Hawthorn Rising

The inner world of a person in transformation

INFP

forest walk

I am an introvert. But not just any introvert, I am INFP.

Although I’ve not done an ‘official’ test, I would classify myself as being INFP according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). INFP means Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Perception).

“The Idealist”

According to some websites, being an INFP type, means I am an idealist. I’m happy with that!

“As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.”

I do have ‘ideal’ values and aspirations, although I also accept that sometimes, I have to bend or compromise my ideals to get by and get on, or to fit in. I’m also very intuitive, although there are some signs that have to be hammered to my head for me to actually take them on board, but I do get strong ‘feelings’ about things.

I’m happiest when I’m walking in the woods.

Do what makes you happy, today…

Wielding Power

Whether we realise it or not, we wield an enormous amount of power over the natural world, and yet ultimately we have to live by its laws. We (‘civilised’ humans) have created machines of mass destruction – capable of ecocide – that we seem to wield without thinking too much.

I appreciate that if you want to dig a foundation for a house or need an area of ground levelled quickly, then a mechanical digger can do in minutes what would be hours of back-breaking labour for a human. But with that power, comes immense responsibility to use it wisely.

Our next door neighbours are having their driveway expanded and covered in tarmac. As part of the improvements, a beautiful Magnolia tree was ripped out of their lawn in seconds. Shortly afterwards, the conifers you see on the right of the picture were gone too.

From a selfish perspective, our previously private lounge, where the view was of green, is now laid open and bare. It’s a shock and one that we’ll adjust to, but probably not accept. We’ll mitigate things by planting a taller hedge on the boundary and regain some privacy, but my heart is pounding with sadness and loss.

Of course I also realise that I am a hypocrite to an extent. Our house sits where there was probably woodland, or at least fields (which would have been woodland at one point in the past). Every time I drive my car, I’m using roads that were built by tearing up the natural world, and even if I didn’t drive, goods and services that I purchase travel the roads or airways and were grown or made in a manner that has caused some destruction.

It’s just a very sobering thought, looking at how much destruction one man and one machine can do in such a short amount of time. In other parts of the UK, and across the world, machines ten times larger than this one do untold damage in our quest for progress and to enable us to have ‘stuff’.

Once in a while I think we all need to stop and consider the consequences of our daily actions, and act with that knowledge in mind.

At the other end of the destruction spectrum is a lady called Emma Orbach. She lives in a mud hut in Wales, without electricity. I’m not suggesting everyone could or should live like this, but she is an inspiration.

Your purpose in life

I’ve had a lot of feedback since reviewing Rachel Corby’s book, ‘Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature‘ and I’m even more inspired to learn and act on the lessons within the book and to rewild myself, little by little.

Bits n bobs

From reading the book, I have a head full of questions – in some ways, I wonder whether it’s possible to ‘rewild’ yourself and then go back to an ordinary life? Once you unlearn some of the modern crap we’ve come to accept how could it be possible to step back into what most consider an ‘ordinary’ or ‘civilised’ life? Surely as you rewild, you pass some point of no return? We’ll see.

I’m keen to walk my talk and not just consign the wisdom I’ve learned into a ‘have read’ pile on the floor. I also attending some ‘mindfulness’ classes, and likewise, I want to make sure I take the lessons on board and act on them.

One way I’m thinking is to actually have a plan for the future. I tend to just get on with life on a day-to-day basis and although I’ve changed some aspects of my life, there is no overall plan. Sure, I have goals in my head, but no plans of how to get from here to there.

By chance, I discovered a blog today where the author (Kim) had written a post “What is your true purpose in life“, and as part of that, had listed some aspirations. I hope Kim doesn’t mind me listing an edited few here (do check out her blog for the full list and other wonderfulness: Spiralspun.com)

  • To connect with the sacred in nature.
    Oh yes! This is a big one for me and very much in line with my views on spirituality and rewilding myself.
  • To learn and grow and help others to learn and grow.
    Well yes of course, if others want to listen and learn, I’m happy to give my time.
  • To take time to slow, savour and appreciate this one life.
    In other words, to live a mindful life.
  • To listen to birdsong, smell flowers, taste fresh tomatoes from the vine and linger in fields, forests and on seashores.
    Again, in line with my Mindfulness
  • To reconnect with growing things, with wildflowers and our wild selves.
    In other words, to engage in a process of rewilding myself.

