surfsensei

Reflections and observations on life in general.

Balloons, post-script.

Looking back just over a year through previous posts, I found the post linked below, (Balloons, EBI) which I’ve updated with a postscript.  I’m in a better place, now, but see much of the same thing going on.  Even in a small circle of influence, I am doing what I can to leave things better than I found them and to leave the seeds of improvement in the minds of others I work with.

white and red plastic heart balloon on sky during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Photo: David E. Gurniewicz, https://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

I would like to be planting, metaphorically in this context, a forest of oaks and beech and ash trees, interventions that lead to a big shift in how things are being done, that leave a lasting result. Unrealistic aspiration, grandiose self-delusion?

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In reality I am probably sowing smaller seeds, in the hope that they give rise to plants that can thrive in devastated land, like the Willow-Herb that is abundant in this part of Scotland, and produce flowers that feed many insects… less spectacular but possibly more widespread benefits…  I will never really know, but it helps prevent cynicism.

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If none of this makes sense, have a look at the original post, I don’t feel articulate enough this evening to labour the point.  I’m off now to make another cup of tea and continue work on turning old scaffolding planks into a dining table.

Balloons – EBI

Despite everything, I think it is still worth it.

Thank you for putting your trash in a bin.  It does make a difference.

————

https://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

Alternatives to Balloon releases.

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On the buses..

From where I live now I have three realistic modes of transport to and from work: cycling, driving and a combination of bus and, in Stirling, one of the hire bikes. Last week I decided to take the third option, as I am a member of the hiring scheme and the first half-hour of rental is free. I could combine trying out the bikes with testing this route and, perhaps, enjoy a more relaxed commute at the end of the week.

Both journeys went smoothly, the hire bikes were free of serious faults and the buses on time. Stirling Council has put in place some pretty good cycling routes in the city that are useful for my journey and I could allow my mind to play a little, with the cares and demands of driving in the hands of our shared chauffeur.

I noticed in my stream of mental chatter the usual turbulence of ideas, observations, shifting awareness of bodily sensations, memories and plans, emotions and so on, all arising and fading like glittering fishes and assorted treasures and detritus emerging briefly from the muddy eddies before sinking back out of view into the depths.

Occasionally there were longer-lasting impressions and insights. This time it came as I noticed familiar patterns and prejudices appear almost as childlike crayon graphic overlays between my general awareness and the appearance of people around me on the bus.

It was a striking moment of clarity that was neither shocking nor surprising – I have become aware of this before – but it felt fresher and more vivid this time. A background chatter of judgement and opinions, of sorting and categorisation, like a suspicious and short-tempered receptionist trying to decide who gets in and whom to turn away, unaware that the boss is wise to his old employee’s tricks and is spending more time sitting in reception himself.

The terms “stereotype ” and “prejudice ” are heavy with negative associations these days, used as they are in mostly negative context; to admit to their presence in one’s mind is seen as an admission of a shameful guilt, of heretical thought-crime.

Yet this feature of our minds serves a purpose, not least to enable us to navigate the complex world of our experience quickly enough to keep up with events and, most of the time, avoid serious trouble. If everything appeared completely fresh and new in our minds, we would have long ago been eaten by lions or bears who simply saw us as “lunch”. We need to learn quickly to compare our perceptions with pre-formed models, stereotypes, simply in order to move around and sit down; “dog” not= “chair”.

“Life’s easy, seen from here…”

It’s a matter of awareness, keeping an eye on the mental processes that filter the flow of phenomena and noticing when they are useful, keeping us out of trouble and assisting rapid decision making, and when they are unhelpful or even harmful, triggering defensive and ill-considered reactions that, in the end, harm us all. This isn’t easy, especially in a culture that is itself ambiguous about self-awareness and restraint and that circulates prejudice and simplistic, stereotypical thinking at many levels; it does make life feel simpler, after all.

All I can do, for myself, is to keep observing, practice noticing when my mind is distracted and judgement clouded by the cartoon vision of that metaphorical old receptionist, the moments when the boss has retreated to the office and shut the door, leaving control to the subordinates. It takes an effort, repetition, acceptance of failures too; self-punishment is unhelpful and doesn’t foster the compassion needed to share with others.

