Sunday, 28 March 2010

Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day*. I went into Carmarthen to join the Earth Day event that was being held there. Various organisations had set up information stalls, there were workshops including a fun all-day craft workshop for kids using recycled materials from the local scrap stores, and a series of talks and discussions.

Unfortunately I was only able to go along for part of the day, but when I arrived just after lunch I was saddened to see only about 25 people there (plus a few more in the foyer taking part in the recycled crafts workshops with their children). Carmarthen was bustling on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the event was well publicised, and yet only a handful of people seemed to have turned out.

Nevertheless, the overall mood was upbeat and positive. The people there were in full awareness of the dire threats to the Earth and Her survival, and yet there was a mood of 'Yes we can!'.

The one exception to this was an elderly man who, during a discussion about what we can and should be doing put forward the view that it was too late, we should have acted up to 100 years ago and our lack of action then means we and the planet are all doomed. When someone - humorously - asked him why he hadn't yet slashed his wrists, he thought for a while and then replied, "Because I want to live long enough to know I was right."

My reply to this was that if I was in his shoes I would want to be proved wrong, which kind of took the wind out of his sails!

Later on in the discussion I suggested a monthly e-newsletter to keep all the different projects around the area in touch with each other, sharing resources and information. I think I may have actually volunteered to get said newsletter up and running, which is a bit daunting but also meant I left with a smile on my face and the feeling I had contributed something useful to the day, despite not being able to be there for the whole event.

That evening, along with many others around the country, at 8.30pm GMT I turned all the lights and most of the appliances in the house off for an hour, and did some chores by the light of a solar-powered lantern to mark 'Earth Hour'.

On turning the computer back on afterwards, I was saddened to see a Facebook friend had posted a link to an article from the Daily Telegraph by Damian Thompson titled 'Beat the Earth Hour fascists and turn on your lights NOW!'. When I posted a comment about why I had observed Earth Hour and how sick I was of smug cynicism about ecological issues I was jumped on by many other commentators, mostly climate change deniers and paranoid conspiracy theorists.

It was sad end to a long day, book ended by people from extreme ends of the climate change issue. On the one hand the elderly man at Earth Day represented the 'Humans are evil and we thoroughly deserve the ecological holocaust we have unleashed on ourselves' end of the spectrum, and later the Facebook commentators represented the 'I won't be told what to do by holier than thou greenies who are making it all up anyway' point of view.

Amazingly, I am not (too) depressed by this, perhaps still carried along by the atmosphere of 'Yes we can!' I encountered from most people yesterday.

It is my opinion that this world is too unique, beautiful and sacred to let it be trashed and destroyed. It may be an insurmountable task we have ahead of us in trying to turn things around, but I for one will not give up trying.

* In the UK. Earth Day is celebrated by the US in April.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Some Mysterious March - Erm - 'Eccentricity'

My somewhat strange and deeply religious neighbour has recently been randomly lopping off small branches from his hedge and laying them 'lean-to' style across the ditch alongside the road.

I have no idea what this is for. Initially I thought he'd cut them but not had time to clear them away, but they have remained there for the last few weeks, so I guess they're where he intends them to be. But for what purpose? I wondered if it was to stop leaves etc getting in the ditch and damming it up, but frankly the branches themselves seem to be creating something of an obstacle. I decided to wait and see.

However, I have today discovered that he has also been randomly lopping bits out of my hedge. Some he has thrown into the ditch (so much for the 'stopping the ditch from getting blocked' theory), and some he has left poked back into my hedge.

I only noticed because a rather large branch of blackthorn had toppled out of my hedge and was partly obscuring the road. When I went to move it, assuming it had blown down in the recent strong winds, I found it had been neatly sawn off and then propped back upright in the hedge.

I don't think he's been attempting to do me a favour by sneakily trimming my overgrown hedge, as some bits that obviously need attention have been left alone. And the bits he's cut range from smallish twigs about a foot long to largeish branches about 6' in length. Ash, hazel and blackthorn as far as I can see.

I am mystified. Is this some strange Welsh custom I've never come across before? Has he completely lost the plot? Should I be worried, flattered or outraged? Am I about to be initiated into some dark secret of country life, wooed, or burned at the stake?

Anyone got any ideas??

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Day

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I can even hear fledglings peeping in their hedgerow nests. It's Mother's Day and later I will be taking along a card and gift for my Mum and having lunch with her and Dad, which I'm really looking forward to.

This morning as I was lying in bed listening to the radio I heard a request for a song to be played for 'All those mothers who no longer have their children with them'. This of course applies to many situations - mothers whose children are being raised by someone else (children adopted, fostered, or being raised by their father for example) - but I think the person making the request was thinking more specifically of mothers whose children have died. One doesn't of course, stop being a mother or feeling the emotions of a mother just through separation or bereavement.

For the first time this morning though, I realised that I too fall into that category. I have mentioned here before my unfulfilled desire for children of my own, but what I haven't written about is that I did bear a child.

He was longed for and the pregnancy - after many years of trying - seemed like a prayer finally answered. Unfortunately, complications developed during the pregnancy and Peter was stillborn.

Losing a child at any age is unbearable, but losing a child before he is born puts you in a strange kind of limbo. Many people seemed to think it was kinder just to brush over the whole episode - "least said, soonest mended" - but in my experience I would say being able to talk about Peter, being allowed to hold him and spend time with him after the birth and then being able to give him a proper funeral was what gave me peace and closure.

The strange kind of limbo comes in the years afterwards. Do I count myself as a mother or not? What do I say when people ask if I have children? I usually just say no and leave it at that. It's mostly too complicated and painful to explain. But occasionally when I say I have no children I see the immediate assumptions being made. Oh, career came first. Oh, doesn't like children. Oh, chose to live the life of Reilly without the inconvenience of kids. That stings, even worse when it comes with the slightly judgemental, 'Oh, didn't you want a family?'

I suppose what I am trying to say this morning is that Motherhood - and Fatherhood for that matter - comes in many shapes and sizes. Women have children, have miscarriages, have stillbirths, have abortions. Children are adopted, fostered, raised by other family members; are abducted, run away, die. Shit happens, and we don't always have a choice in how things turn out. And that doesn't stop us being parents, or experiencing the love and pain that that involves.

So next time you ask someone if they have children, please don't make assumptions based on a 'yes' or 'no' answer. The story is almost always more complicated than that!

Happy Mother Day to ALL the mothers out there. Including me.