The Wu Wei of Conservation; the personal and the impersonal.


Photo of Forest Farm Nature Reserve by me

Wu Wei, the ancient human philosophy of a state of being, brings our actions effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world, and no more. We cause less harm. Less is more.

That we may cultivate Wu Wei by visiting one place of nature, exploring as a child, all the senses engaged, emotional fluidity but no mental fight, is a building of strength to our cause.

But it is not all. The key is in the word ‘visiting’.

The strength of becoming of that place is process ~ a virtue. The result is ‘being’ of that place ~ a consequence.

Presently, so psychologically detached from nature has our species generally become, that nature is now a visitation, a pocket of the defended, a moment. Nature is somewhere we go and, therefore, will come back from. How wrong can this be? It is harmful, and on a planetary scale.

Nature needs to be of us, constantly.

How do we, instead, return to this state of constant being? I suggest by more ‘becoming’ through wu wei experiences ~ mentoring and provision of access until we have, each and every one of us, returned.

The goal is to live as nature without having to ‘visit’.

What is spirit?

The interconnectedness and flow, according to Daoists, is in the direction of the living and the dead, then of the elements, the heavens or cosmology, and finally the Dao, The Great, which is of itself – beauty and truth ~ spirit. Perhaps spirit is simply the beauty of truth. Perhaps spirit is the acceptance of beauty and truth as fluministic love.

I propose, however, the interconnectedness of the biosphere is healing. Being nature is spirit in healing and being healed. This is as impersonal as it is personal; as human as it is non-human; in complex directions, known and unknown (the dialectics).

Wu Wei, for me, therefore is an ancient and vital understanding of healing – physical, mental, spiritual, individual, communal, ecological, biospheric. Fluminism plays a part. The modern utility argument of nature as cure has ancient traction, but not as something or somewhere we simply ‘visit,’ record and display later as trophy.

And let go of it as power in the sacred political leader (Lao-zi) and even as a thing of purest beauty (Zhuang-zi).

Heal all by doing less, and by being no more than is necessary.

The Personal and the Impersonal

I am so tired. I have exhausted myself by trying so hard; first and foremost, in matters of the heart. I love with all my being and I hurt so easily. I am lost at this point in my life. Next, my family, in illness and death. The last ten years have been difficult. Then, in losing my beloved Ben. Such pain. In finishing my Masters and trying to secure a living by research scholarship or finding a publisher. Funds are dwindling and I am now unwell, due a total hysterectomy very shortly. My mental state is fragile once more.

There is a small but mature woodland next to the Glamorgan Canal. It has been saved from human development and I thank all who did this. I have to ‘go’ there and ‘return’, because I now live in a city. I hope not forever.

It is on a south facing slope and, at the moment, is in full-Dao; all life in sensing, and in emotion. That I should go there and feel it inwards too. What is environment? Nothing (in the Dao sense). It cannot be separated from any of us. To externalise it as something outward is to disembody oneself.

I go there to exercise wu wei, because, when I am not, I do intellectualise and challenge. I will always question. Despite it being exhausting, it is integral to who I am. The author, Robert MacFarlane, mentioned to me recently, ‘challenge’ has the word ‘change’ within. I challenge others and I challenge myself. It is process. I apply it outwards, but also inwards (there is no environment). There is just being. So I need the quietude of wu wei to heal.

I would rather not have to go and come back. I want to go and stay in that state of being. Let us all live life there, in that state, until we die.

If my challenges are for the ultimate protection, proliferation and abundance of the flow of life, then it is a form of love I call Fluminism. There is a reflexivity of being and defending against destruction until our species realises the pointlessness of it. And then we just are. But at the moment, in the face of immense planetary harm, this IS exhausting.

As in all other things in my life just now, not least love, less may well be more. I must let go, just a little, to heal.

All the life forms of the woodland I speak to you about participate in their communal being on multiple levels. Let it be well-being. Let me be a part but in the action of inaction. When I am in the woodland, I too, and my microbionts, participate. WE participate. But not too much. We do just enough and no more.

Ecologies are in constant flux, disturbance being vital to the proliferation of flow. So ‘we’ are not entirely passive, but passive enough. Sometimes, our minor disturbances bring life. We are sacred centres, like the beavers, but our intentions must be for the good of all life, not just our own. We are not separate. There is no environment and, by extension, there is no true ‘I’. To be separate is the disembodiment of the self.

This is the Wu Wei of conservation. Let it be healing.


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Ecologies of fear ~ recalibrating.



I am picking my way across the rough and slippery stones of St Mary’s Well Bay and, for the first time in my life, I feel uneasy making the crossing. I live to enjoy this kind of terrain, or by rivers and in woods. Immanent flows, finding life-gems and feeling physically tested makes me feel I am ‘home.’ But today I’m just a bit wobbly. Like jelly, in fact. I berate myself for feeling this way.

I hear the oystercatchers playing their flute-song to Sully Island in bullet-straight lines, whilst the mud-browns of Mor Hafren gently cat-lick the shore. Passerines echo down from woods from which I’ve just walked, and I stop for a moment to enjoy Goddess Harmonia in all her South Wales glory. Again, that curious feeling returns, sneaking into my bloodstream, making my hands tingle. Insecurity and, yes, fear. Then, I remember.

