As I write this, a storm of conkers just descended onto the roof of our neighbour’s car and it’s 23 degrees Celsius outside. This is our topsy turvy year of seasons encapsulated.
Summer 2018 was, in many ways, my dream season. Weeks of bright, bare-footed and loose-armed days. Dinner in the garden every night, finished off with a teapot of homegrown mint tea. Claustrophobic socks left in the drawer. And yet, it was also a mixed bag. A little too hot to function at times; resilience a little fractured once 30 degree days had turned into weeks. And a creeping concern that this is the shape of things to come, the climate change canary in the mine (something I wrote more about here).
And then, at the end of August, summer seemed to suddenly and subtly give way to autumn. Things turned. Fallen leaves. Warm evening air found a chill in its edge. Arms searching their way back into jumpers. And, despite a ridiculous long summer season, I wasn’t quite ready for the change.
This was the summer that we bought a boat. A second-hand, gloriously retro, wonderfully ours boat. It got us out on the water. It got us to the pub. It opened up the river and made it a highway – to exploration, rest, to adventure. It also leaks a little bit, but not enough to stop us from dreaming of longer and further escapades to come.
This was the summer that our garden struggled. Or maybe we struggled with it. We lost annuals to slugs. Courgettes to disease. And a few plants to the heat, despite our best efforts at watering (still just about keeping our water butt supplied using this method). The thing is, we didn’t put the time into the garden that perhaps it needed. Because it wasn’t what we needed. Other things were higher up the priority list. And that meant the dying Sweet Williams remained in the bed a few weeks longer. Plants weren’t repotted or pruned at the ideal point. And so it’s had its own seasons in 2018. Some full of colour and edible goodness, some of slow decay. But we – I – am learning to be content with this. With the intentional choice to not do all we should, because we’re doing all we can.
This was the summer that we visited Jordan for the first time. A week of bartering and baba ganoush. Petra and the promised land. Roman ruins were climbed. Stories were heard and told. And much much hummus was consumed.
And it whet our appetite for learning, and listening, and seeing. An appetite we hold in balance with our sustainability aspirations. Our hearts long for both: travel and a sustainable lifestyle. The two are not unrelated. A care for and connection with people, with this world we live in. They feed each other. But need to be thoughtfully outworked in practical terms.
I read a great article by George Monbiot titled ‘We won’t save the Earth with a better kind of disposable coffee cup’. He argues that “we cannot address our environmental crisis by swapping one overused resource for another…. some people asked me, “So what should we use instead?” The right question is, “How should we live?” And the answer he gives is ‘simply’. Which doesn’t mean easily. It means not just reducing our own consumption, but also acting collectively to see the current, wasteful system change. It’s a great read.
As is this article about how a climate scientist copes with the grief of climate change. How the immensity of threat and loss is tempered by aligning his actions with his values, working that out in community, and remaining oriented around hope through the change. It’s a grief I identify with, though in recent years I’ve not experienced the annual wave of it that I once did. I’ve found a peace in my smallness. Doing what’s in my power, without carrying the weight of the world, literally.
Several times this summer I watched this short, beautiful film about puppets and music. About life – created and lived. About transience. It is achingly sad (“everything they do is their swan song”) and yet I find it stirs in me a a hope, a wonder at beauty made from the debris of life, a rest in the fact that seasons change.
This is part of a regular series on the things that spur me on to keep going with intentional living. What has spurred you on recently?
Today’s soundtrack: This American Life Podcast // Save the Day