In fact, there’s very little in Kim’s list that I wouldn’t also add to mine. Some are different ways of looking at the same and could be grouped under similar themes such as ‘live a mindful life’ and so on, but they’re all great ideas.

The one that I’m not completely sure of the meaning is “to live the life of the wild wolf woman inside and open my heart to others to join me” – I suppose for me, being male, it would be to connect on a deeper level with other men, to talk and support each other, to forget about all the competitiveness and bullishness that is often associated with the male aspect and to be able to talk and open up to each other in a supportive manner.

tree ogham pyrography

One of the things I definitely want to do is more creative stuff. I already write in a journal, but I want to do more of that. I have also been gifted a good quality pyrography machine. The photo above is my first effort – it’s the tree Ogham, with the centre Ogham of Birch as it was burned onto a birch wood disc. My inspiration is the wonderful book, ‘The Tree Ogham‘ by Glennie Kindred.

Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature

Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature is the third book by UK writer Rachel Corby. Here, I’m giving you my personal review of the book.

A few years ago, I was extremely fortunate to have been given a copy of one of Rachel Corby’s earlier books, The Medicine Garden, and from that became aware of her passion and unique immersion into aspects of nature that most people pass by.

Fast forward a few years and the environmental movement is full of talk of ‘rewilding’, led in part by George Monbiot’s excellent and controversial book, ‘Feral’. In essence, George Monbiot says that we have lost all our truly wild places, and suggests that instead of paying farmers to farm sheep in the hills of Wales (as an example), they could be paid let places rewild through planting native woodlands etc., and allowing places just to ‘be’. Through this, we could eventually see the re-introduction of some of the large predator species such as wolves that were once common and a new (to us) ecology would emerge.

So it was with interest that I heard Rachel Corby had a new book called ‘Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature’. In essence, the book is about how to unlearn some of the stuff that distances us from nature, from what we really are – an animal – and helps us connect back to the land in a physical, emotional and spiritual sense.

rewild yourself book cover

From the cover of the book:

Over the last millennia or so, as humanity has become more civilised, humankind has found itself increasingly removed from its own innate wildness. At the same time society has found itself beset with ever greater incidences of mental illness, stress, depression and antisocial behaviour. In Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature Rachel Corby addresses the longing search for meaning, what she calls the dark cries of the soul, that have emerged alongside the human-nature disconnect.

The book starts with a discussion of what rewinding is, but I particularly liked the premise that before we can really contemplate rewilding a place, we need to rewild ourselves first. In Chapter 1, What is Rewilding, Corby writes:

“I believe the first step in reclaiming areas of land and habitat, to saving, refurbishing, rewilding them, is to find the wild place inside, to rewild yourself… By taming the environment we tamed an essential wild part of ourselves.”

There’s a lot accessible science in the book. In an effort to explain how interconnected we are to everything around us, we’re taken on a journey to explore cells, and atoms and even smaller things. We are told about the space between them and how vast that really is. We are made of stars and almost of nothing it would seem. We are made of the same stuff as rocks, trees, water, and so on.

wild body

There are practical tips on connecting with nature on daily basis that I really enjoyed. It’s not just about getting out there, but of stopping, connecting, feeling, being. The book teaches us the importance of seeing, not just with our eyes, but with our hearts too.

I can relate to this – years ago, we used to stay in holiday cottages with the in-laws. We’d go to some lovely places and admire a view to two, but it was as if we were looking at a photograph – go there, look and come away. I craved connection to the places, but went along with everyone else as a tourist. Now, I take my time and realise that looking and seeing are two different things.

Corby’s previous book and interest in herbalism shows through as she encourages us to eat wild too by foraging the wild places for leaves and plants that not only nourish and heal us, but act an a conduit to the wildness within ourselves.

Corby also recounts going on a ‘vision quest’, something that many indigenous people do as a rite of passage where you are alone for several days, without food and where ultimately the body ceases to have distractions and you become immersed both in the place around you and into yourself.