I have just had an unexpected uterine biopsy for cancer, an unpleasant D&C-type procedure, and am awaiting results. It had skipped my mind for the last hour, whilst deeply submerged in sanguimundal presence. Then the memory suddenly returned with a bang. I have been haemorrhaging and suffering anemia. What else could I expect? The unease I am feeling has nothing to do with the beach.

Death seems nearer, even if it is not. I quickly climb a promontory, slamming my boots into barnacle-free cracks and pulling up with my hands on cold ledges. My confidence returns and I reach the top with a smile. I look all around me – 360 degrees. Feels good.

St Mary’s Well Bay is one of my favorite places in South Wales. It’s not traditionally picturesque. There’s a row of caravans and holiday chalets above the cliffs, and human littering around an onlooking ruin of a house is hugely depressing. But secondary succession spills down the hill, rolling straight through the dereliction, reaching over fossil-full layers, as if to touch the water. That’s so rare.

Here, there is a bone bed, with dinosaurs buried for eons of quiet, stillness, and turned into stone. In an overhang, flowstone ~ tufa limestone ~ spills from a temperate spring in the cliffs and forms yellowing stalactites and sinter curtains. Bryophytes thrive here and unseen diatoms live numerously. Wildflowers bloom in patches on the cliffs. Waders and other sea birds float in the shallows or pick along the mud shelves as the huge tides suck in and out. At the far eastern end, Lavernock Point, there is a little nature reserve. It was also the site of a small breakthrough in human history – the first radio signals sent and received over seas, if only to the island of Flatholm and then to Brean Point, Somerset. In the history of events, without that particular moment, I might not be posting this blog for you to read. But the man celebrated for the achievement, I must tell you, was a pre-WW2 fascist. Guglielmo Marconi was a friend to Mussolini, and even Hitler himself was a fan. Despite similar inventions by Tesla, et al., and ensuing court battles over legal patents, it is his poor judgement in friends who brought so much hate and death lingers longest in my mind. A resurgent fascism brings on a wave of goosebumps scampering over my body. There it is again. The fear persists, but I remember the other reason it exists.

Fear is a negative emotion that has evolved for purpose. It is a motivator for caution, escape, safety and change. There are ecologies of fear too, since all is interconnected. Fear can change for good or bad, at all scales, passed down through generations in epigenetic signatures. But as we humans are such complex beings in symbiosis with others in a complex world, fear may be response to events, imagined or otherwise, which aren’t entirely valid. Indeed, fear may feed upon fear itself. I know this as an intermittant sufferer of acute, debilitating anxiety after traumatic bereavement. I have finely evolved traits for survival of life threatening events, but my body responds similarly to things others find simply upsetting. Worse, my damaged limbic system actually seeks out reasons to justify the fear. The brain is trying to make sense of the feelings. Rumination is not a good thing for me. And yet, I am a ecophilosopher and writer.

Acceptance is categorically my best antidote to the severest of anxieties. The limbic system is so primed that any worry about worrying keeps the worry going. I found a book by someone who’d reached the same conclusion – Paul David, At Last a Life and Beyond. Then I attended Acceptance and Commitment therapy lectures offered by Cardiff mental health teams. That the fears we have are better off being carried along under one arm, so we can use the other to get on with life until we forget we are carrying the problem (and can then go back to using both arms).

I sometimes wish I could unknow what I know. Both personally and professionally. But I can’t. Won’t. I’m here on this beach today to record life. Life! The sea snails! Some are bright and very beautiful. They live modestly in the cracks of exposed synclines and under and around loose boulders, interacting, inter-flowing, as coastal fluminists. I pick my spot, reel out the measuring tape, and place my quadrat over the rocks. It’s fiddly and slow ~ I have to search through algae and seaweeds, but I complete my mission. I count and record all the snails I can find, make notes and take photos.

Here I am, no longer with my Ben, but out for the love of communing with my wilder kin. This is who I am, in woods, in water, upon rock, since a child. Happy or sad, relaxed or fearful, this is still ‘home.’ I pack up my things and head for the woods.

I take aim for the first small boulder, but it shifts, and algae morphs it into steep ice. My boot skids out and down into a crumpled heap I go. Laying there, still, staring into the sky, with stones digging sharply into my back, I imagine a tide racing in, swallowing me whole, a tide that would take hundreds of thousands of years to go back out.

Rising sea levels are already happening. This fear I have for the future is legitimate. Many of us who study climate change and biodiversity loss are feeling it. It’s going to be a huge problem. It already is for many.

All life-forms here on this beach will either have to move or die out. Multiply this by billions of miles of global coastline. Entire cities will need to move inland. Territorial struggles and resource conflicts will be high in all human minds. For peace, we will need to be reliant on good will ~ love. We need to start cultivating this now. But are we too late? A culture of hate seems pervasive. I start to feel anxious, breathless and a little bit angry. I quickly scramble up to stand, take a few deep breaths and and rub my sore back.

