Updated: Mar 13, 2022
I woke up to the distinct chatter and singsong of birds around the house this morning. It is so refreshing, so wonderful to hear it. Nature often feels like a mysterious dimension beyond all the news headlines and war updates.
As I write, a common chaffinch sits on a branch curiously looking at its reflection in the window. Before long I’m sure I will hear the tap tap on the window as the male chaffinches mistake their own reflection for an intruder in their territory, and try to attack it.
Meanwhile two blackbirds are running in small circles in the garden, the one chasing the other. It’s funny to watch. A large crow has descended and settles on a branch of the tree in view and all the smaller birds disperse. Darn crows. I went up to the window to scare it away.
The stages of growth and movement in a new season are amazing to observe, even down to the smallest of plant species. A friend reminded me of a book called ‘Gathering Moss’ which I read last year. It was published in 2003, but made a comeback in a reprint by Penguin Books last summer, following the author’s other popular book, ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’. Gathering Moss is a brilliant weaving of knowledge about the tiniest variety of plant life, with stories of Kimmerer’s experiences as a scientist, a mother, and a Native American.
As one reviewer writes, the author “treats her subject with tender, loving respect, as if our future on the planet is dependent on tuning in to those cycles of ‘disturbance and regeneration … played out at a minute scale.’ The fate of the human race is interwoven with that of the humble moss because, for Kimmerer, the fascination of working with mosses is part of a search for order, ‘a desire for a glimpse of the threads that hold the world together.’”
And as Robert McFarlane endorses: this book is ‘grounding, calming, and quietly revolutionary.’
My friend, Christian, an artist from Vienna, commented on feeling the nearness of the war in eastern Europe, noting that Ukraine is closer to Vienna than the western part of Austria. This is all too true, and all too sobering.
He later sent me a famous ‘family photo’ of earth along with the other planets, taken from space on Feb. 14, 1990, by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometres) from the sun. He said ‘this time of war made me think of this iconic photo of earth, the 'pale blue dot' from 1990.’
The image inspired the title of scientist Carl Sagan's book, "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," in which he wrote:
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us."
At first I wondered how my Austrian friend made the connection. He responded by saying that the image, along with Sagan’s quote, puts things in a totally different perspective. This tiny speck, our home, sits within this vast universe. ‘And what is mankind doing? Ruining its own habitat, creating division between nations, killing each other….’
Indeed, what is happening? And when did we lose our way - again?
That small blue dot is a treasure, a diamond in the sky. And we have the privilege of calling it our ‘home’ and tending to it. Just as we have the privilege of witnessing its tiniest of details - the 'unwrapped gifts and free surprises....' (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
As the upcoming shift of the seasons happens in the northern hemisphere, the days begin to stretch out longer. The early morning start to the days is noticeable, causing me to wake up sooner than I’d like!
In North America the clocks move forward one hour this weekend. Here in Scotland it will happen on the 27th of March.
It has felt like a long winter, but now with the signs of a new season becoming more evident, I feel a gradual sense of anticipation coming over me, even in the midst of the world's pain.
Daily incremental changes in light have an impact, just as small steady deeds of goodness can help bring peace, change and hope in the most difficult of circumstances.
Our acts as human beings can have an influence - what we write, paint, sing... the ways in which we use the skills we have to help others…. It all matters.
In line with McFarlane's comment about 'Gathering Moss' we can take revolutionary steps, however small or grand, against powers of evil and darkness in this world, through reaching out with kindness and goodness, one word at a time, one paint stroke at a time.... We can implement change through consistency, love, and a righteous rage against the dying of the light.
This leads me to mention the famous poem by Dylan Thomas. While written in response to the death of his father, it came so strongly to mind and seems fitting to post it here, along with the painting below which is infused with light and warmth.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
By Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
( Read by Dylan Thomas himself here. )
Christian Platny | Untitled | 2022 | Mixed Media on Canvas | 50x50 cm