Today is Earth Day.
From where I write this, in 2017, the world seems to be on the very brink of self destruction.
We can all say nice words about 'saving the planet' but when it comes to the natural miracle that is life on earth, well, the future seems terribly bleak.
I wrote this poem for Earth Day.
Blackbird song was plaintive, crying
"Hurry now the earth is dying"
Swallow, Swift no longer bring
their magic flight to welcome Spring.
Summer sun is hazy, fleeting
Glimpses of the past repeating
Echoes of a life now gone
With little chance to carry on.
Mankind killed us all, abandon
All the life he killed at random
Pumping gases, poison raining
on the earth, no life remaining.
All the beauty now has perished
All the wondrous life once cherished
Leaving but a barren waste
Where once the whole of life embraced
The miracle created here.
Man made the magic disappear.
© Jason Endfield 2017. All rights reserved.
Whether or not one believes in angels or divine intervention, sometimes we can experience a moment of touching truth and generosity of human spirit that can leave us feeling as though angels might just exist...
Well, yesterday I was walking our very elderly dog, Ozzie. In spite of shaky legs and the occasional wobble (that's both him and me!), he still loves his walks, although these days he rarely gets as far as the local park, preferring to stay near to the house so that when he does feel tired it's not too far from home. As an ageing dog owner, I too appreciate this more leisurely local approach to walks on occasion.
So there we were walking slowly along the pavement near to some shops. Ozzie is friendly and sociable but can come across as aloof sometimes as he feels that when he has met someone (human or dog) and wagged his tail a couple of times, well then it is time to move on. He rarely stops to chat for long and is not very tolerant should I pass the time of day with someone for longer than a minute or two. First he will pull on the lead, then if that doesn't work he will huff and puff until we carry on our way. And why not, it's his walk after all. If I want to stop and chat on my walks, then that's my own business, that's his point – and I can't really argue with him on that.
Well on this occasion, Ozzie was sniffing at the corner of a shop front on his normal route, when we saw a homeless chap just ahead of us, sitting cross legged in front of a wall, a blanket over his legs and a carrier bag crumpled up at his side. His black hair was long and messy and it was clear he was not having an easy time. He seemed resigned to his situation and his eyes were kind rather than sad.
He called Ozzie over. As I began to explain that our dog is not always terribly sociable, Ozzie, making a liar out of me, trotted over to the man and wagged his tail. The homeless man patted Ozzie's head, asked his name and looked a little wistful. “They know, don't they, when they are getting old?” I nodded and replied ”yes, he's well over fourteen now but he's doing okay considering”. The man smiled and Ozzie wagged his tail, in no hurry to move on. Then the man looked directly at Ozzie and said “well you're okay now, you've met me, haven't you?”. He placed his hand on Ozzie's head and then just said the following words which floored me, “Here's some more life for you Ozzie”. I felt tears well up in my eyes. What lovely and powerful words “more life”. Ozzie wagged his tail, I thanked the man and we walked on. The man shouted after us “I'll say a prayer for Ozzie tonight”.
The next morning I took Ozzie on his usual slow and careful walk, pondering on the encounter we had the previous day. Ozzie is a big part of the life and soul of our little household and my wish is that he will continue to be for some considerable time to come. Who can tell. At fourteen he is already doing well and beating the odds in so many ways.
But I do believe in angels and I like to think that we met one in our homeless man. If that's the case then I feel hopeful that Ozzie will be enjoying walks into the future, however long we still have together.
“More life”, what a beautiful gift.
As we approach the time of year when Jewish people everywhere prepare to mark the Passover, it is worth remembering why this is such an important occasion - and not just for those who are Jewish....
Why? Because although Passover specifically commemorates the flight of the Jewish people from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt, it remains entirely relevant today some 3,300 years later.
In this age of technology and fast paced living, it is hard for some to comprehend the fact that something that happened so long ago remains in any way important today.
But it does, and never more so.
The fact is that slavery has followed mankind throughout all of its history. From the days of Exodus which we remember at Passover, through the abominable centuries of the shocking African slave trade in which around 12,000,000 Africans were transported from their homelands in terrible conditions (an estimated 15% died before even reaching the Americas), to the 20th century which saw Nazi Germany abduct and enslave another 12,000,000 people in less than a decade.
Millions more were murdered at the hands of the Nazis, 6,000,000 of them Jews.
Today as we march into the 21st century at a pace, slavery remains a shameful problem in a world that has apparently not learnt any lessons from history.
And so the Jewish people, who have survived many attempts to wipe them from the face of the earth, even as recently as the 20th century, again remember their flight from Egypt and their escape from slavery.
3,300 years on we can all take a moment to remember that slavery, persecution and oppression are still very much with us today and affect us all in some way. It remains the moral responsibility of all of us to acknowledge this fact and our duty to combat the cruelty that one human being is capable of inflicting on another human being. It may only take one person to cause pain to another but it can also only take one person to fight it when we encounter any kind of prejudice or persecution.
It can begin with each and every one of us – and indeed it must.
Do trees feel pain?
My heart sank the other day when I passed by an open space in my city. Where a few days earlier there had been around twenty majestic Maple trees, now there were hacked stumps and scattered branches, each of them broken and butchered while still in bud and anticipating Spring. Cut down in their prime to make way for a multi storey car park of all things. Nothing less than murder really and certainly very short sighted of the local council.
In spite of dubiously enforced 'protection' orders, such sights are increasingly common not just in city centres but also in residential areas where one might have thought that home-owners would value the fact that house prices generally increase by 15% in neighbourhoods which are blessed with tree-lined streets and well planted gardens. In my own neighbourhood there were many mature trees at one time but they have been systematically destroyed in the two years since I’ve lived here. Those that have not been felled completely have unceremoniously had their tops hacked off and their graceful lines defaced. Our Holly (Ilex aquifolium), at a modest twenty feet tall, now stands out as one of the few trees surviving in the whole road. It is a haven for the dwindling number of remaining birds. The small population of squirrels has gone now, moved on to who knows where.
There appears to be a dogged determination by many local home-owners to fell any tree that happens to be considered 'in the way'. These misguided people have decided that trees are messy or spoil the clean lines of their artificially 'astro' turfed gardens.
As American columnist Bill Vaughan once wryly noted: "Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them."
It breaks my heart, trees are wonderful for so many reasons. Here's a short list of why we should do everything we can to preserve them - and to protest when we see any plan to kill and remove them:-
*Trees absorb carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen back into the air.
*So they clean and filter our air, absorbing pollutants in the process.
*Neighbourhoods without trees have a higher level of social violence and those neighbourhoods often also have decreased house prices.
*In hospitals where patients have views of trees from their windows, those patients will heal faster.
*Trees provide a haven for all kinds of diverse species of wildlife from insects to birds and mammals. Without trees many of these insects, birds and animals will disappear, upsetting the fine ecological balance on which we all, including humans, rely.
*They are the longest living organism on the earth......given the chance to live of course.
*Just because you can't hear a tree crying, it doesn't mean that it isn't......some studies have shown that trees and plants feel and react to pain.
Treat trees with respect – or pay the consequences. We rely on them far more than many people realise.
I think I'll leave the last word to John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist who even a hundred years ago was warning about the perils of man's destruction of our environment....
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
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