I put all the fear I have today under my arm, and move on. I pick my way back to the path off the beach, meander through the wood and along the road to the welcoming thrum of a busy pub. A cool glass of lemonade, ice and slice goes in and I feel temporarily at ease. Despite my fears, both real and imagined, I counter ~ this has been a good day! It really has. I have completed my mission and I am glad for it. I found beautiful interconnected life. I did it despite ongoing health worries, temporary disabilities and an increasing anxiety for our biosphere.

Sometimes, I need to be reminded to put that fear under my arm and carry on. It’s a recalibration. And I urge all who feel they are sometimes plagued by such fears to think consciously about how to deal with it. Please don’t avoid it. Accept, carry it forward, in whatever you are doing. Finally, you’ll move through space and time and find love again (or lemonade). At least, until the next test, slip or fast, rising tide.


All photos by me.
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Why twisting vines do what they do…


One of my first investigations into plant sentience, I found this via Q&As, New Scientist Blog 2006.

Wonderful words to note:








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Natural Capital: ‘Out damn’d spot! Out, I say’



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Chronophage, metaphor for time eating, Cambridge. Photo by me.



Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth. Act 5 Scene 1


An imaginary blood spot on the hand that can never be removed, with such guilt perceived, admonishable of an awful wrongdoing; of a conscience for procuring the murder, by her husband, Macbeth, of old King Duncan.

Surely this is one of the most dramatic of metaphors.

Metaphors can be powerful, no doubt. They linger in the memory. I am writing this imagining Lady Macbeth still trying, dismally, to wash away the stain. And blood stains are the hardest to be rid of.

Metaphors convey a concept easily and succinctly, when the literal meaning, perhaps, needs longer time to explain. But they aren’t normally to be taken literally. It kind of undermines their purpose. So, it was with great surprise to learn this week that some influential advocates of the Natural Capital ethic describe it as metaphor.

The purpose of Natural Capital as an educational tool was emphasised many times by both Tony Juniper and Richard Spencer this week at the Debating Nature’s Value Conference; a device to persuade politicians and global commerce to save nature, money being the native tongue of global capitalism. I have written about this before and I think it is a non-sense. Explaining the basic tenets of Earth systems thinking can be conveyed in spoken and written word. Education is just that. Education! Global money and legislation are a dominating force, and neo-colonial in effect. But they are both second rate as instruments of sharing knowledge.

If a metaphor fails, then a full explanation can easily follow. What harm done? The Natural Capital ethic ~ an ethic by its own volition detaches humans from nature-belonging as property, externalising, stock and traded ~ includes biodiversity offsetting, banking and trade. It’s been embraced by some landowners and landlords, who of course, benefit from financial bias towards that which (or whom) is already within their posession (private or charitable). Land, of course, is inequitably distributed across the globe and Natural Capital does nothing towards achieving fairer sharing. None-the-less, the approach has rapidly spread through globalised neoliberal economic and political institutions this last few years; hardly a surprise. It’s already a multi-billion dollar industry, part legislated, certainly embedded and networked to the nth degree (the UN and World Bank). The beast is already unleashed. So much for metaphor!

Being at the conference, Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, Cambridge, it was a positive feeling to be part of a greater union of concerned individuals, rather than in my usual quietude here in Cardiff. All there were people who see Earth Crisis for what it is ~ a real, tangible crisis. Craig Bennett emphased well the ‘ticking clock’ and that the waves of human behavioural change are slower than the changes in earth systems. The chronophage, indeed, looms larger than life. And I call that void in time and human action the Transilience Gap. But discussion of that, in itself, made me feel at home. I felt part of a ‘community.’ It was also vital to hear reflections on long-term prospects; a spectrum of optimism-thru-pessimism, but even the pessimists, including John Foster, seem to have strong hopes of creativity and newness in the face of approaching human demise. I guess you’d call that courage.

Many of the women I spoke to, not least the indomitable Kiwi, Ruth Irwin, agreed that to care for one another and other beings as the storms rage and the seas rise will be one of the greatest acts of humanity ahead of us. That the neoliberal rot has accelerated Earth Crisis means that we have to engage with the 1% too, an unpleasant task for many, and I guess the Natural Capital movement has been trying to do exactly that. As Jenneth Parker so eloquently framed ~ “a bloody great horse tranquillizer.” But it is not going to boot the Anthropocene firmly into the past as a very thin layer of techno-fossils and radionuclides, and as Molly Scott Cato referred, the horrid ground weaver spider is going to have a tough time competing head-on with property developers and cash-strapped councils if reduced to a financial unit.

There also seems a naivety that the creative ambitions of a largely psychopathic elite won’t stop finding ways to exploit all for personal gain; abuses will continue to occur so long as the 99% continue to engage with the current structures of money and power ~ like the Natural Capital movement is doing.

IPBES, and the many scientists who feed their ethical stance, are obsessed by the extrinsic uses of nature by humans for the purpose of protecting and halting its further decline. IPBES has the opportunity to account for pluralistic values and stop the neoliberal colonial stamps of authority across human cultural diversity. But in their adoption of finacialisation of nature, they too are using a blunt instrument, the ‘daisy-cutter’ of an array of educational tools available. How terribly disappointing.
Why is that so few admit the incommensurability of monetary value and so many other values? You can’t have both without accepting monetary value will eventually trump all others in the current economic paradigm. It’s basic axiology! And neither can we pick and choose when and how to apply monetary value, because the advocates of Natural Capital have ensured, emphatically, that the genie is already out of the bottle.

