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12th April 2014

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The brutes and the vegetables

If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races and the brutes and the vegetables.

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your chances of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or simply, of over population and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

If I am right, the whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured. This is not funny, and I do not know how long we have to do it in.

Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1972

Tagged: booksecologynaturesurvivalfuturismphilosophyGregory Batesonenvironment

20th March 2014

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Such a pretty hen

On the edge of the road, a small, plump hen walked purposefully along, her head extended and her feet clambering over the stones. She was such a pretty hen, her plumage edged in white, as though she’d powdered herself before she’d stepped out of the house. She hopped down onto the grassy verge and, without looking left or right, raced across the road, then stopped, re-adjusted her wings, and made a clear line for the cliff.

Claire Keegan, Walk the Blue Fields (Faber & Faber, 2007)

Tagged: booksbirdsnaturehensIrelandClaire KeeganIrish literatureshort stories

24th February 2014

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The flutter of leaves

There was an overall smell but you could separate them out the way a prism separated light. There was a smell of bark, of green branches, of nettles, of dung, of fresh earth, and stinking earth, of fungi and the Elder flower that grew profusely and was one of the chief components for the home-made wine…

The flutter of the leaves brought on your trance. Hundreds of thousands of sycamore leaves all obeying the same wind, their wide green palms opening then tightening, letting in and keeping out the light changing the prospect from indoor to outdoor to indoor, forever altering. It was the most lonesome hour just before dusk with all the colours going, all the streamers, the pinks and reds, and violets and indigoes and blues, the lovely laneways of vanquishing light.

Edna O’Brien, A Pagan Place (1970). One of the best novels about childhood (and memory, and Ireland) that I’ve ever read.

Tagged: booksreadingIrelandIrish literatureliteratureEdna O'Briennaturetreessmelllight

17th February 2014

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An old folk belief in Ireland held that there were 12 different winds and each had a different colour. (Also, pigs can see the wind, and it’s red.)

Tagged: IrelandfolklorewindnaturepigscolourIrish folklore

22nd January 2014

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Owls have many names in Irish, including:

ceann cait – “cat head”
coileach oidhche – “night cock”
scréachán reilge – “graveyard screecher”

Tagged: owlsbirdstranslationIrishIrelandGaeilgenaturelanguage

18th December 2013

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Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

Tagged: poetrypoemscrowbirdsnature poetrynatureRobert Frostsnowtree

28th November 2013

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An egg is a pleasant thing to contemplate

In Ireland a woman could raise hens and sell the eggs. Of course there were fights. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law disputing control of the hens, and some of those disputes were vicious; but still an egg is a pleasant thing to contemplate, warm in a straw nest, carrying all that power and history.

Angela Bourke, ‘Le Soleil et le Vent’, in By Salt Water

Tagged: writingbooksstoriesnaturefarmingeggsAngela BourkeIrish literatureshort stories

24th October 2013

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The ocean is broken

"I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen."

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

"Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look."

From “The ocean is broken”, by Greg Ray in the Newcastle Herald

Tagged: ecologynatureshippingseaoceanmarine biologyenvironmentpollutionfishbirds

19th October 2013

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Egon Schiele, Autumn Tree (1912, oil on canvas, 80cm x 80cm)

Egon Schiele, Autumn Tree (1912, oil on canvas, 80cm x 80cm)

Tagged: arttreesautumnpaintingart historyEgon SchielenatureExpressionism

16th October 2013

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Letting the calves out

The calves were kept in their house during the cold weather where they were fed morning and evening with buckets of milk warm from the cows. It was one of the first signs of summer when the calves were left out and they were so accustomed to the limitations of house life that it took a lot of gentle persuasion to coax them into the bright sunlight. When we brought them through the haggard into a big green field they could not believe their eyes: they spread their legs and put out their noses expecting to meet a barrier; then took a couple of steps and tested with their noses again. They did this a few times until gradually it dawned on them that there were no more barriers: this was freedom. Then they took off, whipping their tails high into the air and galloping around the field with sheer abandon.

Alice Taylor, To School Through the Fields: An Irish Country Childhood (1988)

Tagged: booksanimalscowsfarmfarmingnatureIrelandAlice Taylor