from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

'the law of continuing'

Well, call me piscist, but I didn't imagine that I could be so utterly totally engaged and immersed in the story of the lifecycle of a trout, from egg onwards; and written in such a way that we enter the trout's point of view.

I'm reading the most beautiful book: The Stream, by Brian Clarke. A quiet little book, it's part novel and part documentation of exactly what happens to the ecosystem of a stream when industrialisation of the countryside takes place.

Of course it's built on clashes of values: eco-activists vs Big Profit; old farmer, steeped in the pace of pre-industrial farming and at ease spending hours watching the mayfly hatch, vs his young impatient son who can't believe that his father won't see sense; practices we are assured are safe vs what happens when, inevitably, they turn out not to be. And then there's the frightening multiplying of the chokeweed, a metaphor at the heart of the book.

Neolithic man is in there; the blink of an eye, as they say, from the life of a hunter-gatherer to the 21st century (just), but so much has changed irrevocably.

Clarke knows his stuff. I find out that he writes on fish and fishing for The Times. Had anyone said to me 'Here's a book about fish by a journalist from The Times – you'll enjoy it', I might have thought they were losing it. Had someone said to me, as the blurb declares, 'This is the next Silent Spring', I'd have understood why they suggested it. Thank you, Jo, for the loan (you did say 'the next Silent Spring').

It's a heartbreaking elegy to what we have already lost and are losing in country-sized chunks every day, worldwide. And it's never sentimental. This will, I pretty well guarantee, change the way you look at a stream forever.

In the book, Clarke makes great use of the repeating phrase 'the law of continuing'. I'm struck by this, and by what a great alternative it is for an anthropocentric view of what we name 'God'.

And it reminds me that there are cycles in everything – of course. Cycles of abundance, cycles of paucity. Cycles of birthing, cycles of dying. Flood-tides of summer, ebb-tides of winter. Times of outward creation, times of inward incubation, on and on – out there in the macrocosm, in here in the individual psyche; which is a fancy way of telling you that if my posts seem slender at the moment it's because I'm cooking up my Next Great Idea, and also because I'm in the process of overseeing the publishing of two books: River Suite, at very long last, has gone to press; and The Burning Ground, my next novel set on Dartmoor (mostly) during foot and mouth, is at the cover-design stage.

And, to pick up the theme of Clarke's book, the pressure to stop the proposed badger cull has increased, and takes a lot of my energy right now.

More soon.

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