Rupert Read was, and is, absolutely correct ~ the Precautionary Principle can be applied in approaching all. It is already plausible to suggest Natural Capital ethic is not robust enough in every case, failing in application and abused ~ there are dangers. Tony Juniper, currently President of the Wildlife Trusts, himself agreed that it is not always applicable. He was asked on the dilema of defending badgers against culling compared to the livelihoods of farmers. The farmers argue money comes first, and never mind the science or morality of killing a keystone species. To pick and choose? The catastrophe of making things worse for nature, in all time-frames, is a real consideration here.

A metaphor is a device to deliver understanding, plying the memory with powerful imagery that is hard to shake ~ creative and, to some extent, yes, educational. But I say let’s value the value of education, the sharing of knowledge and the humility to accept we do not know all, over the accumulation of wealth for and by the few. Mentor the mentors. Sow seeds of earth understanding and nurture them until they grow to set their own seed ~ a metaphor for life itself.

It is an enormous task, to deconstruct the institutional and cultural pervasiveness of economic neoliberalism. I argue it should now be rapid; an immediate turn to community and localism. Others will maintain that, to keep things orderly, it will have to be incremental. But I cannot see why we can’t be creative enough to be both kind and quick. This system is extraordinarily inequitable and continues to be destructive; a system that has acellerated Earth Crisis, that proliferates arms, and celebrates the fact, as we have also seen this week in Syria.

I feel angry with myself that I have not been able to stop non-human life from being plunged into this same broken system via the vagaries of the Natural Capital ethic. But I have endeavoured with my own research. And others, such as acutely perceptive Sian Sullivan, are doing their utmost to publish their detailed research to highlight the inadequacies. I can’t say I’m ashamed of a government I did not select. I can’t be held responsible for the people who voted for them either. But I can be ashamed that I continue to support the economy, even here in Wales, that props up this broken system. This is the system which widens the poverty gap into a gaping chasm and throws natural interconnectedness, literally and metaphorically, to the wind. Let’s no longer play that game and do something new, and as an expression of love for all life that is interconnected, within and without.

~ Ecoliteracy for all.



Many, many thanks to all organisers, speakers, artists and attendees, particularly to Rupert Read for inviting me, and to Aled Jones and Felicity Clarke, the Global Sustainability Institute, for being such excellent and informative hosts. I am truly grateful.







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Escape our Castle Walls

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” Arundhati Roy


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Behind the wall, on the wall and beyond the wall. The trees, the street lights. The lichen. A reflection on boundaries, species and freedoms in the Anthropocene.

A small photo-exhibition of the Animal Wall, Cardiff Castle, by me.






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“Rest in reason and move in passion.”


wood sorrel out this week, photo by me.

The primroses are heavy yellow just now, and the first of the wood sorrels are opening out to Spring’s luminosity. I can see them ~ the colours, the freshness ~ yet all feels rather grey.

It’s been a dark Winter for me and I am glad it’s all over. I expect to repay a personal and professional debt deep into the year, none-the-less, for over-zealous expectations and bitter disappointments. 

Reason and passion can provide us with a strong sense of purpose. And having that meaning in life, and in love, is grist against a flood of uncertainty. At all scales, I perceive great uncertainty.

The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote:

‘Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas’.

Keeping ship-shape isn’t easy for me. My limbic system is both a burden and a blessing, and for reasons I’ve explained before. It’s definitely something I have to monitor, the riotous pain and raw sensibility. 

Too much reason is deadening. It takes away all the colour in life and love. And I need colour. Yet too much passion can burn me up in flames.

This last few months, I have purposefully allowed my passion-sails to fill with imagination and creativity. It’s been a very productive time in terms of my work. But I’ll take heed of Gibran now, resting in reason and moving in passion, because I’m just so tired of feeling adrift.


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Floloca ~ A Reformation of Landscape.


Red Kite over the Common. Photo by me.

I’ve been looking through the noun ‘landscape,’ as if it were a clear window to times past. The views have been sculpted like soft clay, utterances as form, receding to early human roots.

The earliest scene glimpsed through the word-window seems to be an area of open heath, stemming from the ancient proto indo-european word, lendh. There are no particular human-value connotations, though ‘open’ may imply an area wooded then cleared. Scape is derived from proto-germanic skapiz, meaning shape or condition. Old English sciepe, skipe, to Middle English, re-sculpted, maybe due to accent and pronunciation, to shippe. We now suffix words with ‘ship’ to mean something shaped or crafted. Land, shaped. But by whom? The Dutch use of schap and schape became influential in the art world, hence our more modern return to the ‘ape’ sound rather an ‘ip.’

Lendh Skapiz ~ Lant Scap ~ Land Schippe ~ Landscape.

So, as of today, the word landscape manifests all the visible features of an area of land, mainly in human aesthetic and cultural contexts. It can be poetic, artistic and passionately emotive. Landscape is also an adjective, a kind of socio-political policy, a designation, and with sense of scale often circumscribed on a map. At this scale, organised planning can take place. Design. Land management shaped to meet whichever goals agreed between (human) stakeholders. All at once, ‘landscape’ is packed with human value systems, sometimes in competition.

