Friday, 6 March 2009

Earth Meditation

A hazy morning with a cool breeze and there is a feeling that the clouds might clear to reveal sunshine later on. There is a sense of spring in the air. There always seems to be something about the air at this time of the year, hints of new fresh smells that are the beginnings of the spring awakening. And then there is just the joy of breathing slightly warmer and air and not feeling so cold.

I'm sitting on a pile of rubble on the top of a hill overlooking Luton below me. It's actually a pile of road planings. The black, tar encrusted stones are cold, sharp, coagulated lumps of rock hard brittleness. Piled up against the hedgerow probably for use to repair the large farm tracks that criss-cross the landscape here. Tracks that are well made and get heavy use from walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and large farm machines. The rubble is becoming well colonised by mosses, grasses, mugwort and numerous other species of flora. The baron and unwelcoming surface becomes home to much wildlife. Perhaps I should have carefully disturbed some of the stones to see what invertebrate life I could find, but I didn't think of it at the time. It wasn't a really comfortable seat upon which to sit!

The air is filled with birdsong and the hedges here seem alive with birds chirping and fluttering. I hear tits, chaffinches, partridge, skylarks and was that a goldfinch high up in the tree, black against the grey sky? The gentle hum of the town rises from the valley below me. New Elder leaves are breaking from their dormant boughs, reddish green leaves, about one to two centimeters long begin their journey of growth into the spring air.

The edge of the track here is one of those edge of town dumping grounds for all kinds of rubbish and litter. A meeting place between the urban and the rural. It is like an unofficial boundary that rings urban areas, an outward spreading of urban waste and disconnectedness that is symptomatic of modern culture.

There are many cycles of growth and decay in nature. The earth - we quarry stone, process it, build and then demolish and dump. The rock finding its way back into the superficial crust of the earth. And likewise with so many other resources such as plastics from the millennia old oils that end up in landfill. Why is this process any more destructive than the natural processes around us? It is the processing that is destructive - releasing pollutants and changing natural cycles, such as the carbon cycle. We are interfering with nature.

I take a closer look at the uncultivated stubble of the nearby field. Present are large flints, white and cream against the pale soil. Litter fragments are strewn over the surface: a CD, pieces of plastic, bottles, cans, paper... We demand so much of the soil and have high expectations of its productivity. It a sense it has become a substance of abuse. We force upon it the production of crops, fertilizers and heavy machinery. It is such a thin and fragile surface of the landscape. I notice the fields and their visual smoothness, undulating curves of production. The underlying landscape form is, of course, natural - according to the geology of the land, but the crops just lie on the intimate surface - waiting to be shaved off by the combine. There is no real dynamic ecological system as in, say, a woodland. Does woodland produce a greater biomass I wonder? What are the timescales of production - are they greatest in cultivated fields?

Brrr, I'm getting chilly!

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