Sunday, 5 January 2020

Just breathe...

(...or footnote #2)
What does the apocalypse look like? Watching the unfolding crisis sweeping through Australia and imagining individuals and communities losing all their possessions - losing life - and innumerable animals that share our world - destroyed. It’s a terrible reality - perhaps a consequence - of our industrial times. In Sydney, Mark Mordue describes perfectly, how "our dead future is here". I think about all the flora and fauna - those fragrant eucalyptus and the microscopic life systems of lichen - some will regrow remarkably quickly. But beyond the heat, flame and smoke, those invisible particles that contribute to that even larger global threat, hangs like a heavy pall in my mind.  

High in the damp hills of the north though, I’m embraced by the dank, enveloped by it, the cold sinking deep into my bones, yet even here, I remember not so very long ago, the hills of dry bracken, gorse and heather were ignited over similar moorland on Saddleworth Moor and by an arsonist on Winter Hill. Ninety-six fires in all across our island’s hills last year. They pail into insignificance as I think of Australia and today, fire seems impossible to imagine as the mist sinks lower and I rest-up on a limestone outcrop and soak it all in - the global and individual apocalypse.

For some time I’ve had a taste for soil - not for eating it - but digging around in its mossy, mulch at the base of trees, amongst the roots, skeletal leaves, plump fungi and their seemingly infinite rhizome. My nails get filthy, my hands cold and scratched - but I breathe in the fragrant earth and relish its gritty history - its stories in my hands. I roll an owl pellet between my fingers and undertake a spontaneous autopsy on the tiny fragments of jaw and fur that bind it all together. Tiny, mutual lives. I hold a heavy branch that has been long fallen and its core is darkly hollow, inhabited by multiple things that crawl and grow and all the while, the ruddy faced hunters I’d seen earlier, are firing off shots in the woods, regular cracks punctuating the almost still moment. 

Today, in his reflections on New Year, Stewart Lee writes pithily about stars, satellites, politicians and fox faeces. It’s almost perfect.  

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