This is definitively not a diary. I’m not going to be telling you what I’m doing all the time. That doesn’t mean to say that the things I do don’t have the greatest possible influence on what I write here. And what I have been doing lately feels as though it is rather important to my future. To my understanding that it’s not over until it’s over. We all know that getting out and about, learning new things, meeting people is important to even an introverted person. The trouble is, when things have been dull for a number of years, somehow it is hard to generate the necessary enthusiasm to make such opportunities.
Now, it seems to me, is an important time for me to look within and around, and see what I can salvage of my heartfelt values and make into something new, which may change my little world for the time that remains to me. Maybe I have been collecting and collating experiences, but I have not been making much of them, due to lack of time, commitment, skills. I also feel more evangelical than I have for a long time. The world needs saving! And what am I going to contribute to that effort? I am also more aware of my own capacities so I think I will not set my sights so high. So if not the world, my corner of it. And if word should get out, so much the better.
This process starts here, with a book, as so often. I have been reading Michael McCarthy’s ‘The Moth Snowstorm’ and I have found it inspirational. He starts by studying the variously failed models of conservation, concluding with a measured despair that the most recent flourishes of sustainability (Rio) and the market (in the form of, for example, eco-tourism and use value of habitats or species) are as unlikely to succeed as earlier gestures to protect the environment from rapacious greed and exploitation. We don’t have a long-term plan, and seem unable even to consider the well-being of our children. McCarthy speaks of an almost spiritual value which he sees as the slenderest of hopes, but the one remaining to us. He believes (I don’t happen to believe this, but I’ll go along with it) that humans feel a special connection to Nature, by virtue of place within it and our past evolution of exquisite attunement for survival’s sake, which is manifest in our joy and wonder at the huge, the tiny, the rare and the prolific, the colourful and the strange. To this list of the marvellous, I would add, from my own experience, the ordinary, since all life (and indeed, non-life) on the planet and off it is marvellous to me. I am filled with joy and wonder every day.
Following rapidly on the heels of my discovery of this book have been serendipitous events: finding a secondhand copy of Ronald Blythe’s ‘Divine Landscapes’; meeting a German woman imbued with the essential values of the emergent Green politics of the 1970s and 80s, sadly now rather in eclipse; encountering a wonderful dress designer and maker in Glastonbury while in search of something special to wear at my son’s coming wedding; meeting a friend in search of an ancient yew tree; and talking with another friend about her studies in the art or craft of kintsugi. From this last discussion, which turned on issues of ‘right-livelihood’ and the need for authenticity and coherence, ideas of self and occupation emerged – a firming of the resolution to explore what all this means to the essential ‘me’. The word which comes to mind may sound pretentious, but what do I care now about that? It is ‘integrity’. I will make my future with integrity, or I will make nothing.
I’ve been talking about writing, but I know that it is ‘good for a person’ to make things with her hands as well. I do make things, but not in a particularly sustained or practiced way. No 10,000 hours for me. The production of a material object seems valid if it is of use or beauty, but as for imposing my own creations on others, or making a living from them, well, that has always seemed unlikely, out of reach somehow. Too much of a contribution to the mass of stuff burdening the earth. I always knew that my other physical contribution to the world, gardening, was more of a process, considerably reliant on a sensitive working with nature. A garden for me is a cooperative effort. I know what Nature is capable of, and after minimal slashing, burning and digging, a garden will make itself. I’m not much of one for pergolas and decking, walls and paving, so I have never been inclined to supply my clients with what you might call ‘television’ or ‘Chelsea’ gardens. But my gardens look good and are full of life, and most importantly do no harm. They are peaceful places to be.
I am, at least today, full of hope that something true will emerge from this bud of intention, and that what I have sometimes felt lost may be found, or at least re-created. In this hope I am much consoled that this very piece of writing, which I thought had fallen through the cracks of carelessness and new technology, has been found in the archive. Hurrah.