I’ve been listening to the Empathy Museum’s A Mile in My Shoes podcasts. It’s refreshing to get these short empathy bursts: insights into others’ lives, in their own words. Katie Hodgkins’s podcast introduced an experience that maybe seems unimaginable. Katie herself couldn’t imagine it if she weren’t experiencing it. As she says, “I have something called aphantasia. It means I’ve got no imagination, and there’s no pictures in my mind … So I struggle with putting myself in other people’s positions, and I don’t have a very good memory because of it … I need to see something to remember.” As she says, “It’s really amazing that people have full-on images in their heads!”
Tom Baskeyfield asks questions about stone that “focus on relationship to place and the stuff of place” and contemplation of “the slow and the local.” In Dark Mountain’s TERRA, he considers both the stones in his hometown, Macclesfield – “a cobble protruding through tarmac .. drystone walls hidden between newer brick buildings .. weathered surfaces of paving slabs underfoot” – and the town’s Welsh slate roofs. The local stone also migrated, in this case from a hillside quarry. Hillside and town were familiar to each other; “like a trickling stream, it is not hard to imagine the flow of stone from this hill shaping the footpaths and roads on its meandering descent, and pooling in the medieval streets in the valley below.”Continue reading “msb ~091 Shaped by stone”
Along with everything else, there’s that deep sadness when you realise you’re never going to have a conversation with someone ever again. I learned the other day that Chris West, my old boss at UKCIP, died recently and I immediately thought of his humour, patience and enthusiasm. And of a short passage in Nancy Campbell’s The Library of Ice, which I’d read last month and where I’d rediscovered Chris in this perfect anecdote:
“At a climate conference in London a few weeks ago I paired up, during the one-minute speed-meeting session, with an amiable, bearded scientist, who told me that he’d held a piece of the Vostok ice core in the palm of his hand. Chris used up his whole minute describing the experience. ‘The thing is, it fizzed,’ he said. ‘It was melting with the warmth of my palm, and the air was under such pressure that it exploded out of its ice pockets. It fizzed,’ he repeated, ‘then it melted, and I just wiped it on my shirt.’ He passes his hand across the checked cotton covering his chest, an expression of mild bewilderment on his face as he relives his Keplerian encounter with a 20,000-year-old piece of ice.”Continue reading “msb ~088 Remembering Chris West”
Another rich vein of discovery in Dark Mountain’s new collection, TERRA: Rooted is Juhi Saklani’s short essay on the heritage and fate of India’s trees. In response to displacement and distress at relocating deep into Delhi’s congestion after years living in its leafier areas, “I started photographing trees. It was the most meditative and ‘at home’ I felt in my unsettled life.” Her images accompany the text, revealing the deeply textured interplay of living tree and decaying stonework, of (as this small blog keeps returning to) nature-and-culture.Continue reading “msb ~086 Rooted, again”
Titling your Physics World post ‘This article is based on fictional events’ does make it stand out. And David Boyt describes an event I’d wish I’d been to; as part of London Mathematical Laboratory’s Science on Screen series, statistical physicist Valerio Lucarini discussed how Lars von Trier’s 2011 Melancholia “inspired in him a new way of thinking and provided the missing piece of the puzzle for his research.”Continue reading “msb ~085 On edge and in-between”
Maps hold me. The collection I marked during my ‘sabbatical’ exploration of personal unknown England. My afternoon with the Hereford Mappa Mundi’s medieval worldview squashed onto a sheet of vellum. First Nations hunters’ dream-maps, recalled in Anticipatory history: “a piece of moosehide as large as a tabletop … ‘Up here is heaven; this is the trail that must be followed; here is a wrong direction; this is where it would be worst of all to go; and over here are all the animals. They explained that all of this had been discovered in dreams.'” My own dreams of floating above unreal landscape-map hybrids, still real years later.Continue reading “msb ~077 Landscapes written in the skin”
“Hi, Selene. Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat?”
A good joke for William Sitwell, senior food editor, to make? Fellow journalist Peter Oborne thought so on BBC’s PM. ‘Vegan educator’ Ed Winters didn’t, but agreed Sitwell needn’t have lost his job; the sacking was “more to do with a business perspective than a moral perspective. Waitrose are worried about their profits dropping.”
Oborn fears that “if minority groups are going to create offence every time somebody jokes about them it’s going to mean we are all on edge … ‘identity politics’, it’s called and it’s suppressing free speech.”Continue reading “msb ~066 Who speaks?”
My landlord’s cat, years ago: a frequent hunter, whose humans shrugged and waited until her prey was ready to go under the flower beds. She sauntered in and dumped a large thrush on the kitchen floor. The bird flapped about until I threw a towel over it, waited a moment for its movements (and my heart) to quieten, and scooped towel and bird back into the garden. It sat dazed on the grass and, minutes later, was gone.Continue reading “msb ~064 Beyond the background wild #3”
Louisa Thomsen Brits’ Path narrates place and personhood through poems that make ‘a short story about reciprocity’. This small book treads lightly through wide scapes of spirit and land; beginning with a quote from Robert Macfarlane: “paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being.” Perhaps all beings (human/non-human) are also paths: expressions of particularity and process; routes and roots to our essential connections.
I am footfall and track, trail and trace, thread of passage and possibility.
Trodden-through with a region-specific ‘word hoard’, Path is both intensely local to those paths Brit walks and universally translatable to our own natural geographies, histories, biographies.