In attempting to be value-neutral ~ reductionist ~ I may describe an existential ‘landscape’ as a complexity of organic and inorganic assemblages, in and around geological features and anthropogenic constructions, perhaps bounded by 360 degree view to the horizon, but specifically from a human point of view. There is no heart in this description, of course; it does not reflect the reality of life, the intrinsic fluministic interconnectedness between species. Here’s where I begin my challenge. Landscape is an anthropocentrism. It is, therefore, loaded with potential to erode organic flows, causal to planetary harm, corallary to our proven misconceptions of a functional biosphere to date (The Anthropocene).

If we plan all at our own scale from human-eye-level, we are, ipso facto, co-ordinating actions for our own means. Such designations set boundaries defined by humans alone. Where does a landscape begin and end? How much is in our minds, derived from our sensibilities, experiences and memories? A line on the map delineates both beginning and end, similarly, National Park, SACs, SSSI and MCZ designations. Who are we to assume beginnings and ends? My research into ecological interconnectivity has blown apart the mere idea of such fabrications. We may perceive an edge, but species bind and overlap habitats as naturally as they do metabolise. There is ‘magic at the edges.’ Even the word ‘ecosystem’ falls away by the reality of life’s expansive porosity, both within us and without. Since the human imprint on this Earth has already reached such levels as to cause a global Heat Age, with extinctions and depauperations that will ensue for the next few thousand years, isn’t it about time we became a little more humble?

And yet landscapes exist to us, and we are nature. What about cultural values of landscape? Yes, of course they count. I cannot disregard them. As nature, we bring our pluralistic cultures to bear upon the world in which we live and the words that we use. There are good and bad, when it comes to biodiversity and abundance. To find fault with ‘good’ kinds of landscape, is at odds with my own views on wildlife interconnectivity ~ advocating interconnected corridors and riparian buffers in the face of unfettered human development. There is a strong case for forcing the pace, at landscape, nay, bioregional scale, to allow wild beings place for genetic diversity, foraging, climate refuge and resillience by abundance. But it is the word ‘allow’ that grates upon my fluministic tendencies and ‘landscape’ is way too generic.

Imagine a cake on a plate. We take a slice. The rest of the cake remains for others to share. Now imagine an empty plate, and it is our choice to add back a slice, when and how we see fit. First, to fill the plate with cake. And this will require self-restraint. But remember, we have also imagined the size of the plate! That we can map, but then model future outcomes on that map connotes intense anthropocentric ‘stewardship.’ Stewardship remains an intense form of dominion and human value conflicts clash as to what good and bad stewardship actually is. Again, the same human chauvenism manifests at the root of so many problems upon this good Earth ~ even if we choose to fill any sized plate with cake, it remains our choice alone.

Now, this goes to the heart of a key debate in environmental ethics ~ is anthropocentrism ever a good thing, or are there other ways to understand and value life? We are human, after all, and cannot pretend to be anything else. To value anything intrinsically is also a human value. But I argue (with others), it is also a universal value beyond human existence. All species have worth, because all is interconnected and this is life. It is the interconnections that create the complex organic life in our biosphere, and perhaps even beyond.

Many rationalists impress there is no other way to perceive this world ~ that’s it. We have our senses, a brain and the ability to create tools to enhance those senses. If this is so, we have little choice but to acknowldge landscape as a human construct and tailor it to our own desires.

But wait. We have evolved with imagination and empathy. Combine our ecological understanding with these key evolutionary traits and we may stand away from making such human-oriented decisions. We can imagine and empathise with a fly pollinating a flower, or a bat hunting for moths, or a scrub trying to succeed into woodland. And then we can let these things ‘be.’ I think I answer my own question, at least in part, by the idea that passivity in conservation and preservation is just as important to a fluministic world view, as hands-on proactivity. Any pro-activity primarily needs to be in stopping the anti-fluministic world view, instead working along the grain of nature in what we need to flourish, and no more. The rest may run wild, Earth’s biosphere being the ultimate plate-size.

More. New science and technological tools now inform we are holobionts, with symbionts within and outside of us, a community of mind microbial/viral and sometimes parasitic metamorphising species. With the discovery of the microbiome-gut-brain axis, ego-boundaries are somewhat of an incomplete picture, our selves being more porous as part of the dynamic flows of life process. When we refer to ourselves as “I” we really mean “we.” Humans have not always had the technical ability to create tools to extensively enhance our senses in trying to understand nature, even the nature within us. In the absence of such tools, other cultures, often older cultures, unify with the natural world in spiritual modalities. Some assume(d) animistic perspectives, sometimes gained in trance-like or spiritual states that may restructure prior knowledge, breaking down mental and ego boundaries. These moments are often induced by ingesting chemicals found in the natural world; hallucinogens, psychadelics. Those experiences are just as culturally valid an aspect to ‘being’ nature as using an electron microscope or involving oneself deeply in reading profound ‘nature writing,’ especially if they induce planetary wellbeing, of course.

