Thursday, February 26, 2015
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sunday, February 08, 2015
What I am most grateful for today is the reminder of the difference between looking and noticing, and the concomitant quality of mindfulness as an active state. Walking with all the senses is a direct experience, complete in itself and only stifled by the process of thought. Claire Thompson's opening chapter 'We are Nature' joins up all the dots of existence and expresses my own feelings of belonging in the natural world where - as she puts it - 'I don't feel alone, I feel alive.'
Sunday, February 01, 2015
After writing the previous post on this blog, I could no longer ignore what has been gnawing away at me for the last two months, ever since I started work on the new Finistère guidebook. Raising the perennial problem of guidebooks (where the good stuff that digs beneath the surface gets cut and only the basic facts remain) made me finally face up to the most important basic fact of all. I do not want to do this any more.
My last book, Brittany – a cultural history (Signal Books, Landscapes of the Imagination) at least allowed me the luxury of arguments and issues to the extent that overall word and page count would permit, and now there is no way back to the more constricting, prescriptive format of conventional guidebooks, the need to conform to expectation in terms of sites and coverage, to reader profiling and in-house styles.
I need a more creative process, a focus on my landscape writing, whether or no a book in publishable form emerges. I need to work from the inside out and not vice versa. I need to give more time to other things and other people. What I no longer need is to sit at my computer for ten hours a day or travel under frustrating pressure of collecting and regurgitating information in a limited timescale. So I have reneged on an agreement for the first time, something quite against my normal instincts, and in doing so have made a major change in my life.
Walking in the early evening today, the debris of frozen hailstorms still lingering on the rocks in the forest, I felt a sudden sting not of panic but hesitation and uncertainty. What on earth will I be doing at 9 o’clock or 10 or 11 tomorrow morning? I have worked so hard for so many years on a clear progression of full-time, demanding writing projects (usually fired by economic imperative) that I’ve forgotten the sense of freedom that accompanies true creativity.
A minute later, the last ray of a previously veiled sinking sun flashed through the skeletal trees right into my face, lighting a golden path ahead. It was a simple reminder of alignment, of the beauty of doing the right thing at the right time. Whatever I do tomorrow morning will be new and exciting and worthwhile, even if it’s only sleeping in for a change…
Monday, January 26, 2015
There's no room to write about the painful religious manoeuvrings that presented the tragedy as God's will, a new 'Slaughter of the Innocents', the children as chosen martyrs for the redemption of others (a stance which not surprisingly roused some of their parents to anger). And how barely a word was spared for the other 20 who died. Or the political repercussions and attempts to stir anti-English feeling: La Bretagne's headline on February 1 read 'Raid terroriste de l'aviation anglo-américaine sur Morlaix. Or to analyze the extraordinary decision of the allies to make such a day-time raid where large loss of civilian life was highly likely instead of targeting other viaducts carrying the same railway across other valleys in the middle of unpopulated countryside. Or the fact that only one arch of the viaduct was hit, and that the Germans had the trains running normally again only eight days later...
Sunday, January 11, 2015
... powerfully in the spirit of freedom and equality. Thousands of Bretons and others of all ages and backgrounds - the presence of many young adult men and women was a special sign of hope - milled and smiled together in what amounted to a considerable display of solidarity within wide diversity. There were those who laughed and chatted, others grim or solemn with tears in their eyes, but all alerted by this simple physical act of walking together to the importance of our shared values and the reality of our enviable quality of life, which rests on tolerance and inclusivity.