The post’s title is borrowed from W. B. Yeats’s poem He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven, a beautiful commentary on the fragility of human love and the hopes and dreams that go hand in hand with it. This post is not, however, about love. Or rather, it is about love of a different kind; love of the Earth.
Climate change has been much in the news recently, and whether you believe in it or not, no one can deny that we are now far removed from a world where we live in tune with the environment that surrounds us. You only have to look at the beautiful British countryside to see this. Beautiful, yes; but not a single part of it is truly natural, as every part of the British Isles has been shaped by man. Left to itself, this would be an island of dense woodland. A squirrel could travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats without ever having to leave the tree canopy or place a paw on the ground. Clearance by man has reduced the woodland to a few remaining, isolated stands, and created the much patched landscape we know and love today. Heathland has to be managed, or the heather would disappear and the trees reclaim it – and the ecosystems now dependent on the heathers would suffer. We have changed the face of the planet and are still changing it. The Industrial Revolution turned us from being mainly rural- to mainly urban-dwelling citizens. The city conurbations grow unceasingly as once distant villages become part of the commuter belt.
We live in an era where everything is ‘disposable’. Everything that needs a stitch, a nail, a few hours time to repair is simply thrown away with no thought for the environmental or economic worth of the disposed-of item. We buy, buy, buy, always wanting the next new thing until a newer, brighter, all-singing, all-dancing one comes along to replace the last thing bought. We seek a better life in the bottom of our wallets and in the bright impersonal lights of the shopping centres, rarely stopping to think whether or not we actually need the things we buy to solace our soul.
I am currently between two houses, since I’m clearing my home of seven years to move back to my childhood home. I have seven years’ worth of my own stuff to sort through and dispose of – my chosen charities are doing well. My childhood home is in an even worse case. I am the fifth generation to live here and, accordingly, there are five generations’ worth of stuff to sort through. Countless books, dozens of dinner services and, for some strange reason, around 6 dozen sherry glasses. As a result, I am yearning for a simpler life, one less dependent on stuff and more dependent on what I do with it. I am beginning to realise that I have enough, and always have had. As a consequence, I have looked at the stacked piles and recognised that I will probably not need new plates, pans, glasses, table linen, cutlery or serving dishes in my lifetime. I will need baking tins however – my great-grandmother’s are finally on their last legs. I am getting rid of all that I do not need, and clearing space in my life to breathe, to be, to grow.
I have also adopted two rules: the first is, ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,’ as William Morris urged, though I have added or has incredible sentimental value to this; and the second is one in, one out. Everything I do not need is either sold, given to charity, reused or repurposed and, only when all useful life has been consumed, thrown away. Papers are burnt and the ashes added to the compost heap. I have honed my closet (well, almost!) so that I get maximum oomph from the minimum amount of clothes. I use what I have. I am planning a garden to grow my own organic vegetables. I make sure that the land here is a haven for wildlife of every kind. I make my own moisturisers and cleaning supplies and am slowly moving away from a dependency on paraben-derived products. I use metal pens which can be refilled and buy recycled paper whenever I can. The next project is to learn to sew, so I can start making my own curtains and cushions, reusing materials gleaned from elsewhere in the house. I tread as softly as I can on the face of this beautiful, raddled, wonderful Earth of ours. It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it is what I can do and so I do it.
Do I feel better for the doing? Absolutely.
This isn’t an excuse to shame you or urge you into doing what you can. That is ultimately your choice and nobody else’s. This is a personal love letter to the planet that is my home; and in the same way that I look after my parents with respect and love for all they have given me, I can do no other than do the same for the planet that ultimately gave me a place to stand while I develop and grow.
This really is a beautiful world, and we should never be in danger of forgetting it.