Here is a poem, part of a series of posts that mark the Extinction Rebellion protests which are drawing our attention to the damage we are doing to the world around us.
It’s about a walk in Teesdale, in the North East of England, which I did with my husband. We followed rivers upstream, past waterfalls. This one, with its legends of runaways hiding behind the water, caught my imagination. In the North East, you don’t go far without stumbling across remnants of past industries, and here it was a quarry. These places can be desolate, they can remind us of the costs of changing the way we live for those whose livelihoods, whose families, depend on the way things are. They remind us of the importance of imagining new ways of living, that promote dignity and independence, as well as creativity and sustainability.
What struck me here, though, and elsewhere, was the power of nature to return and to thrive even in places that seem wrecked and spoiled. Whatever political and social difficulties we may face in times of transition, living things will come back to desolate places, given half a chance.
“For there is hope for a tree,
if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant”
May it be so. May the trees that we have cut down sprout again, may the scars we have cut into the earth be healed, may the land sustain us, and all living things.
And so, this poem is one of hope, of the return of life, of seeing things anew.
The Cave and the Quarry
We followed the valley down –
Down from Gibson’s cave,
where the river poured over
a high lip of rock,
undercutting a dark, hidden place.
It stayed in my mind, that place –
What would it be like to stand there,
behind the falls,
to look at the world
through that fast, cold, brown, water?
Would it wash your eyes to
see things you hadn’t seen?
Was it an enchanted place?
It seemed so, for, walking back,
we saw an old quarry
we had not seen before,
dark, and hidden –
and now we walked by
strange hillocks –
spoil-heaps sprouting trees
like ancient burial mounds,
where crowds of small birds
bounced through the air,
landing on ledges of rock
that once were sharp, fractured.
Now, moss dripped off everything,
and there was a sign
that promised flowers,
for it asked us not to pick them,
and we wondered – what flowers would come?
And I thought as we walked down the
path that carts carrying stone had made –
how long did this take?
How long before the green
and the birds and the
trees crept back into their place?
How strong, how eager, life is.
Water, and greenness,
flowers, and small birds,
moss and grass,
they soothe our scars,
they make the dead come back to life,
we need only step back,
step back and say “yes”.