There is a difference between land condition, as found, and land craft as a human skill. But if we also imagine early human cultures as intensely connected in natural flows of life, we might guess old or lost words may have implied the craft of all life, not just simian, not just human. Of course we now use landscape as a verb to describe human action ~ we “landscape” this world, with either soils or astroturf. All is at our mercy, and that’s a problem.

Interpreting the world from multi-species points of view, using imagination and empathy, I impress, is an important form of knowing. And that understanding feeds back in reflexivity to our own perceptions of existence.

Ponder for a moment, that new insight is emerging into ecological symbiosis and interconnected relationships as flow to an enhanced level of understanding organic participation in living processes. Imagining perspectives of other species in relation to flow surely is a pre-requisite. Some may argue that we are going beyond our remit in imagining the perspectives of other species in order to manage our own behaviours. Others say we would only anthropomorphise, regardless, especially those of a more reductionist perspective on life. From a human point of view, landscape is generally seen to the horizon. What if one was a migratory bird or a soil microbe? The views alter and, therefore, the best actions for the dynamic flows that exist between the two.

One can orientate by the Sun and the Moon, assess unique aspects of place, such as prevailing winds, humidity, to be celebrated, and be mindful of the connectivity of living systems. Each view we take-in during our lives is unique. Even if our feet were bound in concrete, the scene around us to the horizon would shapeshift through seasons, through death and also new life. Now climate change is upon us, to add even more uncertainty to the dynamism. Memories, imprints, now linger in our grey matter. And sometimes we embelish in a form of nostalgia or psychological fusing according to our emotions. Often, ghostly images or sounds merge in our minds to overlay a vision of a landscape, so that it is familiar. We may never have even experienced such landscapes.

The Dutch idea of landscape, a format in art lessons, a charicature of the Gilpinesque picturesque*, with golden rules of thirds, illusions of depth and a hint of the wilderness is till a prominent cultural influence. It has a frame around it, like a window, and I think we’ve framed the word ‘ecosystem,’ similarly. I now find the word landscape a kind of detachment. I would rather leave it in a Dutch gallery.

How does a blind person respond to a vista, seen through a lens, within a frame, flattened to two dimensions? When I am in that landscape, the word landscape falls sharply away. Whether this is home or somewhere new, there is community of living (and dead), beings. I may feel a part of that ecological community, or not, but it always affects my viscera, like a shockwave. I call it sanguimund, a feeling or emotion. It may well be that my sensibilities are receiving signals from the life within that community. It may well be those lives are perceiving my presence and responding. Perhaps, it is the consciousness of love. But I am glad I am aware of it, at least. I think all can find that awareness, even if all the questions are not answered.

So I offer floloca, in perceiving ‘place as flowing’, not simply as human, but conscious imagination along the dynamic matrix of life and death, and at a spectrum of scales. I also think it is a lovely word to say, adaptable, with no beginning, middle or end, and with the potential for plenty of reflexivity. But perhaps this is just me. Try saying it aloud and see what you think. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


*  Gilipin’s influential 18th Century vision “Observations on the River Wye” published 1872.


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Ben ~ the week after.


My Ben came to the end of his life a week ago to the day. So many mixed emotions, but there was nothing else I could do. They come to you. They get old; they die. My daughter and I stroked his velvet ears, at home, as the vet injected him for the very last time. Painless and quick.

My mind, full of memories, has been in flux ever since. And it is a conscious effort to process all the questions that bubble up whilst submerged in grief. Most remain unanswered. The pain is searing, the whole thing so physical.

We lived closely at home, work and play; foot to paw. I knew every ripple of his coat, his transforming colours in the sunlight, the flecks in his irises. I knew his anxieties and frustrations. And he knew mine.

Ben loved the horizon. He could sit for hours and stare for miles. It was beautiful to watch. But he loved to track scent, yes, the wilder the better. On three continents, we explored. You might imagine.

King of the Wye, he was water boy. And he knew every scrap of Westhope Hill. He knew particular plants. And the Begwyns. And latterly, Sully Island. And Dunraven and Monknash. And Lanlay. And the canal, and then just the park. With my ex husband, it was a little different ~ Offas Dyke summits and Radnor pine forests for them. And moors and heather. A little more rangy, further, distant…

And Ben ran swiftest, like an arrow, with plants and soils underpaw. His favorite task was to explore new terrain in good company, the pack running ~ a seemingly unlimited flow of joy eminating from his timeless brown eyes and waggy brush-tail. So many moments and so many stories; bears, coyotes, porcupines, possums and even the most elegant monarch butterfly landing on his nose.

All we can hope for is to enjoy the best life with them, to care and love them as dogs. They aren’t chattels; they are deeply emotional beings with long memories for the pack and its forays. They don’t respond well at all to meaness. They like routine and need to feel part of the pack, never separate unless it’s their choice. Contact is essential, but not total dominance. When they are fearful, they get angry. There is trust, but it is earned. They love a sense of purpose. They bond via licks.

My Ben. I lived with a being that was 99% wolf for 16 years, whom I cared for as deeply as it is possible. If we were apart, we pined. Now it’s just me. We lived the life-shocks and lulls. He’s my blood.

He grew old and died. His name was Ben.



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The Queen’s Nectar Cup.


