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!”
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”
Journeying further into Dark Mountain’s new anthology, TERRA, I reach Sara Hudston’s wonderful, powerful parable, Wild Apples. “Francis hated animals.” It’s not just animals. Francis — named ironically for that Assisi guy, of course — hates all evidence of the non-human, natural world. An ex-countryside refugee — “He’d escaped as soon as he could to the city where women liked to be looked at and men could talk intelligently of important matters” — he’s forced back into rural exile, singled out for unidentified duties by an unnamed bureaucracy with no apparent purpose.Continue reading “msb ~080 Nature shock”
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.
So far, I’ve only managed to watch 30 minutes of the BBC’s excellentDrowning in Plastic: impossible to stomach the full hour-and-a-half at once. Footage of shearwaters dying from the plastics their parents unwittingly fed them is, appropriately, gut-wrenching: the animals as oblivious to their plight as we are to our hour-by-hour petrochemical churn that creates it. So – like the other recent BBC 90 minutes on landfill – I’ll be taking this in chunks. But the first viewing leaves me wondering how to respond to another plastics piece today, on a colourful ‘future forest’ made entirely from three tons of recycled plastic waste…Continue reading “msb ~045 Future forest, plastic tide”
There are no natural sources of polychlorinated biphenyls only natural sinks, such as Killer Whales and other predators. As such, PCBs are part of the pattern of whorls and loops that make up the human fingerprints we’re learning to understand as the Anthropocene: spooky fingerprints that circulate around us within other living beings.Continue reading “msb ~044 The haunting”
Southampton in the 90s: heading to the station for the last train home from work, the main road silent, empty of traffic and people – and a fox sauntered up the path. We both stopped, inspecting each other. Then she moved closer, slow but not especially cautious. I’m unsure how cautious urban foxes should be… More than this. I stood. She kept coming, reached out her snout, sniffed. Continue reading “msb ~041 Beyond the background wild #2”