Monday, 19 December 2011

Painting the Landscape

The landscape before me is like a thin covering of paint covering the surface of the earth. It is thin, fragile, possibly applied with care and thought and frequently admired by observers. Given the right tools, as with most paint coverings, it can easily be removed. Technology has enabled us to emulate nature's form and texture within 3D animation software and here a pixelated landscape can be manufactured to mimic and exaggerate natural processes and structures. Yet the one thing it does not able to have is an actual organic life to enable it to live and exist independently. The real landscape is set before me - the painted surface of nature and life that has been applied to an inorganic substrate. All this is life. The trees, the grasses, the soil - it all exists as a living ecological system. And we can sit and admire the painting and wonder at the mysteries of the painter.

As I sit against a tree sheltered from the cold wind, I am aware of the contact that I have with the ground, and this ground extends way from me connecting all places on the planet. I feel connectedness and grounded - part of the trees and all that surrounds me - and then when I am back on my bike and moving off into the winter sunshine I am free to go wherever I am able.

On a day like today, when the sunlight and clouds dance above the transparentness of the winter's day, the light create new visual textures and forms that are transient and beautiful. The painting is alive with imbued creativity.

How do we look beyond the painting? Is it just a thing of temporal beauty or is there more to it than that? How do we look to honouring, resoecting and working with this created form and not just use it in an act of consumerism?

Where are the true wisdom seekers and visionaries who can develop a sound framework of leadership, economic stability and spiritual depth that can be accepted by people in this post-modernist world. Is the fragmentation of culture, religion and society sustainable? How can we be brought together to form new ways of living that can become more honouring to the planet upon which we live. How can we protect ourselves from ourselves and the future? You can't just sit back, look at the painting and say "God will save me - I can't deal with all this big picture, long term or vaguely spiritual stuff". That is just ignoring the ability we have as humans to find within us the spiritual strength to take control of our personal development and any responsibility for our actions that may be affecting this earth. Denial of the intrinsic value of our fragile earth is self-indulgent escapism, sinful and ignores the possibility that Jesus could have a salvific effect on nature. His blood, after all, may have touched the wooden cross - a symbol of the natural world perhaps.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

What does Christmas mean?

When you sit alone - amongst a landscape of trees that twist, cream and sway in the strong wind that is powering over the hillside - what does Christmas mean? It isn't quite a gale, but the warm buffeting wind has brought greyness and occasional spots of rain to an otherwise bright and sun-filled week. Here I am, sheltered from the turbulence that breathes restlessly around me, feeling the landscape beneath my feet stretch away down the hillside and out towards places where Christmas dwells in homes and towns. The landscape doesn't know Christmas. It gives us the essentials for our life and yet Christmas seems a self-centered indwelling of the human spirit that has no connection with what I am experiencing here. Yet the birth of Jesus, from a cosmological perspective, began the salvation of the earth from the sinfullness of consumerism that may ultimately destroy it. For us humans this highlight of the year is meaningless to the trees around me - they are oblivious to the Christcentric revolution that occured on earth in human culture two thousand years ago. Christmas fails to acknowledge the ecology of our fragile biosphere unlike the more pagan and celtic festivals that honour the rhythm of the seasons and the interdependence of man and nature.

I have, for a few hours, escaped the need to be part of Christmas. I am surrounded by it at work and at home but up here it has changed its meaning. Yet if the message of Christmas is the birth of love, then that is what it does mean to me - love for all those around me and the giving that I partake in signifies that. On days like this I can give myself to the landscape in an offering of presence and awareness that I would like to believe it appreciates. Its gift to me is one of beauty, peace, life, salvation and light. Light. For now, at this one moment in the whole day, the sun has just appeared through the greyness to touch the fields and trees around me with a faint wash of brightness and colour. But as soon as I see blueness between the clouds above it, it begins to fade and the heavy greyness recovers its ground.

* * *

I see two ladybirds on the ground beside me. There have been many this autumn. They look cold and tired.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Warm Autumn

It is only in the last few days that there has been a more significant chill in the air and a touch of frost on the ground in the mornings. November has been relatively mild, especially when compared to the freezing conditions we had around this time last year. We've hardly needed to put the heating on at home yet.

The photo was taken a couple of days ago one lunchtime on a walk over fields near to where I work. It was a bright sunny day and it was a mistake to have taken a coat with me as it was milder than I was expecting. Exposed soil on the fields was totally dry in places though very moist in shaded parts by woodland. Last weekend I moved around some plants in the garden because the soil was so easily workable. We haven't had any significant rain here in the South East for many months and there are news reports of the drought continuing well into next year. We have had rain this year, but nothing like the quantity required to replenish ground water supplies.