The bus journey was uneventful, the other passengers chatted with each other, listening to the fragments of conversation helped me remind myself that every one was another story, another centre of the universe, a constellation of myriad untold tales.

Perhaps it’s this that draws me to sit in cafés, airports, buses, trains, listening, sketching, writing; human stargazing through the scudding clouds and distorting lenses of my own mental activities. Looking for a clearer view.

It’s time to go. The coffee and cake were good, time now to go home and plan for a few days of holiday. Happy travelling!

#SharingMySanctuary

#SharingMySanctuary
This is my bed.

Photo of a simple wooden bed.
I have been lucky enough to be able to sleep in it peacefully,
confident that I will be safe and warm enough,
free from fear of sudden assault,
by strangers with no reason to hurt me or,
worse,
somebody I thought I could trust.
Free, too, from fear of a night visit from
police or army, come to take me or my family away,
for “questioning”, or worse.
So far, at least;
let’s not get too complacent and believe that
“it couldn’t happen here”.
The trouble is, it does,
especially if you have lost your opportunities
to earn enough to keep paying the rent, or mortgage, or
if your mind just wouldn’t stay on track enough to get by
and handle all the stuff like bills and job and relationships, or
if you had to put whatever you could grab,
in the dark,
and the shock of approaching fire and explosions,
and the children hysterical and wetting themselves,
to run to the last taxi,
which only waited for you because the driver
is married to your cousin,
and leave everything,
EVERY
thing,
and get to the border, the children still unwashed and exhausted,
no papers, no ID,
you dropped it as you picked up the youngest,
and finally,
after a story you still cannot tell without shaking uncontrollably,
by a series of very small miracles,
arriving in the country where they say
“it couldn’t happen here”,
as they go to safe beds, while
you look for a bed, for room at the inn,
and find that the first thing somebody says to you,
it must be a customary welcome here,
is:
“why don’t you FUCK OFF back where you came from”.

This is my bed,

Photo of a simple wooden bed.
I am #SharingMySanctuary
in a very small way.
I want to see the people whose decisions can make it happen
understand this,
not just know about it,
understand this,
understand how great a sanctuary is
a safe place to sleep,
and make it happen for those who need sanctuary too,
which, really, is EVERY one of us.

I hope that you can be free from fear tonight, and have a safe, sound, refreshing sleep.

(Among others, these people are doing something about this.)

 

The Sainsbury’s Rainproof Hat

After a sunny morning, rain clouds have boiled up over Stirling and are releasing their excess water in grey, warm, curtains, accompanied by thundery grumbling like an old man relieving himself after a long, uncomfortable journey.

I have extended my shopping visit to the store to enjoy a relaxing coffee in the café, with outstanding views over the parked cars and trolleys and the misty forms of the Ochil hills. Good timing, as it turns out.

During the downpour, a man with a limp and a stick approaches the store entrance, a Sainsbury’s carrier bag turned unselfconsciously into an effective hat. I miss the photo opportunity but hold the image in my mind as I sketch quickly.

My recent café neighbours, a family with three lively children, wait under the eaves while one of the adults returns from the distant car with jackets. Mum gives hers immediately to the small boy, now a baggy animated raincoat with feet. Dad puts his on, pauses, looks at Mum, removes his jacket and, with less dexterity, drapes it over the smaller girl. The tallest girl is already wrapped up in an uncle’s coat. Ready for the elements, they venture forth, out of sight.

My coffee is soaking into my body and the rain is soaking into the ground. A woman with hair as bright red as a traffic light runs for her car from now nonexistent rain.

Time for home, to unload the bags of potting compost and pots I have bought so that I can grow things again after a gap of several years, lacking outdoor space.

And then, I think, a glass of the sparkling wine that the new landlord kindly left as a welcome gift.

May you also be blessed with ingenuity and kindness.

Now, where’s my rainproof hat?

Rolling, stepping..

Sitting in a Tesco cafe after a hearty, cheap, veggie breakfast.

Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street ” plays over the somewhat intrusive store musack system, a favourite and evocative song for me.

