Nature is everywhere, Nature is us

As you read this right now, we humans use half of the world to live. This includes growing crops, using trees as timber, and pasture for the animals we have tamed as pets or as livestock to eat. If you added us all up we would weigh 10 times as much as all the wild animals put together. We make our roads through forests and hills to gain access to concrete jungles we have built our dwellings. Not to be content with the take over, we have added little plastic particles to the sand on ocean beaches through our ever increasing thirst for pre-packaged items and gadgets that we change nearly as often as our clothes. Changing the chemistry of the soil with our artificial fertilisers, and even engineer the plants so that in some way they become better than the originals. The air we all breath has also changed, as we breathe in the fumes from the metallic beasts we created, which roam from street to street, and through villages to cities.

We have gone from the actor at the side to the director of corporate Planet Earth, autotuning the voice as the dictator of the planet. So what then is nature in a world that is influenced and run by humans? As we share this planet with other animals, and all the other plants, and all the other microbes, yet we act as superior beings to them. Like lord and ladies of the manor we expect them to be our servants and slaves. However, only this week there was public outcry when it was believed that the British parliament was trying to show animals are not sentient beings. If it had been true it would have led to a backdoor being open allowing further hurt through unnecessary testing in laboratories to destroying habitats through fracking, and a return of fox hunting that is more a game of pleasure by a selective elite than a necessity to keep their numbers low. Nature is everywhere, all our senses recognise it, but we are still are blind and deaf to the need to protect it from further damage.

I remember my high school biology teacher telling us about the many boxes Charles Darwin brought back from his travels, but over a third were still not looked in by the 1990s. This left me stunned, in the time since their collection over a 150 years previously, and further twenty-twenty five since then to the present. The world has changed dramatically with all we have done to the world through the Industrial Revolution, World Wars and the present with our digital world. To think that we may have wiped out a rare plant species that could cure cancer or AIDS and other diseases that lies in one of those boxes. My heart sank then at the realisation of how much damage we have done to the world in my lifetime alone, and over twenty years later there are tears as see how much worse it not only has become but continues to be so. I cannot have children, but seeing the world through my nieces and how attached they are to electronic gadgets. When I took them to them outdoors to a botanical garden for a treasure hunt they did not stop once to wonder at the world around them as I did as a child and would make such a hunt take last twice as long as asked a hundred and one questions. Sadly instead they were glad to reach the end, hoping to be given money as a well done, and only slightly satisfied by a free cookie instead.

Freddie Mercury and Brian May of the band Queen wrote a song over thirty years ago called ‘Is this the world we created’, the lyrics still prick as poignantly as it did then and is as relevant and fresh as if it was written today. Thirty years from now will the images of some plants, animals, and people be contained only on websites and cloud servers as seized to exist in the real world. Children at present are discouraged from climbing trees or playing in mud for dangers we have created that were there before but now we feel the need to protect them from. There are bigger dangers out there from our fellow humans than than those from nature, which we turn a blinder eye to those. Sadly many children now will never understand the magic of sitting on the branch of a tree and watching the clouds above float on by as daydream of dragons taking them travelling on its back. In many ways we are stealing from the next generations and robbing them of what we had. Yes, life has changed in many ways we could never of imagined when I was born nearly four decades ago but we need a balance. This electronic brave new world is no replacement for the real thing, nature is part of us and that is an artificial extension to it not a full replacement. So lets make 2018 the re-connection year and not a further step towards a final divorce from our friends of fur, feather, and wood.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

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The Hands

People walk on by hands lifted in melancholy lost hope,
Sinking their faces deeper in their phone’s black mirror.
Car horns make a syncopated rhythm to echo the pain,
But the conversed words drop to whispered exchanges.

Signs written in ink or maybe blood with last thoughts,
Washed away with the falling rain and endless tears.
Lifting a hat now as threadbare as the shaking hands,
But its scattered bronzed coins are kicked in laughter.

A forgotten hero that not even he now knows his name,
Gave all he had to protect but gave himself nightmares.
Every day he sits in the daytime with his hands stretched,
Hoping one day someone will take them to dance again.

