This is my life

This is my life

A succinct testimony to a life aligned with its owner. Rebanks has also spent decades trying to align farming in an industrialised, globalised context with his values and the demands of sustainability.  Despite the pressures, he easily concludes he wouldn’t...
And life is…

And life is…

This poem, ‘Into Battle’, was written in 1915 by an officer serving in the First World War, Julian Grenfell.  It was published in The Times the day after his death from war wounds. The poems draws on different threads of life as providing strength to the...
Our land is a poem

Our land is a poem

A lovely description of a landscape as poetry in motion, slow sedimentary layers added by successive generations.  Maybe recent layers showing devastation of rich old forests and all round biodiversity will give way to more trees, plants and a wide range of species of...
Man has a long time to go

Man has a long time to go

Some wise words from Aaron Copland to a young Leonard Bernstein.  They maintained a close friendship and correspondence for decades, and I like the advice.  It reminds me of a word from a father to a daughter in an American novel: ‘Slow down, Ivy, slow...
The tricky business of simple living

The tricky business of simple living

An interesting character in Goncharov’s 1859 novel Oblomov is Andrey, close friend of the eponymous hero.  He starts out as an exuberant, feisty boy and grows into a disarmingly and ebulliently self-assured, balanced and capable man who tries to rouse his...
Enduring friendship

Enduring friendship

The cool and collected Narziss finally tells his lifelong friend Goldmund how much he means to him.  Goldmund wanders the world for years, the wilder of the two, and perhaps in some senses the less wise, eventually returning to his childhood home, and friend-mentor...
Bursting the boundaries

Bursting the boundaries

A wonderful comment on life – you can come up with as many fine formulae as you like, it will sooner or later defy our clever definitions. Life always bursts the boundaries of formulas. Part of me says, ‘Thank goodness’. For other comments on this...
What are decades to dreams?

What are decades to dreams?

Golding, sailing past the island of Ithaka, thought he would return and land within a few months.  Then war and life intervened, and it took him more than a quarter of a century.  Which goes to show, hang on to your dreams long enough and they can come true.  Or, more...
Live wisely, live well

Live wisely, live well

Isn’t this all we’re trying to do when we talk about ‘sustainability’, ‘circular economy’, or climate change?  When it’s put so simply, it sounds easy, but we have a long way to go before we can see our stifling ignorance fall...
Begin afresh

Begin afresh

A soughing sense of spring surging in the dense-leaved trees.   You can hear the branches, brushing against each other in the dancing breeze, whispering like a wish in your ear, enticing you to begin afresh, afresh, afresh. Yet still the unresting castles threshIn...
Teaching the tree

Teaching the tree

A step in the process of creation, where the Creator takes a moment to teach the tree its leaf.  They learned well, and this is the season we see them unfurl their lessons, each perfectly mastered. Everywhere he taughtThe tree its leaf.  Source: Ted Hughes,...
Of life and lilac

Of life and lilac

This man is one who returns from the dead, from decades in a gulag in Siberia, released during one or another political thaw.  He returns to ‘normal’ life, and it is interesting to see the signs of it which make him realise it had continued even as he was...
As long as you’re alive

As long as you’re alive

One day I decided not to rely solely on Charlton Heston’s interpretation of El Cid but to go to the original (with the aid of a parallel translation).  The epic Song of the Cid dates from around the second half of the 12th century and in places has a touching...
Oh you later travellers

Oh you later travellers

I’m always touched by people connecting to us from the past, throwing their light into an unknown future in addressing, in a human and friendly way, people not even born.  George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte do this by addressing readers directly, and you, reading...
Leaning into the light

Leaning into the light

The candour of this statement struck me, and also reassured me that my own paltry attempts at living a ‘moral and compassionate existence’ are no worse than can be expected of an average human in a human world.  I accepted very young that questioning is...
An inmate of this active universe

An inmate of this active universe

This current and timeless phrase – with that curious ‘inmate’ alongside the energetic ‘active’ – comes from Wordsworth’s image of himself as an infant, tapping into some greater connectivity than mere wifi systems and smart...
Of stars and Dante

Of stars and Dante

On this day, which many of us celebrate as being connected in some way to light and at very least to peace on earth and goodwill to all, let’s enjoy the little known fact that in the Divine Comedy: Dante ends each book with the word “stars”.And so he...
Grab hold of life

Grab hold of life

This year has seen a surfeit of old people whose hold on life has slipped.  Hoyle is an ornery character but one who nevertheless has the spirit of nuannaarpoq, partly by turning a health problem to good use: easily out of breath when he walks, he just walks more...
A matter of infinite concern

A matter of infinite concern

As Seamus Heaney describes it, this is a ‘heavenly father’ who makes wonderful use of the quality of omnipotence, by drawing on his boundless attention, energy and bandwidth to cherish every fallen sparrow, egg or other fragile life form, through all...
The most radiant conditions

The most radiant conditions

This lovely phrase, in a collection of essays by the poet Seamus Heaney, struck me as being in large part what the world is aiming for when it talks about sustainability, sustainable development goals and related rather dry terms. It is combined with an interesting...

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