Bombus lapidarius, the red-tailed bumblebee, photo by me.

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. There must be the will to produce a superior thing.”

― John Ruskin

The banks of the river fell sharply away, just as Cormorant sunk beneath the surface like a lead weight. I traced her bubble fish-hunt until she popped up again like a charred log. With a smile, I acknowledged her ability. How did she learn this? Was it something innate, observational or was it by instruction? I returned my attention to the steep river bank, lowered myself over tussock and bramble, to find the sturdiness of a small shingle-cove. There I stood, rooted, feeling the vibrations of a rolling Afon Taff through my boots and into my bones.

I heard the buzz again; she was here somewhere.

I took a minute to observe the water. Sometimes at the river the best things happen when I have my back turned to it. This requires trust gleaned through experience. I’ve spent thousands of hours by rivers and they can be dangerous. Usually, I watch the flow for a good few minutes, and when all patterns are relatively steady and predictable, I’ll turn and face the hinterland.

Somewhat self-assured, but not entirely (I was in a hurry), I turned and leaned close to the bank to find my Queen. With one foot on the shingle and the other on tussock, my landward knee took all my weight and a pain shot through the ligaments. I winced and pondered; I am getting too old to be clambering about on tangled riverbanks. The thought terrified me, so I quickly threw it in the water with an old pebble I found in my pocket.

Queen Red-Tail, on the other hand, was born just last summer, as a gyne, a virgin bumblebee queen. She’d matured enough to fly and mate before winter, and after a lonely hibernation, has emerged to find reviving nectar and a new hollow somewhere along the Taff. For the last twenty minutes, I’d watched her forage among the daisies. Glistening wings blurred over her downy, black sphere, adapted from a long line of ancestors for cooler, lengthier, seasons. Perhaps, an inch long, her plump form is dusted, rear end, as if dipped in cinnabar.

My eyes strained to watch as she crawled through a few ivy leaves, wings beating at a low resonance. I could hardly tell her apart from the shadows. But then she disappeared down a black hole and was gone. Alice-like, I followed her into this strange under-world, a realm of springtails and earthworms and all manner of semi-aquatic life we humans cannot see. I had never thought of a queen bumble bee as a potholer before. But spelaeologist she is; a cave dweller, of her own scale, in a depth of blackness, water, and organic and mineral-matter.

Here, she will live in symbiosis with her own microbiome and other soil-life, making it comfy and warm, using soft fibres for lining. Here, she will be all-purveying through the colony’s social phase ~ producing worker daughters. Present, she is Bee-as-Dasein (Heidegger/Tao), existential of this world, active in caring now and for what comes next.

Leaning in again, I put my ear to the ground. When her delicate shuffling sounds dampened and stopped, I noticed a ball of wet moss and twigs to the side of the entrance. I couldn’t resist rolling it sideways to see what I could see. The ball of moss went deeper than expected, a good few inches, and with a pang of guilt searing through me as I observed my Queen in her hollow. I gazed for only a couple of seconds and her eyes glinted. Right next to her was a little wax pot full of nectar.

I quickly replaced the moss to avoid more disturbance, so what I write next is my memory from that moment of voyeurism. A cup is a better description than a pot. Its surface was reddish and marginally scaly. Curvacious to organic perfection, a wide brim narrowed to a smaller flat base, but its thickness was fairly uniform. Inside, a dark liquid shone like molasses.

This is her fuel; a honey store of energy for colder days, when she is bound to stay inside, dipping her feathery tongue into its goodness. She’ll need it for incubating eggs and keeping all warm by shivering her muscles. Together, the cup and the nectar are mindfulness manifest (McEvilley); more than art and techne. This is Queen Red-Tail Phronesis, an evolved practical wisdom, and I contend as high a knowing as any epistemological concept. And she will make more cups, in time, and fill them for the good of the colony ~ an enactment of care for process; essence of intelligent bumblebee, and on through her genetic line.

She has made it from a waxy substance secreted in small flakes from between her chitinous, abdominal plates. With her feet and, perhaps, her mandibles, saliva and microbes, she softens the material and crafts this vessel with utter devotion. Her masterpiece is of her own body. It is part of her. This IS her: Matriarch. The wax itself emits scent, pheromones, cues, that control the fertility of her worker daughters in the language of chemistry. Without her bee-biosemiotics, the colony would overpopulate, malfunction, with disorder and suffering due to shortages of food.

How does she know what to do, why and how to care for herself and her family in this way? Is it learned very early from others whilst in larval stage the previous year, or is this something deeply innate, hard-wired, like a human baby seeks her mother’s breast at birth? Queen Red-Tail has also crafted pollen balls upon which she lays her eggs to hatch out and feed; such preparedness for what comes about in the following months. And in doing so, she will pollinate many plants. It is a pure devotion to her cause and that of her offspring. It is love. Why not? Bees are emotional beings.

On she will go for a while, making more nectar cups and foraging food for her offspring. She’ll keep them warm until matured, and then they’ll assume many of her tasks. They will cool the nest in high summer by wafting fresh air inside from the entrance, and find food for the colony, leaving more scent trails on flowers as signals to others.

