Saturday 11 August 2012

Small Bouncy Lights in Dark Times

Last Saturday evening at Elinor's birthday party in Bungay, I found my 50 year old self unable to resist a bounce on the trampoline in her garden. I waited until I thought there were no children around and climbed unobtrusively into the safety net. But obviously not unobtrusively enough. Suddenly I was surrounded by every child at the party, laughing, screaming, tugging at my legs and each demanding that it was their turn to bounce in the middle and show off their acrobatic skills.

5 year old Tristram handed me a Star Wars sword and said, 'You be the captain, and... I'll be captain too, afterwards. Mark's the captain,' he shouted to everyone. 'Okay, let's take it in turns to go in the middle,' I boomed in a captainy sort of way. Everyone else wanted to be captain and go in the middle all at the same time and a couple of rather alarming tousles broke out involving toy screwdrivers from Dr. Who and several children wanting to climb onto me and do acrobatics at the same time. Any sign of captainness was disappearing very quickly.

But we did get a couple of synchronised harmonious moments in the general chaos, one of which was caught in this postcard. Later on, when the children were otherwise occupied or had fallen asleep or gone home, I trampolined with several of the adults, which was just as much fun, though somewhat more measured.

Why am I talking about trampolining on the Transition Social Reporting project? Have I been caught up in the silly season? Actually, no. For much of the time recently I have been aware of a certain gloomy feeling I can't quite pinpoint and which doesn't feel like a personal depression. Maybe it has to do with the dearth of fruit on the damson, sloe and cherry trees or the potato blight so many growers are talking about due to the strange, out-of-synch weather this year.

Maybe it's to do with how few butterflies there are around* and what that could mean. Our buddleia (centre photo) came out in bloom towards the end of July and I've counted only six or seven butterflies at any given time. And this on a huge bush which has consistently lived up to its butterfly name even in lean years.

Maybe it's the times we're in. The beginning of August is a time of abundance, harvest and gathering. And this year there just seems to be less.

So what do I do to tend the fire and the light when the times feel dark? I visit the sea in the early morning as much as possible. I sit on the beach with Charlotte and a flask of coffee and we make a space where anything that needs to can surface for our attention. Sometimes we have an animated discussion, look at the things which will get shunted aside once the activities of the day start imposing their demands. Sometimes we'll sit in silence, getting a feeling for the place we're in. The sea, the sun, the sky, the land. And for the times.

I try and stay as open as possible, sometimes more successfully than others, to the people I meet and the places I find myself. On Friday afternoons I spend a few hours curating the Plant Medicine Bed in Bungay Library community garden, paying attention to the plants, and doing some planting, pruning, seed collecting and sweeping. Sometimes people arrive for a conversation, bring a snack or to help out. Someone will say how lovely the garden looks, someone else that they have been rolling up ribwort plantain leaves whenever they or the kids get bitten or stung by insects, and that it really works. This is a tip I have been passing on to practically everyone I meet this year, and it's great when people come back to you about it. It really does work by the way.

And I look forward to Sustainable Bungay's 'Noughtie but Nice' Happy Mondays adult's tea party later on this month, so named because so many of us have birthdays this year with 0 at the end of them: all the decades between 30 and 70, with several of us turning 50!

So I guess what I'm trying to say in this postcard is something about the power of the small things. Those small lights in dark times that cost little and mean everything: bouncing up and down on a trampoline with the children of fellows in transition when you've just entered your fifty-first year; how the smell of lemon balm lifts your spirits as you rub its leaves on the way to the compost heap; the joy when friends receive the homegrown sweet peas you've brought to their party and when you realise they've given thought to the kind of food you eat, even though they eat differently; the hosts of red poppies among the barley in the next field; seeing the first two peacock butterflies of the year on the buddleia yesterday lunchtime.

And going down to the sea to make space for a deeper conversation.

*Postscript: Yesterday we counted 13 peacock butterflies on the buddleia - the first we've seen this year.

Images: Trampoline bounce at Elinor's (Bungay Community Bees) birthday party; Buddleia in Full Bloom but Very Few Butterflies; Sunrise at Lughnasa, Aug 2012

This post first appeared on the Transition Social Reporting project 7th August 2012

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