It’s my last day of tenancy in the flat I’ve occupied since moving up to Scotland to make a new start in a new job, in August last year. It’s been a good home and fresh beginning that I feel sustainably refreshed by.

To quote from a poem by Maya Angelou:

The horizon leans forward,

Offering you space

To place

New steps of change.

Step by step, I’m experiencing this.

At the same time, while feeling content with my current situation and happy with the new place I’ve moved to, today I feel like the rolling stone in the song, about to complete another step towards that horizon.

The causes of raspberries

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I’m due to move at the end of the week, so I’ve been dismantling shelving and re-packing the few things I unpacked on arrival up here in Scotland last year. This time it’s a shorter move, about 6 or 7 miles closer to work, which will take about 40min off my cycle commute (I’m not a fast cyclist), and to a more self contained cottage, a welcome change from living in flats for the last few years.

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I took some relaxing time out at the end of the afternoon, to walk through the birdsong-resonant Callendar Woods and down to the lochan by the house. It has been one of those overcast, warm, still days that mute the light and makes for a soporific , timeless feeling in the air. Leaves have sprung from nearly all the trees, blossoms are out, insects buzz around and a lot of birds have already begun to lay their eggs. I found empty blackbird eggshells and one duck egg that a crow or similar had evidently robbed and partly eaten, by the paths.

egg
Most people had gone home but there were still some families out as well as a couple of small groups of youths, sitting and muttering quietly to each other. A few younger children were out and running around, one adult, one of their parents, close by. The children were shouting at each other, only when I drew a bit closer did I hear more clearly them telling each other, in a playful tone of voice, to fuck off, repeatedly… the parent seemed unconcerned …. but then yesterday by the shopping mall in town I heard several parents swearing profusely at and in front of their young children…. the seeds of another abusive and angry generation are sown. Causes and effects, I see some of the fruits of this in school.

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Other causes and conditions are coming together to create new phenomena too, the flower buds are forming on the raspberry plants that grow profusely in the woods. I could buy raspberries now in the supermarkets if I wanted but, for several reasons, I resist this to wait for the local, wild, harvest. The wild ones taste better too, perhaps they arise from healthier causes and conditions, less stressed and pressurised, able to take their own time to become ready.

raspberry plants with buds

Once, here…

I’ve recently been on a cycling tour in North-West Scotland, a beautiful, remote, inspiring area that is also, geologically, a former part of the North American continental plate.  I’m still writing the account of that journey up, the daily demands of work and life back at home delaying the process a bit.  In the meantime, this…

I stayed a night and part of a day near the village of Achiltibuie.  On the shore, beside abandoned and crumbling boats, I saw a row of rusted  anchors and chain cable.  I thought of the older community, based on fishing and crofting, that is changing, now.  Some words came to mind:

achiltibuie anchors

Once, here,

were fishermen,

who weighed and dropped us,

singing, cursing,

laughing, praying,

whose boats

we held fast,

in sand

or rocky ground.

But fish and people moved,

new voices, accents,

sound here now

and we alone remain

to hold

fast

their memory,

once,

here,

were fishermen.

0457 – dawn chorus

Early alarm,

Cycling today.

One minute,

Only birdsong,

Only birdsong,

Lifting night,

Revealing light.

Right.

Up,

Wash,

Eat,

Go.

Realistic Question

Cristian Mihai poses a useful question:

https://wp.me/p283PT-48H

Something to consider as I get up to make breakfast and go to work this morning.

Thanks, Cristian, best wishes.

Squirrel manners

As if I haven’t had a rough enough night, fighting a cold, my breakfast is interrupted by incoherent angry swearing from outside the kitchen window. Two floors up, this is unusual.

Curious, I investigate. The perpetrator is hanging upside-down on the wall outside, looking at something, perhaps a cat, in the bushes below. My visiting squirrel is making angry noises at whatever it is when he or she sees me and climbs easily onto the windowsill.

In between grumbling at the whatever-it-is, she looks at me, scratches her stomach, nibbles at the window frame. Then, crouching ready to spring, she leaps to the nearest twigs and is away, leaving a small poop behind.

I guess I’ll take that as a compliment then… ?

Back to bed, to let my immune system continue its battles.