But Queen is now bound to her underground existence, never to leave again. She will produce the next brood using sperm stored in her body from last year, new gynes and males who will abandon the nest to find new mates and start anew. Then she will die and her end will come in Autumn. All will wither, including her nectar cups, to return to dust to begin once more as life, unchartered. This is her gift to the soil.

I gazed at the ball of moss for a while longer and all remained still. Queen was underneath, getting ready to lay eggs, my guilt feeling a little assuaged. I turned again to the river. Plastic drinks bottles bobbed in the shallows and a mallard furiously peddled away from me in a downstream-diagonal. I waded in to retrieve the rubbish, as slabs of brown Taff water slumped south towards the artifice of Cardiff Bay. From there, the water will make its way to the sluish gates and drop to the monster tides of the Severn Sea. And I considered, from bee to sea, there is presence, lives in process, an intelligent, interconnected craft. It is a superior thing, fluminism, and inspires our own participation and wilful devotion to life on this rare planet.

With love.



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The Manukau Light ~ a little (true) story.

There once was a time when I was out of my head on benzodiazepines, and as sleepless as the City That Never Sleeps.

Delivered by pumpkin-mice-magic (I can’t remember the car journey), I had found myself at the Cardinal Clinic, Windsor, to be treated intensively for PTSD.

Peak Fall. Crisp, clear days; the birds sang brightly and squirrels danced in the trees. But I could not engage. I could neither look nor listen. Burned into my memory was the vision of my mother, dead from suicide, in a blue nighty I’d bought for her birthday.

My Prince, based at the clinic that was once a King’s hunting lodge, was an ex-Gurkha Regiment psychiatrist. A specialist in trauma, he rescued me with Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.

Nothing had felt real. I had dissociated with everyone bar my daughter and dog. But they were far away from me now, protected from my despair.

My body was a blithering, vigilant wreck. Electric-edged dreams woke me at every turn, and in just three months, I’d shrunk, dear Alice-in-Trauma-land, from my usual size 14 to a 10. Everything blue was trigger, even the sky.  I thought I would follow my mother.

EMDR began working, and I found sleep again. There but for the grace of God go I.

I still felt lost and disconnected.

And then, one morning, a Fairy Queen appeared in the group therapy room, like a vision. A therapist in creative writing, she conjured the idea in me that I had a future. She offered me her pen, like a wand.

Only the year before, had we had been living in New Zealand. I cherished my time with my little girl in West Auckland. Whilst my husband worked downtown in an office, we would explore the rich, Waitakere forest, full of birdsong, as it tumbled south to the Munukau Harbour and its northern shores. We’d visit the beaches ~ Armour, Kakamatua, Cornwallis and Huia ~ per chance to glimpse a Maui’s dolphin (we never did).

From high over Whatipu, we would gaze south out over rolling waves; the harbour straights and to the Manukau Heads Lighthouse. As night fell, a strong beam of light reached far out over the Tasman Sea, as if trying to find something lost.

A visit home to my mother for Christmas, and I noticed the light had dimmed in her once sparkly eyes. My daughter, in her arms, put that sparkle right back. There were other reasons too, but we sold-up and arrived back in the UK to help. I was mistaken. I could not help. My mother worsened and she slipped through my fingers. I was devastated.

And so here I was, in a group therapy room with a pen-wand and a blank page.

And I wrote a story, for my daughter, in spider-writing, and I called it The Manukau Light.

Later that day, in front of a raging, log fire, surrounded by sensitive souls, I was asked to read the story out loud. When I was finished, they applauded. And, at once, I felt legitimate, reconnected and safe.

One fellow inpatient, a talented artist, asked me to draw the scene; the waves, the lighthouse and the light. She warmly offered me art materials. So right there, I drew a sketch. She asked if she could keep it. So I gave it to her.

A few weeks later (these things take time), I came home to my little family. My father, still grieving himself, bought each of his daughters an art desk for Christmas. My sister continued to draw until her stroke last year. I illustrated the Manukau Light, for my daughter, then folded away my desk as soon as it was done.

The magic was over, and it was time to continue real life, no matter how hard. And I am still on that continuum.

The Manukau Light?  My daughter loves the story, still, and we hope to publish it one day. Meanwhile, as darkness falls, we imagine the light reaching far over the Tasman sea, at last finding that lost something, after all.



Illustration by me.

(A young girl runs towards a small lighthouse, ferns and a monarch butterfly on milkweed flowers in the foreground).



Shirley, my good friend, was a fellow inpatient at the Cardinal Clinic during my stay… she has kindly given me permission to post here.

Shirley: Oh, Ginny, you have such a wonderful, descriptive style. That coupled with your gentle voice makes anything you write, such a joy to listen to. That was memory-provoking for me; I was flashing back in my mind to the scenes and groups that you describe. I remember your drawing too! The fact you can narrate such devastating and painful experiences shows how far you have come on your journey. Kudos to you for your strength of mind and soul. You are a true gem in a world of grey stone. xxx

Ginny: Shirley, this is so kind and thoughtful! I wondered whether you would remember. We all have our stories. That living room was a safe place for me, surrounded by you all, reconnecting with you all. I am trying to get the story published now. It may take some time. I hope you can find solace in that we are both still going despite the bumps! Sending love to you. Xxx





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