Painting by Jo Walter…The Chenille Tablecloth jowalter_art
Our planet is in danger. We all know that on some level of our consciousness. The accelerating ecological crisis which threatens the survival of life on earth is evident now not only to professional biologists, botanists, environmental scientists, but to all of us.
Thinking like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings, 1988
John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming, Arne Naess
Daniel continued to tumble around and around, enveloped in many different textures and colours of memory…
He’d been concerned about Man’s reckless disregard for the environment, from an early age, images flickered past. This came through most strongly when he moved to secondary school. Most of his essays were about the damage and destruction that Man was bringing upon the world.
Nature was amazing, God-like, infinite, mysterious, majestic and wonderful. Man could never be forgiven for what he’d done to her. He remembered once he’d written: The beautiful roaming creatures of the world, chatter and wake, every new day. Man wakes and walks his dusty streets…a small domestic dog whimpers at a dark, filthy station…a knife sinks into the back of a sleeping young man…a huge Polar Bear plods up and down his open cold, cage bored of his life…
He was a climber of trees into his teens. His most celebrated conquest as a tree climber was a mature chestnut in a great aunt’s back garden, a magnificent tree, maybe sixty feet high which he climbed alone, freely without any harness or support, to look out over rooftops, gardens, people oblivious below, apart from his Mum who feared the worst ‘Oh I can’t bear to look! Be careful,’ she went back inside. His Dad trusting that he would be safe. Daniel knowing an adrenalin rush when he was less certain about getting back down, reaching the point where the trunk had divided, and there were no handholds.
He used to love walking through a ribbon of local woods as he wound his way towards the bus stop for his journey to school. Here he would idle, and later share with friends that he had seen a woodpecker, or even more rarely, a snipe on his way through the woods, ‘You’ll never guess what I saw today.’
Daniel had joined the London Natural History Society and was recording the animals and birds he saw every week, so that they could build up a picture of wildlife in the city. His dad offered to help and recorded foxes and badgers for him, mostly when he was on night duty. Daniel’s father was a policeman. Later, when the Society produced its annual report of animal sightings, there was a distinct cluster of badgers, foxes and kestrels around their hometown and relatively few elsewhere in London.
He had another flashback, to One Tree Cottage. One morning when lying in bed, the tiny window open, he heard distant voices, mixed in with a sound he’d never heard before, the sound of deep breathing flames like the sighs of a contented dragon, as brightly coloured balloons drifted over against the most perfect blue sky. Easter. They came lower, unintentionally losing height, but landing safely in the adjacent field. A field where horse mushrooms grew, mushrooms which his aunt would have, a single one enough, perhaps too much, to cover the whole of your breakfast toast.
That same day, four of them headed to the mountains in the 2CV. They parked at the base of a high fell, leaving the car in sunshine, and climbing up following the white rush of a mountain stream. ‘What a beautiful day,’ he’d said, delighted,
‘Yes, perfect isn’t it?’ they agreed.
But half-way, a dark and darker sky crept over the peak of the hillside, locking them in and spilling flurries of snow, bursting into a blizzard, a white-out, the path of their descent suddenly invisible, cold and uncertain. At every step they would slip on the rocks, stumble and slide down the hillside, risking a fracture at any moment, enveloped in a white spiralling blanket, only guessing at how to avoid the steep, craggy sides scored by the waterfall below. They made it, the sky opening as they journeyed home.
Those few days with his cousins were some of the most beautiful and memorable of his life. They played barefoot, laughed and screamed with joy together, in the freedom of the garden, and surrounding fields.
Apart from One Tree Cottage, the family holidays which leapt from his memory most, were when he and his brother John were in their mid to late teens, when they experienced the black heat of slate in the quarries in the mountains of North Wales, near Ffestiniog.
Their parents chose to seek out the hilltops, for silent isolation. At midday, the sun would cook the rock in the slate-black hollows, between slate cliffs. There they ate their sandwiches, baking in sunshine, caught in the voiceless, barren space which was at once both hostile and beautiful in its alien solitude.
There were signs of former habitation, in the remains of trucks, of winding wheels which had dragged payloads of slates from the shadows. Thick cables were supported by tessellated beams. Black, night-black, a searing furnace in the mountain sun, devoid of life, of birdsong, burning black. The occasional, rare black shadow of a raven, uttering its deep-throated ‘kronk,’ listening for an echo from the rough surfaces of rock and the flush, man-made surfaces of cut slate, before releasing its greeting once more.
Remembering the heat had prompted another memory of the little, rounded wooden caravan in the long garden Marie calls her suntrap. Here they sat and he read to her, usually Lyall Watson, Supernature, orLifetide, to the backdrop of blackbird, robin, wren, overseen by tall ash trees.
A robin’s song is an elaborate succession of complex sounds, the exact sequence and phrasing and even the tone, depending on the individual singer.
Lifetide, Lyall Watson
Marie, was blind, a large grandmother figure, and friend of the family. In the garden, she described how the sun penetrates her cataracts, lights up a mosaic of colours for her, ever changing patterns which seem to have a celestial or spiritual significance, matching the tone of the natural marvels they’re learning of. And she dictated poetry, including a poem called Continuity, about a stone her father found and gave to her, a stone which she still had even after her father died, and which when held brought him back to her, an eternal connection rooted in millions of years of history.
Thinking about time and the universe, she would often quote her favourite phrase from Mary Baker Eddy…
All is infinite mind in its infinite manifestation…
As he was falling, it was as if he were sharing her light, as he spun in the depths of the wormhole…
 By the age of 14 he’d read most of Joy Adamson’s books including Born Free and Pippa’s Challenge. He immersed himself in the Serengeti plains of Africa and deep into the oceans, which included reading Dr J C Lilly’s, Man and Dolphin.
He discovered that dolphins’ brains are about a quarter larger than humans’ and that they can hear frequencies up to 200 kHz, as opposed to the 20 kHz at the threshold of our hearing; such endearing, intelligent beings. He also read Jane and Hugo Van Luwick Goodall, more tales of Africa, of wild dogs (Innocent Killers), chimpanzees (In the Shadow of Man), and Gorillas in the Mist, by Dian Fossey.
 Continuity, by Marie Barrett