Tag Archives: flying

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Earth-Care, Self-Care

Recently, a client of mine made me a wonderful offer. He would stump up the cash to fly me to Australia for the launch of Child of the Earth, a film we made together about the life of activist counsellor, social worker, nurse and educator Glen Ochre. I have to say, I was both tempted and flattered “Go!” my friends said. “It’s part of being a filmmaker, attending the launch!” Well, that’s true, but what if you’re a filmmaker AND an environmentalist. Do you still fly around the world attending every screening just to hear the applause?

It’s a hard call to make, because after the final edit is made and the film has been signed off, those moments of applause might be the best form of feedback you get. To sit in a room and hear people laugh at the funny moments. to watch the tears roll down when the story is sad. These can be defining richly rewarding for anyone who has spent a significant period of their life on a project. Those reactions can stay with you for years. They can help you embark on, stay with and complete the next project. What’s more, in the audience, you might meet your next client, or the person who will produce your next film. So what made me say “no thanks” to this marvellous offer? Why didn’t I grab the chance to meet up with my Melbourne friends and revisit my old haunts? Well, it’s simple. Sometimes, we need to sit still.

In a world of depleting resources and runaway climate change, not to mention stress and over-achievement, we all need to take the time to stop and be where we are. In the recent Brexit vote, a good pal of mine confessed that she voted for Britain to leave the European Union. Her reason, she said, was not to control the borders or to regain access to the money we are supposed to be wasting on European governance. Her reason, she said, was that people need to stay put. This argument was a bit rich, coming from someone who had spent most of her life crossing continents like roads. But I knew what she meant. I mean I KNEW what she meant. I felt it in my heart and in my bones. I, myself, personally, need to sit still for a while.

As a meditator of over twenty years experience, I feel that need often. Those times in my day or my week when only sitting still will enable me to connect with my true feelings, or with others, or with the world around me. Only sitting still will fix the ache in my soul – the one that cries out for approval, or wealth, or notoriety. Only sitting still will make me feel whole. This self-care was also one of the maxims for Glen’s ground-breaking work in group facilitation. So instead of flying around the world to Australia, I set up a meditation Meetup right here in my new home town. I resolved to find some other people who wanted to sit still with me. Together we will sit still for the good of the planet. For the sheer pleasure of it and perhaps most of all, to satisfy our need for connection.

I’m not saying I will never cross continents again, or that I will never travel for work or to see my friends and family. I hope I will. It’s just interesting to know that sometimes, saying “no” can be equally as positive and life-affirming as saying “yes.”

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Forest Yatra

I’ve spent the last three months dithering. Dithering about whether to book a flight to visit my home in Wales this Summer (ok, Winter, if you’re in Oz). There are so many reasons not to, starting, and perhaps ending, with the reluctance to fly anywhere. In the environmental movement in the UK, it is frowned upon to fly. And with good reason. The overwhelming evidence is that my flight will eat up more than 10 tonnes of carbon emissions – one way! The average British person uses 9.5, and ideally, we would all be cutting our footprint to less than 2 tonnes. How can I justify flying home?

In Australia, this argument against flying has not made it onto the green agenda. Even the most committed amongst my friends thinks nothing of hopping on a plane to Sydney – the fifth most popular route on the planet.  Australia is so big, people get used to driving long distances, but with a flight to Darwin taking  nearly five hours, only the most adventurous (and time-rich) Southerner will choose a more climate-friendly option of driving or train travel. This might account for the average Australian climate footprint being more like 18 tonnes per person. Having lived in Australia a year, am I starting to acclimatise to this flying frenzy? Well, no…and yet…eventually, I have booked a ticket.

As soon as I do, the heavens open. Melbourne experiences the wettest start to April for a decade, catching the tail end of cyclone Ita. It’s like a “told you so” and a “welcome home” all at once.

On Thursday evening, I’m sitting on the train heading up to the Dandenong ranges, where I’m going to house sit for a friend. The rain drizzles down the train window as I stare out into the darkening gloom. It looks like that stretch of Wales between Bridgend and Cardiff on a damp winter evening. Yuck. Fortunately, the house has a cosy wood fire and a friendly cat to welcome me and the next day, despite the drizzle, I venture out for a walk in the forest.

The multitude of greens that is Sherbrooke Forest is the last remaining temperate rainforest in the Dandenong Ranges, to the East of Melbourne. The gum trees here are Mountain Ash (like the village in the Welsh valleys) and are the tallest flowering plant in the world. Today, I can’t see the treetops, as the mist is hovering, almost like smoke, at the level of the treeferns. As my eyes travel from the thick tree trunks skywards, my gaze gets lost and my face is dampened as if with dew. It’s a gentle, soft feeling. Soft on the skin after the harsh summer suns and soft on the eyes, which can’t get a focus on anything. I am walking as if in a dream.

The first time I came here, I was on a Yatra – a silent walk which takes its name from the sanskrit word for pilgrimage. We meet – a group of ten of us – at the Belgrave station of Puffing Billy. Puffing Billy is a steam train originally built to gain access to this hilly region but now run for tourists. It is far more exciting than I expected and the “toot toot” of the whistle follows us as we start into the dense undergrowth…

Through our opening circle, a bird swoops, feathers rustling, wings the sound of air. Nature welcoming us. Layers of bird song create a choir. High above us, cockatoos wheel and cry and the group mind chatters like the crimson rosellas flitting from tree to tree. The business of the world is hard to leave, but our boots on the soft earth make a calming mantra and soon, we soften into the silence.

The walk is punctuated with process taken from Deep Ecology – a way of reconnecting with Nature which was pioneered by Joanna Macy and John Seed. Our walkers are graduates from a Seed workshop and carry the experiences from that weekend into this – creating a comfortable closeness and familiarity. Lunch is in a meadow clearing guarded by forest. We hide in tall grasses, reflect and catch up. As we begin again, we are as gently focussed as the scarab beetle making his own slow pilgrimage across the path. The forest holds wallabies, which peek out from the trees before thumping off, crashing through the leaf litter. There are lyrebirds, too, waddling about trailing long feather-like tails and scratching like chickens at the dirt, in search of tasty grubs. This weekend, we even spot a blue-clawed yabbie – a kind a cray fish which we are surprised to see in the forest until we notice that his hidey-hole bottoms out into a pool of water. No doubt he has been enjoying the recent downpours!

As I’m walking in this beautiful, ancient place, I feel a pang of regret that I succumbed to the other life pressures which have finally made me book a ticket home.  I remember a friend who has started a community energy project in Wales, called Gower Power. One of their recent activities involved planting 1,625 trees in Gower, the place I call home. Maybe, while I’m there, I go and plant a few myself. I’m aware that it can’t make it right, but it can’t harm, either.

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