Friday, 30 March 2012

Droning on

Next week I'm intending to re-engage with the political world, and get active!

I'll be attending the anti-drones protest organised by Bristol Against the Arms Trade.

All the reasons for attending the protest can be found at the link above so I won't repeat them. Suffice to say the arms trade appalls me. Anyone who dares argue that ``If we weren't doing it, someone else would...'' will receive very short shrift from me! I'd rather be on the dole the rest of my life than work for those buggers.

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On the subject of ``getting active'', I've just started reading Camus' The Rebel. I love Camus. The Plague is one of the best books I've ever read. The Rebel is very different - essay, not fiction - but it's got off to a cracking start. Here's a quote to get you in the mood and maybe to get you thinking about what protest YOU should be going to!

An awakening of conscience, no matter how confused it may be, develops from any act of rebellion and is represented by the sudden realization that something exists with which the rebel can identify [her/him]self - even if only for a moment... Immediately the slave refuses to obey the humiliating orders of [her/his] master, [s]he rejects the condition of slavery. The act of rebellion carries [her/him] beyond the point [s]he reached by simply refusing. [S]he exceeds the bounds that [s]he established for [her/his] antagonist and demands that [s]he should now be treated as an equal...Knowledge is born and conscience awakened.

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And, to finish, here's a song I intend to sing at the protest. Dylan speaks truth.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Californian wildlife

I spent a couple of weeks of February in California. It's a rather nice place - just a shame that it's a long-haul flight away. I feel rather guilty for having indulged - I can hardly claim it was an essential trip - but I did it, I enjoyed it, and there we go.

I had an interesting insight as I wandered around Yosemite valley one cold afternoon. God, Yosemite is astounding. You could not make up a more ridiculously beautiful place if you tried. If anything it's got too much beauty - sheer granite faces, gigantic waterfalls, snowy pastures, pine forests, bears, coyotes - it's kind of like God couldn't decide which he liked best so he just stuck the whole lot in.

I thoroughly enjoyed my three days there, but I was lead to ponder my response. I really felt like I was walking around in a postcard. Not just because it was so outlandishly beautiful, but also because it was a setting that was so far from where I belong. I know nothing about how to survive, or how to relate to such a place. This is not just because I live in a city - I've lived in wilderness areas in Australia before - it's more than that.

I can explain best by contrasting my response to Ululla Station, the desert wilderness in Australia where I lived for two years. I haven't lived there for ten years, yet whenever I return I feel a deep and abiding sense of relief. Whenever I'm not at Ululla, a part of me is in a holding pattern until I can return. It's not just that I know the place, how to live, what to do (to be honest I'm usually fairly clueless when I arrive back, having slipped completely into city-slicker-mode while away)... It's more that the place somehow connects to my spirit in a very basic way. I feel entirely free - free of the encumbrances and luggage of our dubious civilisation, and free to be entirely present and awake in a place where I belong.

As much as I enjoyed Yosemite, I didn't have that sense at all - I don't belong there, and I never will. Perhaps my response to Ululla is a little taste of what land means for indigenous peoples. The connection between land and aboriginal people is something that gets a lot of airtime in debates in Australia about our cultural dynamics, but I suspect this connection is a notion that is quite mystifying (possibly quite dubious) to a lot of white people. I'm not suggesting that I know what it's really about (I 've had two years of contact with the land, they've had one thousand generations) but I guess I feel a little bit of the ache that aborigines talk about when they're exiled from their land.

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For my own benefit, I'm going to jot down some of the birds that I saw in California. Feeding my internal twitcher...

Western scrub-jay, turkey buzzard, red-tailed hawk, wild turkey, varied thrush, anna's humming-bird (gorgeous little things; saw one almost every day), Cedar waxwing, red-winged black bird, dark-eyed junco, house finch, firecrest (or the Yosemite equivalent), some kind of red/black/white woodpecker, a load of other unidentifiables!