First came the frothy heads of sheep’s parsley, then the sturdier, cow parsnips, then—the white deepening into cream—came the strange, wonderfully-scented meadowsweet. Now even that is past its fullness, dying back, going to seed.

I never see this roadside profusion without remembering Vic.

Vic lived in the village where I spent the latter half of my childhood. He could neither read nor write but he could play, accurately and flawlessly on his piano accordion, any tune you cared to suggest. He carried in his pocket a scrap of paper with his name printed on it in large, block capitals. If ever he needed to sign something he would unfold the piece of paper and carefully, laboriously, copy out the letters.

Vic did odd jobs for our family, and in breaks we would sit and chat and he would tell his tales of local lore and the ways of wildlife.

He also worked for the local council, trimming the roadside vegetation with a hand-held sickle. So he was always outside and his skin was tanned like a leather shoe. I can see him now, his broad, brown face split by a wide smile as I passed him on my bicycle. I can see him with that sickle, deftly trimming back the stems that had begun to hang over into the lane. He always seemed content in the work of his hands and the slow pace of his days.

Trimming back vegetation is a job best done at close quarters, the way he did it. But any day now, with the nesting season pretty well over, a large, noisy, smelly machine will rumble down our lane, its blades held close against the hedge, ripping indiscriminately into everything it passes and leaving ugly gashes in the bark of trees.

Our machines make short work of many tasks. But for everything they give us, they take away more. I know it’s no good trying to return to a life long past, but I’m convinced that we can find slower, more careful, safer, greener alternatives to many of the things we do that are so thoughtlessly—and rapidly—destroying beauty, diversity and ecosystems. We need to build an entirely new infrastructure, based this time on renewable energy, on local economies, on bioregional identities, on that wonderful maxim of ‘thinking globally/acting locally.’ And in doing so, combine the best of the new technology, such as the Internet, with the best of the old, re-skilling ourselves in some of the tasks that people have forgotten to do, such as darning socks and baking bread … and wielding a sickle.

This is why, in Part III of the new book, GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness, I have drawn together experts from some of the major institutions of our culture—medicine, law, economics, education and so on—to talk about the many ways in which this new thinking can be translated into practice.

The old world—Vic’s world—is gone. The new one is being created, brick by brick, person by person, moment by moment. For where consciousness leads, matter will follow. Keep the faith.

PS: If you haven't bought your copy of the new book yet, and you are in the UK, click here to get it from GreenSpirit Books for £10.75. If you are in the USA, here is the link to the Amazon page. And in Australia, it's in stock now at Angus & Robertson. If anyone is having difficulty obtaining a copy, just contact me and let me know.


Gaea Yudron said...

I love this description of Vic and his work and am in agreement about the noxious quality of using machinery to do landscaping and other garden jobs. People have lost or they ignore aesthetic, calm ways to work with plants. When I take a walk in the tedious neighborhood that surrounds my office in Medford, OR, I pass two rows of sad-looking juniper hedges, ruined two years ago by manic and obviously unskilled pruners. I long for many things, and one of them is the beauty of good craftsmanship in architecture and landscaping.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I smile at your description of Vic.
All through the years the work on my farm was done by hand. Moving back a year ago at the edge of the woods - clearing needed to be done.
A neighbor brought in a bushhog on a tractor.
I wept as I saw some of the huge scars on some of the trees. He told me he was sorry and tried to be careful. But it still made me sad. My spot has been cleared and there will be no more machines brought in. My son kept telling me what I was doing was not necessary but I wanted it somewhat clear around my home.

Elderwoman said...

Important from a fire hazard point of view also. But yes, the scars are awful.
Gaea and Ernestine you are both so on my wavelength!

Maria Bovin de Labbé said...

Thanks You for Your Beautiful writing. It's inspiring for me, as I am building a little part of this new world with music & connecting people through "Mindful Playing".
I will get the book!
Love, Maria.