This distant mountain is Ben Ledi, the highest I can see from where I live. It’s the motif for the second Sunday in Lent, because in our church we always read about the Transfiguration today.
Last year I think I talked about those moments of vision which sustain us when life gets bleak (which it did, as I remember, and still does). This year I want to move beyond the private and personal, into my life as a poet and as someone trying to live an environmentally responsible life.
Poetry – like religion, it seems to me – often gets stuck in a concern for private moments of illumination, as if they are the only things worth writing about – or worse, the only things worth living for. But this is to say that poetry, or religion is no more than self-indulgence. St Peter (who often gets put down for being impatient or overly self-assertive with his excited ‘let’s build three tents’ outburst), is perhaps on the right track. The privileged moments aren’t just to be savoured. They demand a response, a commitment. If we are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the world, then it isn’t enough to be grateful and appreciate it. We must also cherish it, and be responsible for it. If we write poetry it isn’t just about how lucky we are – it’s also to share our vision with people, and enable them to cherish and share and speak up for their own visions.
As an environmentally conscious person, this last point is most important. It’s easy for me, living in a fairly rural setting, to get excited about skylarks and buzzards and whooper swans, and as a person who isn’t on the breadline, to ponder about where the most ethical food is going to come from – and I’m not going to apologise for it; those issues are important.
But some people don’t have that luxury. Some people live in inner cities. Some people live alongside polluted rivers, depleted soil, or toxic emissions, or have to deal with failing monsoons, or catastrophhic weather systems. I get the feeling that a lot of green aspirations are romantic and nostalgic, or a fairly desperate longing for a new start. We can’t do that. We have to say with Peter, “It is good for us to be here “.
I have become very enthusiastic about permaculture theory lately for many reasons – it is pro-diversity (including human, social and philosphical diversity), it is positive and hopeful, and it seems well grounded in understanding the earth and the way we are likely to behave. But one of the big things going for it is the way it is being used to revive degraded environments in the third world, after over-development or environmental disaster.
Here’s a link to the Permaculture Portal, where you can read all about some of the good things that are happening all over the world. But best of all, ways to start here, where we are.