COP26 Thought for the Day #11

Cutting Leeks

Todays thought for the day comes from Pat Fleming. Pat works in conservation education, and currently teaches and mentors on the ‘Call of the Wild’ courses at Schumacher College. She co-authored ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’, a deep ecology reader with John Seed, Arne Naess and Joanna Macy and has led groups in deep ecology and ‘Work that Reconnects’ for over 30 years.

Cutting Leeks as COP26 opens

I stand by the compost heap, bottom of our Dartmoor garden,
wielding an old bone-handled knife,
slicing muddy white roots off long fat leeks
just heaved from the earth.

Above the pines, in the evening’s apricot sky
the mewling of a young buzzard, high-pitched,
insistent, cuts through the quiet. Alarmed, alone.

I carry on dropping leek tops into warm wormy compost,
a tangle of rotting leaves-peelings-weeds-paper
that yield such blessing, keep our garden in good heart.

Suddenly from the south, a wide-winged buzzard
swoops over my head, feather tips swish air down my neck.
It’s heading home, the Dart valley woods nearby.
I try to call back, but my language is lacking.

At this moment, five hundred miles north, there’s a buzzing of heads of state,
COP 26 opens to address our broken world,
important people talking serious turkey in Glasgow,
calling each other out, making more promises to be broken.

I would be there, I wanted to be there, for my alarm cries to be heard
by someone, anyone, maybe no-one. But at least like the young buzzard,
give everything for my voice to cry out.

But I didn’t get on that train, or sleep on the floor of friends,
nor stand in a windy wet street handing out leaflets,
maybe dressed as a turtle, or a puddle, or indeed anything
that wants its voice heard in the melee.

Instead I slice the last leek, satisfied with their perfect long shafts,
marvel how anyone would love them, sweet, lightly steamed.

Boris rattles on the 6 pm radio about “The last chance saloon”
as if he’s some sheriff in a dodgy ole western,
rattling his spurs, cocking his pistol, to save the world.
Why does he sound so hollow, so desperate to project gravitas,
whilst wearing a cowboy hat?

I hear the Island nations – Pilau, Philippines, Pacific, whose women speak
so eloquently, passionately, concisely, about what needs to happen
“Or we will get angry!”

Actually we are already angry, very angry. I wave my knife.
Angry at my species, in our stupified thrall of stuff,
turned away from our legacy, from future generations
whose soil and sea and air we hold in our hands,
within our smallest of actions. Angry how
our endless reckless hunger is more important
than the magnanimous recognition of our belonging,
of all our belonging.

Deep down, aren’t we, like young buzzards, mewling for home,
for safe places to rest and return? No need to holler any more,
but to quietly embrace, be embraced, belong.

Pat Fleming
1st November 2021