grief-struck time, for a fortnight or more she was
a solitary light in the valley...'
It's 5.30am British time and I'm on the trail of TM, who is as usual a few hundred yards ahead of me, on the lorry deck of the cross-channel ferry. I'm tired, stressed, a bit unmindful, and not altogether convinced that we should be doing this. We are about to dock in Normandy and drive 700kms southwest before dusk. Unbalanced as I am – as I have been most of the year – and carrying far too much baggage (ditto), I don't see the raised metal lorry anchoring point ('elephant's foot') until I've tripped over it, and smashed my arm against its neighbour.
At 6.30am I'm in French 'urgences' at the local hospital, where we will sit in separate rooms for nearly 6 hours – by which time it's too late, and I'm in too much pain with a fracture to my shoulder, to head south.
In the past few days I've had a number of dreams and premonitions that seem to suggest traffic accidents. It turns out later that one of my sisters had the same premonition in relation to me. (My family is somewhat psychic, and telepathy etc is common.) These days, I tend to take notice; too often it's been to my great cost if I don't. But TM, who has just finished a huge eco-build for a client and is entering a new phase in his life, has become enormously enthused for a trip, and wants to move things forward in our lives. So I agree, and we are going to be driving around 2000kms in 6 days, and looking at 7 or 8 possible locations.
When we set out to head to southwest France, one possible location of many for our permaculture and forest-gardening future, I was already very stressed, very tired, and aware this is not the best time to pick to travel. I'm also ambivalent about leaving Britain and my very deep roots, personal and ancestral, in the rural Westcountry (and it is not yet certain that we will; and NB my courses will continue to happen wherever I am, and there may even be a new venue, if whatever the 'new normal' turns out to be will allow face-to-face groups).
We divert to Brittany. As we turn the vehicle west, I feel such a flood of relief washing over me to be going towards a land I know and love. TM of course is deeply disappointed and frustrated, though he hides it well and is considerate of my needs.
What now? I'm wounded and we're in quarantine.
In Cornwall, we have the phrase 'a Mevagissey treat' (Mevagissey is a small fishing port). The 'treat' is 'a wet arse and no fish'. I'm trying to compose an equivalent. (Anyone?)
A small addendum: when we get home, there's a letter from TM's pickup manufacturer recalling the vehicle, due to a potentially serious safety issue. Who knows – it could have been a worse accident.
Low-impact living and the power of the consumer
are committed to low-impact living*, ideally as much as possible
off-grid, and growing our food, in a sustainable and regenerative way;
not just for our benefit but for that of the human and more-than-human
community, and the future; and the time to make that happen is
yesterday. *In our case vegan, to reduce animal suffering and because it takes so much less land.
I have been thinking a lot about the conjunction of viruses such as coronavirus, climate change and consumerism – all of course inexorably interlinked. We need, indeed, to put pressure on all our governments to make deep changes – but that doesn't let us off the hook as individuals. And as individuals, it's hard not to feel hopeless and helpless, I know.
But we have more power, more agency, than we tend to think. We can effect change simply with our consumer choices. Food choices are obvious – there is much evidence that meat- and dairy-farming are some of the worst drivers of climate change through unskillful and toxic land use and loss of forest and biodiversity, which in turn encroaches on wildlife refuges and brings wild animals into closer contact with humans, as well as meaning that the global poor have far fewer food choices than the affluent west; hence the Asian wildlife markets in which, supposedly, COVID arose.
It's been heartening that so many people have started to grown their own food this summer.
And we can stop flying, and begin really to value 'our' place, our flourishing in that place and its community and the other species, our kin, in it. We can walk, and cycle (two more things that have really come to the fore during this period), and take the time to really get to know it: its rocks and soil, its contours, its trees and plants and habitat, its stories, the habits of the creatures who share it, its changing faces through the seasons and even hour by hour.
But there's a deeper issue at stake: our profound anthropocentrism. Nothing will change until we begin as a species to shift our attitude, our lived attitude, to one of ecocentrism.
And then there's our own growth as individuals. We live in a culture that values individualism, whereas what we need is what Jung called 'individuation': some 'eating the shadow' work (a turning-towards our own dark unknown places in the service of deeper/higher consciousness, rather than projecting them onto others).
This will engender and enable a shift of locus from the ego to the true Self, the transpersonal aspect of the more conscious psyche that knows that wisdom is about caring for the other, human and more-than-human, rather than about focusing on meeting the desires, aversions and attachments of the individual petty self, the ego.
The perspective from the Self is a bigger, more luminous, expanded view that knows that we are all, always, profoundly interconnected.