hint of pink

For the past few weeks I have been waiting: waiting for spring to arrive and the daffodils to come out; waiting for it to be warm enough to get Coral ready for my voyage On the Western Edge; waiting to hear from my literary agent about Call of the Running Tide.  Waiting to get on with my plans.

As Fritz Perls, the originator of Gestalt Therapy told us, anxiety lies in the gap between the present and the future. It is a gap that can be filled with all kinds of worries and fantasies. I worry about why on earth I am going on this voyage; I worry about storms and shipwreck; I worry about all the practical details—what to do about my mooring in Plymouth while I am away; where I will be able to leave Coral en route; can I carry enough emergency diesel?

And my personal worries about the voyage rub up hard against my worries about the state of the Earth and climate change in particular. Will we ever move beyond this extended winter, this long cold spring? Now the Arctic weather systems seem to be extending southwards, will we ever again have a proper maritime climate, will rain-bearing depressions ever again come in from the Atlantic, bring their wet warmth to our islands?  What does the future hold and, more immediately, is the weather now so unpredictable that it is unwise to undertake a long voyage in a small yacht?

And I worry about my engagement with these issues. As a nature writer I want to show how our experience of the world around us is linked to large-scale planetary patterns. And I want to write in a way that shows how we are part of the ecology of the planet, part of the natural world rather than apart from it. But is this any longer relevant? Every day I read more detail about devastating changes to the climate system; that more and more creatures are nearing extinction. Every day I am asked to contribute to a different campaign: Greenpeace want me to help ‘save the Arctic’: Eradicating Ecocide need money; 38 degrees want me to write to my MP about bees, about the Energy Bill. I am continually asked to protest here, to contribute there. And every day I am confronted by my own behaviour, by the waste and pollution—plastics, energy, chemicals—I cause just by being a member of twenty-first century society.

Then on Easter Saturday the sun came out and I was able to drive (yes, drive) down to Plymouth and spend the day getting Coral ready for the season: I installed the batteries that had been on charge at home, adjusted the Aries steering gear, cleaned the cruddy marks along the waterline and painted on two coats of antifouling (more chemicals). It was a physically exhausting day, but actually doing something practical was an immense relief.

I have to remind myself again and again that there are lots of people younger than I am who are making the running, articulating and campaigning for the politics and practices that will help move toward a more sustainable world. I have to continually revalidate my own personal choice as to where I can best contribute. We will not learn to live in harmony with the ecology of our planet until we develop a powerful sense of wholeness and of living as part of the whole. New forms of politics, economics, social relationships are all essential. But they will need to rest on a deeper sense of belonging in the world, a capacity to link the immediate and the local to the whole, an ability to see the sacred in our damaged and degraded planet. And that is what I want to write about, in a way that I hope will be attractive and engaging as well as relevant to our times, in a way that might make a tiny difference.

Yet at the same time I write these words with a strong sense of conviction I also experience my complete inadequacy: the task is too big; there is no way I can live up to this aspiration. Then through that moment of despair I remember the old saw: How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time!

Here is today’s spoonful.  It is good to write something, even a little piece like this.  And then, just before I post this I see there is at last a hint of pink on the apple trees, and a series of proper depressions are sweeping across England bringing south westerlies and promising a wet weekend. Blessed relief!


  1. david manzi-fe says:

    Yup! Thank you for that, It’s very rewarding to be re-minded as spring (almost) damply arrives.

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