By night he walks the streets trying to find his way back,
Or a key to a time machine to stop the groundhog day.
The invisible brother, cousin, father or uncle to anyone,
Who’s hands only want to feel warmth and love again.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A survivor’s song

Crying tears that were never seen or heard
Heart was broken but unable to heal anew
Isolated as uncertain how or who to trust
Lonely for the prisoner and jailer in one be
Dispirited so picked at scars until they bled

Angry that trust turned into a lifelong pain
Behaviour that made the abnormal a truth
Unbearable seeing their faces in the present
Secretly wishing they could feel this pain too
Every day getting stronger to fight on through

Survivors learn to dance to their colourful beat
Undoing the chains that bound them in fear
Ready to take on the world with both hands
Victim no longer be what they call themselves
Inspiring others not to give up hope in the dark
Visualising a light to keep them safe and warm
Observing karma do her thing without revenge
Revealing a new path filled with peace and love

© Fi S. J. Brown

It’s okay

It’s okay to be 22 or 42 and not know what you want be when you grow up. You can also change your mind, try new things, or take wrong turns, as discover what your true path or paths really are.

It’s okay to be single. Maybe you prefer being on your own, tired of other’s crap. Perhaps you have been hurt in the past so healing, or learning self love before you try again with someone new.

It’s okay if you cannot find your Prince Charming or Fair Maiden, love comes when you least expect it. Do not chase after it, but kissing a few frogs and toads along the way is to be expected.

It’s okay to be gay. Whether you like men, women, both, or do not care as long as they have a pulse, no book or other can define your version of what love is. We do not choose who we fall for.

It’s okay not to want kids. Being a parent is not for everyone, and is a valid choice. If you cannot have children it can be very hard; however, adoption or fostering are still your choices not others.

It’s okay to have that bit of chocolate, one piece won’t change you or the world. You do not have to excuse or explain yourself to anyone, people judge all the time, even themselves.

It’s okay to feel depressed. Remember you are not alone and depression loves to lie. Not everyone will listen, some may laugh or whisper behind your back, but do not ever give up. Someone will listen.

It’s okay to be different. There is no such thing as an average human being, we are human coloured/sized/shaped. You look as your genetic lottery decided, knives and syringes do not add, look inside.

It’s okay to be you. There is no one on this planet that’s the same, identical twins are not the same person. You can dance to another’s rhythm, but you have your own so embrace it and the colours it makes.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Just talk…

We live at a time when it has never been easier to contact another. With the tap on a mobile/cell phone we can speak by voice, by video, and by text with someone five minutes away to five thousand miles away. We may have 1000s of friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, yet find in an evening we still have nobody to talk to or go to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster with us. We can send a message to say ‘hello’ but receive no replies, which makes us wonder are they ignoring us, scared of what we will say or ask of them, or perhaps their social media erroneously is showing their presence online. The light has gone green, but no traffic is flowing our way, as wonder who are true friends are, and who is truly there for us when we need it.

We have never been so connected with other people, but we have never been so disconnected. Meet up with a friend and they spend all the time staring blankly at the black mirror we keep in our bags, or take selfies to show off where they are and show off their latest look or plate of food, make others look at who they are with but mock that you are not, almost giving the middle finger to those they did not invite. Making permanent records of our lives, but only it may be far from real; creating a version that we curate as want to be seen a certain way by others, composing near fictional tales of just how great truly is for us (but may also want to create the opposite so that gain the sympathy and empathy of others). Making it near impossible to differentiate from the girl that needs help from the boy crying wolf for the tenth time, how do we know when to ask the question ‘are you okay’?

