Friday 25 December 2009

Happy Hollydays!

This is it, the big day, and I’m spending it in a small way, walking out into the quiet winter neighbourhood as we’ve been doing in the last few days, touching base. Bringing back kindling from the woods and greenery to deck the house. Edward Abbey, author and radical spokesman for the wilderness, once advised all earth activists to take time to go up into the mountains and remember why you were putting yourself on the line, why you were taking life into your own hands.

Locally-cut branches on the year’s first hoar frost – mistletoe, holly, alongside a branch of pine from the woods.

Hope all your socks were full this morning! This picture was taken by Helen (Simpson Slapp) of some socks she hand-knitted after she first joined Transition. Helen was the first person I spoke to at TN’s Unleashing and we had an animated conversation about what to do about not buying this year’s trousers and knitting dishcloths. It was the first time I had felt at ease with people in a long, long time. Later she invited me to two clothes swaps at her house, and heroically darned my wellington socks made from local Jacob sheep’s wool. Stuff is one of the things we’re all talking about giving up in our low-carbon world, but sometimes stuff can bring people together in a way woolly (sic) abstract conversations can never do.

Next year I’m going to have more earth in my world, as well as people. It’s one of my 2010 resolutions. To get myself in the mood I shinned up a birch tree on one of the local commons near where we live. Shortly afterwards I found an injured lapwing on the road and Mark and I slithered and skidded cross county to the Minsmere bird reserve to find someone who could give us a hand.

If you don’t know lapwings, have a look out next time you go past some agricultural fields in wintertime, especially near the coast. They are striking birds, piebald, flecked with green. They have a distinctive topknot on their heads and rounded wings and once stood for the earth's pied poetry because they are famous for leading predators away from their nest by feigning a broken wing.

To hold one of the wild things close is a rare encounter. She was quiet and alert in my hands for our perilous journey down the icy backroads. Sometimes to find the treasure of this life, we have to struggle very hard to make sense of it, the way you tussle with poetry to crack its code. The struggle is what reveals the mystery and beauty that lies deep at its heart. That’s something our ancestors knew and we have forgotten in our desire for comfort and convenience. And then sometimes, just outside an ancient tumulus on the turn of a year, you find yourself with a key. You remember what really matters, why you’re darning socks and learning to bake bread and engaging in this Transition – to keep life on earth going, an earth with woods and heath and rivers in it, and birds that gather in the sky.

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