If I was critical of the book in any way, it would be that most people are unable or unwilling to fly around the world to undertake vision quests (nor would it be realistic – think of the environmental destruction all that carbon would cause). Whilst it is perhaps harder to be really ‘wild’ in the UK, I think people should try to find the wild within their own country, region and native culture and to experience that rather than one of another place and culture. I am nit picking here, because overall the book is simply superb.

So get the book and immerse yourself in it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can buy it direct from the author, but if you must, you can also try other booksellers and the ubiquitous Amazon too (but please try to support local businesses).

You can also visit Rachel Corby’s blog at https://rachelcorby.wordpress.com and her other website at http://www.gatewaystoeden.com/

Walking on a perfect summer evening

Originally written on 30th June 2015

WW - 1

It’s been a hot summer day. As we walk down a tree-lined path, you can ‘smell’ the cooler air – thank goodness for trees and the welcome shade they provide.

The scent of honeysuckle is in the air as I look directly at the low sun through the trees – suddenly you can see all the insects flitting around.

Around me, I see wild rose, foxglove, horsetail, nettle, holly, hawthorn, hazel and purple clover. The hedges and edge are bursting with growth.

A blackthorn arches over the path as if marking out a transcendental gateway. I wonder where my mind would take me if I mentally stepped through it?

Around me, elderflowers are coming to the end of their season, but I can still bathe my nose in that special sweet yet dry scent.

I walk past a low hanging willow and look up at the pale moon in the light sky.

The peace and tranquility is overwhelming. If only I could bottle and preserve this feeling….

The Impossibility of Growth

I don’t agree with everything that George Monbiot writes. Specifically, his views in nuclear power are at odds to mine, but this is possibly one of his finest pieces of writing – succinct and like a dart, it hits the target and points the blame.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell – Edward Abbey.

In this article, Monbiot starts off with an example of exponential growth. Popularised by Prof. Albert Bartlett amongst many others, exponential growth is where small increases, year on year or period on period can suddenly add up – what appears to be small, insignificant growth, rapidly becomes all consuming. Often the ‘signs’ do not present themselves until far too late. In the article, Monbiot talks initially about growth in possessions, but I believe he is indirectly referring to population growth, as possession growth is directly linked.

He also refers to a position I hold, which is that our current growth, lifestyle and population is only possible because of fossil fuels. Without the oil and the gas, we could not heat all our homes, get goods and food from across the world, sustain the agricultural revolution in terms of pesticide, herbicide and fertiliser (although there is much evidence that industrial agriculture is destroying soils).

Monbiot highlights how we, in the developed, powerful (ie guns and armies) countries continue to exploit others for their natural wealth. As traditional sources of fossil fuels etc become increasingly harder (either physically or politically) to get, we cast our net wider and encroach into the unspoilt, untouched and pristine places (of which there are precious few remaining).

As the earlier mentioned Prof. Albert Bartlett said, ‘Sustainable Growth’ is an oxymoron. We are consuming the life blood of our world. We are killing the very thing that keeps us alive. We have the ideology of the cancer cell and no amount of ‘techno fix’ will ultimately save us. Once again, history repeats itself and we fall into the progress trap – as we ‘solve’ one problem, we create another and so it goes on, until we have no resources left.

The inevitable outcome is surely not hard to comprehend. Even the most ardent capitalist must ultimately concede that without resources, our economies cannot grow. It’s clear, to me, where we are heading, but as Monbiot says, it’s a topic few want to discuss so we get distracted with spin, celebrity, fame, fortune and more. But face it we must…

You can also read it, fully referenced on his website, along with many other great articles: http://www.monbiot.com/


 

Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 28th May 2014

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems. It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenom we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and the pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, as the most accessible reserves have been exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable, the Ecuadorean government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the Yasuni national park. It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills, will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America.

The UK oil company Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east, the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people. These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in ten years. The trade body Forest Industries tell us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow.” If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about the colonisation of space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we were miraculously to reduce the consumption of raw materials by 90% we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st Century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

www.monbiot.com

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