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day that should remind us that a conversation is two way traffic, listening does not mean gazing into our black mirrors and pretend that we have heard or even care what another has said, but being an active participant. It only takes a minute to change somebody’s life, be it a passing smile to a strange in the street to a random compliment on a tattoo they have as like the design, or like on a picture just to say we have seen it and acknowledge what its message is. No matter how dark life may seem, how hopeless and lost we feel, there will always be someone who can help, even if it is not the first person. We need to keep going and learn those that are there for us without judgement, and not tell all we tell them in whispers of gossip, but we must remember to be there for them too in return. So please reach out, tell someone that the rain has return, and tired of trying to learn to dance in the rain to our own beat as all too often it is dancing to another’s that causes the problem. Never feel alone, the darkness lies, and don’t give up.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Tribes, literacy, and language loss

Today is the International Day of Literacy, which often makes me think of anthropologist Wade Davis work on languages. According to Davis half the languages of the world are on the brink of extinction. Imagine what it must be like to be the last person that spoke, read, and wrote your native language with no way to pass this knowledge. This happens every two weeks on average to someone around the world. Davis states that this means within a generation or two we will lose half of humanity’s legacy.

As you read this, you may think doesn’t matter, we all speak English and/or wouldn’t it better if there was one language for all, would we all not get along better then? Sure, but let’s make it Icelandic, Liki or Kazakh. Perhaps now we can empathise and understand what it may be like not to have anyone to speak our native language, read books to websites, or write stories and songs to share with others. For many of us a world where people could no longer speak, write or read English seems unimaginable given how much is spoken, written and said in it daily. By losing languages we’re losing more than a solitary voice in the dark but a way of life, customs and traditions.

The following quote is from Stephen Corry who is director of an organisation called Survival International that ‘champions tribal peoples around the world. We help them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.’
“Every time another tribe becomes extinct and their language dies, another way of life and another way of understanding the world disappears forever. Even if it has been painstakingly studied and recorded, a language without a people to speak it means little. A language can only live if its people live, and if today’s uncontacted tribes are to have a future, we must respect their right to choose their own way of life.”

So as we go about today speaking, reading, and writing in our various languages on Facebook to E-mail and text think about this. Also, consider not just how lucky we are to have the gifts to do so, because they are gifts that not all humans have the opportunities to learn these even now in the second decade of the 21st century. Equally, embrace our diversity in all its beautiful colours that enrich the world, even removing but one colour from the rainbow would change the world around us forever before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown

September third, 1990

Eight years ago this week I was writing about Roman fires as part of my PhD write up with a glass of red wine at my side, leftover from cooking my dinner earlier that evening, when an event I witnessed became a catalyst for something that I can only call a milestone in my life and fate wanted me to forever recall that very moment. Tonight I am sharing my photographs and digital art on social media as well as writing this piece, things I could only have dreamt that I could do, or that people would understand or follow them. However, it is none of these I am actually going to write on, instead it is something prompted by seeing children (re)start school after their summer break, which has reminded of the third of September 1990 when I changed schools, and the miserable seven years I had there.

As a child we are told repeatedly that our school days would be the happiest of our life, which made me question throughout my early childhood and into teenage years how miserable must life be as an adult if these are meant to be happy times! Perhaps in the more recent past they were more innocent times than then or even now to be a child, and those carefree days were led to be so happy as did not have the stresses and strains that adults experienced. I only need to look at pictures of my young nieces to worry about how sexualised the youngest is at five years old and posing like a woman four to five times here age in a bikini on a beach. The little carefree girl I played with last autumn seems a million miles from this wannabe model, a child stuck in an adult world, which in turn makes me wonder what world her and her sister will be part of as this ever changing world grows fifty shades greyer by the day.

Back in 1990 dressed almost head to toe in green (yes even my underwear had to be green) I entered a classroom with the stares of my fellow pupils and invisible sounds telling me it was not the place for me…perhaps the near accident the year before should have told me to listen to my instincts and run, but alas there was nowhere and nobody to turn to. I can still recall my classes that day, which included drama and German – giggling to myself at learning that Varter was German for father, which to my 11 ¾ year old ears sounded like farter and very appropriate for my dad! The school was different in how my old one had operated, but ultimately left me just as miserable as its predecessor with bullies and time on my own. My teachers however for the most part were excellent, and as someone that likes to learn thrived under ones like my Latin teacher that encouraged everyone no matter how good or bad you were. Her methods are ones I use myself whenever teaching or supporting someone, and still wish in part I had studied Latin at St Andrew’s University as I considered back in 1996 in tribute to her, but my PhD did involve the Romans so in a way I have done.

