What a week! I wasn't expecting all this sunshine, yet it also seems somewhat overdue. While we may have missed out on Spring equinox sunshine this year, the last week has made up for it. I know I am normally the person quoting the whole "no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing" line - and I do believe it, although lately even my appropriate clothing doesn't seem to be very waterproof. I certainly wouldn't call myself a sun worshipper but there is something about blue sky that puts a smile on almost everyone's faces, so these last few days have been a joy. The cherry blossom is out in many places too, which has always felt magical to me, even as a child, but it is the ubiquitous dandelion that makes me happiest. Which do I prefer? The bright yellow flower opening with the sun in the morning, or the "clock" seedheads that eventually fill the gutters with fluff, it's difficult to say. Both bring me immense amounts of joy. Dandelions have popped up in a couple of unexpected places this week too.
There's an online course I've been dipping into in my spare time called Active Hope, based on the work of Joanna Macy a Buddhist ecophilosopher and Chris Johnstone, a specialist in resilience and wellbeing. The aim of it is to support people’s capacity to make a positive difference in the world through an approach that helps people respond creatively to world crises rather than
feeling overwhelmed. This method is called the work that reconnects and the image that is used throughout the course is a beautiful painting of a dandelion. It leads us from the roots of gratitude on which everything is based (and if you've ever tried to pull up a dandelion, you'll know just how strong and deep those roots are), through to the seeds going forth into the world. It's an image I keep thinking about. Click on the picture to find out more about their work and the course itself.
This Saturday 22nd April is Earth Day, an annual event to raise awareness of the issues facing the earth and to promote environmental protection and the theme this year is investing in our planet. Throughout this week in the run up to Earth Day the Buddhist magazine Tricycle has been running an online Buddhism & Ecology Summit looking at a variety of ways to help address eco-anxiety. Last night I attended a session about storytelling and writing practices. The presenters were experts in both mythology and haiku poetry,
Haiku are short poems with their history in Japan. They contain just three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable form. They are primarily poems about nature and are defined by the use of a season word to indicate the time of year. They go back to a time when human beings defined themselves as part of the natural world, where the oral tradition of storytelling often focused on plants and animals. In talking about the different traditions of storytelling, one of the presenters described haikus as the dandelion seeds of poetry; small powerful packets spreading themselves across the world through the power of breath. Tricycle run regular haiku challenges where people submit their own poems based around a specific season word. The winner in the Spring 2023 challenge feeds back into the Active Hope image:
With its deep taproot the dandelion stays calm as its head explodes
Although I don't have anything local to link to for Earth Day, I'm excited about a concert being aired on Saturday evening on Radio 3. The programme contains three pieces by Max Richter, including Recomposed an electro-acoustic reimagining of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and has been inspired by Sir David Attenborough’s latest natural history series Wild Isles. I can't describe it better than Richter himself who says "Recomposed, with its origins in the natural rhythms of the Seasons that frame our lives, reminds us that the things we are fighting for are beyond opinions and political ideologies: they form the very basis of our existence. We belong to them, and they belong to us all equally.” Both this article about the concert, the work of Macy and Johnstone and the pantheon of haiku all offer us a route to truly encounter other living beings; climate change can only be overcome by collective action and by immersing ourselves in nature.
Whilst of course we should celebrate the sunshine while it lasts, I was struck by a subtitle in an article on the BBC website about Deborah James: appreciate the rain. She talks about a friend who wanted to feel the rain on his face for the last time before he died. As she faced her own death, she began to appreciate going outside in the rain, remembering all the people who would give anything for the privilege of being able to feel the rain on their face, one last time. Maybe my leaky jacket doesn't matter so much after all.