One benefit of living in the city is that the squirrels don’t get to the nuts before we do. We’ve been collecting beech nuts on the university campus. In the past, I have shelled these things until my fingers have bled, so I am relieved that the older one has developed his own technique (a delicate sort of boot crushing) and I only have S. and myself to shell for. And, with a nearby street lined with oaks, acorns have become the new conkers. I have to fish them out of pockets before they spin around the washing machine. For a few years now, I have been wanting to make acorn flour but now that I have enough acorns to bother trying this out, I just don’t have the time. So these beautiful ones are now either sitting on a mantelpiece or rolling about the floor and under pieces of furniture. Those beautiful beans are from the runner beans we grew at our flat this year. They’re called ‘Enorma’–extremely prolific and delicious–and I picked them up a couple of years ago at a seed swap in Edinburgh.
Over the weekend, I attended my first Death Cafe. Have you heard of this initiative? There are cafes running all around the world and their aim is to take away the taboo of death by normalising conversation about it and to help people recognise the value of their lives now. I felt very connected to the group–all of whom were strangers to me. This meant I could share freely my experiences and anxieties around death and grieving while others also shared freely. You might think it a rather morbid and depressing thing to go to, but actually, I think we all left the meeting a lot lighter than we entered it. I would recommend Death Cafe to anyone who may die in the future or know people who may also die.
I am feeling quite overwhelmed about the recent IPCC report on climate change, which tells us that we have only 12 years to limit catastrophe. I knew things were bad… just didn’t realise they were that bad. My kids will be in their mid 20s when they are living with the great weight of their parents’ and their grandparents’ choices and shortsightedness. I have a lot of things to keep me awake at night at the moment, but this one has got to top the list. We soon have some international travel planned and my carbon footprint will expand exponentially again–and I guess I need to take responsibility for my kids’ footprints too. Even though I am relatively conscious of my environmental impact, the report has been a wake-up call for me and I am trying to think twice in all aspects of life about how to reduce my impact further. I wonder how you approach this stuff with your kids? So far, my approach has been to follow the advice of Richard Louv, and I think I will stick with it a little longer (although I’d love to know if you’ve got ideas, too). He said in his amazing book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ that a lot of kids have such great anxiety about the state of the natural environment that it’s debilitating. He suggests that if kids are encouraged to enjoy being the natural world, they will come to realise that they are actually a part of the natural world. This is in essence what love is. And if you love something, then you will care for it. It’s good advice for grown-ups to experiment with for themselves too, I reckon.