The impact of those year years left scars that even now I can feel throughout my body, but they are beginning to heal with the passing of time combined with good friendships that help me to see how naive and stupid the bullies were. I have achieved more than even I thought was possible when I packed my clarinet away and left them behind at the Usher Hall with a smile and the largest sigh of relief that had ever been heard in its corridors. This was just after being pushed off the platform while singing our school song and national anthem to say to me even in our final moments as pupils they did not accept me as one of their own. Ironically, I officially left a month before but had come back to play my clarinet at the request of the head of music, to which I had agreed as long as did not need to follow uniform restrictions to rehearsals! Even now I do not wish any of them ill or bad times, but as someone that knows karma eventually comes a knocking, it will do what needs to be done. My name in full is still one I struggle to own as tainted with the echoes of their laughter, but grown to prefer my shorter form as shows those that really know me to use it.

Going forward the echoes and laughter will eventually go as let the last scar heal, I promised myself I would not pick them. So what will the next eight years bring, twenty seven is far to hard to imagine…well as Coldplay sang – “You can take a picture of something you see. In the future where will I be? You can climb a ladder up to the sun. Or write a song nobody has sung. Or do something that’s never been done” – I intended to do them all and more as this woman can. What I have learnt is that there will always be some that judge and make assumptions, or make our lives hell as their own is not very good, but they do not know the real us and the best action is to show them we do not care to how far we have come.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Words to stories

Words matter. As much as we may tell children that it’s only sticks or stones that have power, the truth is that words are loaded with it. It is why we love listening to stories so much. It is the reason that companies pay millions to advertisers to craft the perfect copy. It is why the words smother or strangle makes us shudder but the sound of ‘I love you’ makes us tingle. Yes, words matter.

Storytelling is recognised in every society across the world regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. They are a way of making sense of our cultural roots or identity, and an insight into the social reality we live in at this moment.

Life events, news, and stories that we share on social media enable us to share insights and enhance mutual understanding in a social, political, psychological and spiritual sense. We do not become any less by sharing; it can be therapeutic to give a voice to feelings that hurt us, make others consider something with fresh eyes or ears, and let another know they are not alone in their battles.

However, it can also leave us feeling vulnerable or even angry when someone question something we take for granted or never considered from another perspective, as can feel like a direct hit at something that is special to us.

This is because stories are part of the fabric of who we are, but only in sharing our life experiences do we develop a sense of self. After all, individuals are necessarily social. Stories cultivate the frequently forgotten yet uniquely human traits that are crucial in building solidarity.

For together we are stronger, and can drive out darkness, deafening those that spread fear and hate.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Love poem 1

My attempt at a love poem (as rarely write them or have any one to write one for/about).

I am sprinkling like a fairy,
Different kinds of flowers,
Every colour of the rainbow.

Here I come to give you songs,
Words to make your head spin,
And flowers to make you smile.

Music that will make you dance,
Oh, and another kind of flower,
To place forever upon your heart

From the city of an extinct volcano,
Sleepily watching over the citizens.
With a castle but no princess be.

I came to bring these just for you,
Carrying them over the seven hills,
And crossing the spiralling river.

Together they may have no worth,
But they are all I have to give,
From citizen FSJB of Planet Earth.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Baldness Ballad

At dusk I cried on hearing the sound of falling hair from head,
By dawn I sobbed as counted the hairs sprinkled on my pillow.
Knowing like leaves in a forest at fall soon there would be none,
Without any send off, funeral, mass, or toast with an old glass.

The inevitable sequel was made but bombed on day of release,
And my immune system blocked any future remakes of its story.
Leaving the me exposed and naked to a judging planet of apes,
With the moon now on my head painted as an ogre in my mind.

For nearly twenty five years the self portrait remained unchanged,
Until I learnt to dance to a new beat and so painted myself afresh.
So the patchwork doll came to life on the canvas and into my mind,
Sitting like Buddhist priest in repose as only fitting for one so bald.

© Fi S. J. Brown