Tiny Oak

Long frustrating Monday morning trying to organise our route from Amsterdam and all the stuff included, and incidentally get ready for Japan. Finished with a short bike ride on the Xtracycle with our neighbours little boy on the back, giggling for he was worth.

My one English lesson at the moment is on Monday afternoon. Martin, my ‘student ‘, is a tad older than me. He’s a thoughtful man, editor of a national newspaper for the Forestry industry which is at the meeting point of industry and conservation and has a lot of knowledge and understanding of ecology and the ecological movement in a German context. His English  is better than he thinks, and we usually spend 45 minutes talking about ecology and related matters and I get paid for correcting the occasional error. I’m not complaining, especially as he comes up with some pretty deep ideas.

For example,  I’ve always seen environmental concerns as looking after the land, but as Martin points out, there isn’t any truly ‘natural’ land left in Germany, (or as he puts it: ‘There isn’t a square metre of the country that hasn’t been dug up at some time or other’.) He thinks that when many people talk of conserving the natural landscape, they mean preserving a culture they remember from their childhood. He’s not criticising this, in fact he sees it as important because if we lose this part of our culture as our lives become focused on cities, people lose touch with the land, and ultimately with their roots. It reminds me of Japan, where mass rural-urban migration has left dozens of forgotten farms in the jungles, and whole mountains are removed to make way for cities to expand because people don’t value the land except in economic terms.

On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that as soon as we start trying to preserve a culture we could be killing it, not letting it develop or change. We need to keep the rural areas alive and we’re looking at how we can do this as a family of artists. We’re looking at how we can live off-grid (Independent of mains and water) and learning about Permaculture farming, which could be a further development of our personal connection with the land.

We’re engrossed in the conversation when he suddenly realises he has to go and get his daughter from school. Leaving the house I become aware that my link with nature is calling urgently so I make a minor detour into the fields before riding home.

Once home I help wrestle the boys into bed, but it’s still daylight and warm, and youngest son keeps coming out to play. The day ends with me alternately shooing him back to bed and  reading to the accompaniment of our neighbour playing Lloyd-Webber songs on their piano.

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