Tuesday 8 June 2010


It happened last night. Just as we arrived back from our Strangers' Circle we came into the wet dark garden and the scent was everywhere. And so we opened the letter box to let the fragrance of the flowers permeate the house, come up the stairs and into our dreams.

It was the honeysuckle moment. Each flower has its moment: it spends weeks developing its individual show and then it bursts out into the world in a glorious mass of colour and beauty. When you learn to love flowers, you wait for those moments and treasure them when they arrive: the shocking moment when the bluebells shimmer in the woods like liquid fire, when the poppies ripple through the barley. Last week it was the hawthorn moment, this week we’ll head for the coast and find the sea kales flourishing in front of the nuclear power station at Sizewell. And for that moment we’ll immerse ourselves in the scent and presence of the great Krambe maritima growing in spite of all odds through the shingle. Holding a deep root in a hard time, for the flowers and for ourselves.

We had been talking about resilience, which is the subject of our new sequence of Transition Circle meetings. People talked practically and spiritually, about energy systems and political systems, about economic collapse and peak oil and how our complex global supply chains have become increasingly dependent on computerisation and special parts and therefore vulnerable. Some of us were pessimistic, not sure if we will be able to live without this stuff. Some optimistic and felt we had possibilities within us that had yet to be tapped. Resilience is the ability for eco-systems to weather shocks, to absorb their impact and regroup, adapt and hold together. We talk about community and getting into alignment with the earth, but we live with the spectre of History, where societies habitually fragment in the face of difficulties; where the rich triumph, the poor go to the wall, and those of us who speak out for love and freedom board the train for the gulag.

I have, like most people in this country, been able to avoid History and do not know how things would be in England if our social fabric breaks. I have however been through many individual shocks. A lot of them forced me to leave places and people, set-ups I had taken for granted, to look at the flimsy things I had depended on: spiritual fancies, culture, friendships, beliefs, reputation, innocence. Some of them made me abandon my biography entirely and start again. All of them broke me out of a small space. All of them made me more human. Only a heart that is broken and bitter knows how to feel beyond its personal circumstance and reach out for its fellows. When you have nothing to lose is when life opens up. When you are terrified of losing, you close down and don’t see the bigger picture, you only care for yourself, your space, your cherished beliefs about the world.

To be truly human, aligned with life, resilient, we need to hold on to what is dear and be prepared to let everything else go. To respond to that shocking moment we have to be flexible and open and to know how to work with people, so that History does not repeat itself and mash us in its maw. We have to practice thinking together, working together, exchanging things, sharing knowledge, knowing that the shocks will come and we can keep coherent and not fall apart. And like all resilient eco-systems, we need to be in communication and feedback what we experience and feel. Gathering up sweetness the way bees do from flowers. What we can’t afford to do is shut down.

So there was a different mood at Naomi and William’s last night. We discussed our wholefood co-op order and our new project, the Low Carbon Cookbook, but our usual exuberance about dishes we brought had shifted. We were no longer looking at carbon reduction in the light (sic) of reducing energy, as if our way of life was going to continue only more ecologically. We were looking at something else entirely around the kitchen table. A moment of radical change. A change which we can only look at for real when we are together, because each of us carries within us a vital component that makes that possible, both to see and to bear. Because that change is about coming together after decades of individualism. Because something about this moment is extraordinary, fragrant, unexpected yet known. Coming out of the dark, permeating the atmosphere, like honeysuckle after a storm.

Underneath the May; hawthorn flowers; honeysuckle and bumblebee door; Tully talking about resilience with the Strangers' Circle at Mangreen.

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