Friday, 20 November 2009

watching lights go on and off and knowing nobody

cars go up and down and lights go on and off
because it is a large town
but i know nobody here
outside this house
i have not been here long and yet i seem always to have been here
no, i don't mean in this house nor even in this town
but here
watching lights go on and off and knowing nobody

oxford, feb 1997

It is now November 2009 and I left that house in Oxford a long time ago, in many ways. I spent a lot of my twenties and thirties travelling and living in the Americas, and although I was 35 before I passed my driving test and 39 before I owned my first car, there were of course the flights. I had a lot more money than I do today.

At the Diss regional gathering on Saturday I chaired a group conversation in the Troubleshooting section which I called "Facing Profound Lifestyle Changes". People spoke about comfort zones and spiritual practices in India, being unemployed, being in a good job, how to harness the energy of the young and disaffected, how to deal with work colleagues who laugh at the suggestion of using IT for a meeting rather than flying to Frankfurt.

Through it all I kept focussing on facing the subjects which were bringing us all to the table: Peak Oil, Climate Change, the economic collapse. And how we could work together to face things we haven't really had to face before and have little or no experience of. One man suspected we wouldn't really grasp the situation until oil was $300 a barrel and most of us literally couldn't afford to drive to where we wanted to go.

The lights on the sea horizon in the picture are the lights of oil tankers; I counted twenty seven when I took the picture yesterday at dusk. They have been there for months and the lights blaze through the night. They are moored some miles out from the East coast. This is the view from Southwold, near to where I live. The tankers are involved in ship-to-ship transfer of oil. The oil companies are waiting for the prices to rise.

Looking back at this poem and that time, long before I had heard of Peak Oil or Climate Change, or experienced my own economic downturn, I realise how even my small wealth allowed me to keep myself apart. I could afford not to know people.

These days I no longer sit behind a window watching lights go on and off and knowing nobody. Since joining in with Transition, I now know people in Bungay, in Norwich, in Diss, in Downham Market, and in other places. We meet in the city and in the country, in libraries, in pubs and in our homes. We sit together at tables sharing food and seeking ways of preparing for the dark and difficult times looming on the horizon. Times we won't be able to get through on our own.

poem and picture by Mark Watson

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