Damp leaves and the smell
of rain. Swishswish of raking
in the next garden.
Damp leaves and the smell
of rain. Swishswish of raking
in the next garden.
Last week my partner described to me a phenomenon that seems to have totally passed me by. The Pokemon Go thing. I am still unsure what kind of “thing” you’d call it. A game? A challenge? A way of life?
Anyway, just in case you too are living under a rock, Pokemon Go overlays the real world with a virtual world of Pokemon characters that you go about finding. You look at this world through your mobile phone and see how many characters you can find. It has been hailed as an amazing invention that has got people out of the confines of their homes and on to the streets. Walking. Which is indeed amazing. Because as I recently explained, I love walking. And anything that gets people outside, especially in the colder months of the year has got my tick of approval. And you know how reputable that is.
But it also makes me feel a bit queasy and a bit sad. And then I feel a bit mum-ish, with my old-fashioned ideas of good wholesome fun.
Because I wonder if we have truly forgotten how to be outside without all our trappings of technology? I can’t go on the five minute walk to get milk without wanting to put headphones over my ears to listen to a podcast or music. And when I do that, I miss out on the sounds of life going on around me–the seagulls attacking rubbish bins, neighbours arguing, wind blowing through chimes in a garden, cars zooming too fast around a corner. Some of this aural information is beautiful or astounding, some is critical to my safety, and some is important to my belonging well to society. But how will I make that decision and respond appropriately if my ears are covered and my brain is prioritising extraneous stuff?
Then I think of my 4-year-old who manages to find enough conkers to fill his pockets (and then the washing machine). We were traveling home on the bus last week, and all of a sudden he exclaimed: “BEEEEEEAUUUUTIFUUUUL!” and pointed to the west. Roughly twenty pairs of eyes lifted from their smart phones and turned to see the orange and pink sky flickering in the gaps between buildings. To think we all might have missed out on that because we were gazing at our phones.
Obviously, when we are looking at our screens, we are not seeing the world around us. And when we can’t see our world, I worry it starts to disappear. By which I mean, that when we don’t see it, we lose our ability to find words for it. And, as Robert MacFarlane has described in his recent book Landmarks, when we lose our vocabulary for nature then we stop seeing it. When we stop seeing it, we stop communicating about it, and it thus it spirals out of our imaginations and out of existence.
We also lose a part of ourselves. When we are not seeing or hearing (nor touching or smelling, for that matter) the world around us, we don’t filter information and make decisions accordingly, as our ancestors have done for thousands of years before us. I wonder how many Pokemon Go-ers have stepped in dogshit as they navigate our poop-ed pavements with a screen in front of their faces? We trip over the edges of pavers lifted slightly by linden tree roots, and, as in my neighbourhood, the trees are cut down and replaced with something less offensive, less grand. And our urban environment becomes a little less interesting, a little less worth keeping our eyes open for. When really, these interesting surfaces and moments remind the human body how to be a well body. Our environment literally shapes our bodies, as we shape it.
I have lived in beautiful and dynamic places and I have lived in, well, less obviously beautiful and dynamic places. But to be sure, we can find nature and beauty in any environment. And whether or not we perceive it, it impacts us on many levels. But we have to get out in the world. This is why it is important to walk without–and with, if we really must–our devices and our Pokemon Go.
In the end, I am fairly certain that Nature will have her way with us, one way or another. If we are around for this eventuality, I like to think that some of us might be mindfully present for it. Hopefully, for the rest of us, our sensory systems will have adapted sufficiently so that, device in hand, we can safely navigate the world around us. Which I hope looks a little like these places.
‘Tis the season for gratefulness. I am not so in love with the origins of American Thanksgiving, but I do like the spirit of gratitude that extends from this season and I could certainly always use a little practise in being grateful. So…
I am so grateful that our flat was insulated this past spring. In spite of temperatures hovering between 3-10 degrees, we have certainly not had the heat on nearly as much as last year. And we all just feel warmer without a ghostly draft emanating from the floors and walls. As home-owners, we managed to get free (!) insulation through an enormous grant given to the city council to make Aberdeen homes warmer. This is where we found out more about it. Maybe you might find some useful information here?
I am also thankful for friendships deepening this year, and some new ones beginning. The older I get, the harder it seems to get to know people. But all of a sudden I feel like I have turned a corner and the friendship-making in this place has become easier.
And winter. We have had some gorgeous weather this past week. The sun is constantly low in the sky and there are pops of colour against a wintery palette. Beautiful! It makes me want to either stay outside and relish it some more, or go inside and start creating things out of those colours (like the above painting–a part of a series–I did a few years ago, based on the colours I saw around me in Aberdeen).
The robin returns.
Puffed up, on a naked branch,
on a frosty morn.
Something about this landscape just don’t feel right
Hyper air-conditioned and lit up all night
Like we just gotta see how comfortable comfortable can get
Like we can’t even bring ourselves to sweat
Sweat in the summer, shiver in the winter
Just enough to know that we’re alive
Watch out for that TV, it’s full of splinters
And remember you can always go outside
Really, really, really far outside…
…So here’s to the trials of living
Here’s to feeling our share of pain
All the way from childbirth to dying
Here’s to being connected to everything
Here’s to staying connected to everything
From Ani DiFranco’s Splinter
Just a quick collection of things I have read or listened to this week while looking after my sick baby:
Anyone who has visited my home knows we don’t have living-room furniture for sitting on. We have a small flat, so a couch seems like a waste of space that could be used for building towers out of blocks, or assembling expansive an railway line, or playing twister. But it also means we sit on the floor–to rest, to read, to eat, to write this post. And it feels good. Like a free yoga session. I learned a bit more about the advantages of floor-sitting this week from this podcast.
Beauty is not trivial. Connection is not trivial. It inspires us and lights us up. And when we are alive we can’t help but find hope. From this lovely blog post.
“My life is small” she says, “and I think books are a way to make your life larger.” Agreed. From here.
Water screams down the
shower drain. I think of my
baby, sick, next door.