Caught between the marches!

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It is 8.20 in the morning in Berlin and I’m looking out on the street, to where a few drifters remain after an all-night dance party. I leave for Dublin this afternoon and will not have the opportunity to join the climate change march that will take place here this afternoon. The march coincides with others taking place across the globe today, including a march in New York City prior to the commencement of the UN Climate Change Summit next week. I concur with the comments of Naomi Klein, in the Guardian today, that we cannot rely on talkfests to get on top of this issue. Success will come through the collective effort of communities, of people in the streets, engaging in direct action that will hopefully bring about concerted change.

The march in Melbourne, Australia, has already taken place. (I missed that one as well!) As you can see by the photograph (also printed in today’s Australian edition of the Guardian), the weather was clear and people marched in their tens of thousands. Some claim that the old-fashioned street protest is outmoded. It is not. We need to know that we do not face this issue as individuals, and we need our politicians to know that we are tired of their stalling, inaction and most of all, their complicity in the damage caused to each of us through their relationships with, and financial support of, polluters. I dearly hope that the marches in Berlin today, and other cities are a great success. I also hope that something a lot more than talk takes place in New York this week.

Tony Birch

 

Sky

Berlin, 18 September, 2014.

Berlin, 18 September, 2014.

I have been spoilt this week in Berlin. The weather is clear and sunny, and I have been to a remarkable writers’ festival where the emphasis is on ideas and exchange rather than celebrities and book sales. My hosts have been remarkably generous. I feel blessed and energised, rather than drained of effort.

As part of the Global Weather Stations project, I have had the chance to meet with high school students here. Today, I conducted a creative writing workshop with the students, discussing the power of poetry, locality and the effects of climate change on each of us. Rather than ask them to contemplate a global ‘crisis’, or attempt to decipher the extent of the scientific information available about the issue of global warming, I suggested that they go home from school today and take a photograph of the sky directly above their own street or home. I asked that they then study the photograph, live with it a while, before writing a piece of prose or poetry about their own little piece of sky.

I let them know that I too have a piece of sky above my own home. I showed them an image I made the day before I left for Europe, just to prove it. We each have a piece of sky, joined to the next piece, and so on and so on, reaching from Melbourne to Berlin and all points beyond. Where would I draw a dividing line, a wall, between my piece of sky and the roof above the heads of these wonderful young people? There is no line. We are in and under this together.

Tony Birch

Weather Report – on leaving Melbourne for Europe

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The skies over the city are clear this morning. But I’m not fooled, and, sadly, I’m predicting stormy weather ahead. Despite the fact that Australia’s highly respected national science body, the CSIRO, crunched the numbers (again) last week, and concluded that the effects of climate change that we are living with now are largely ‘man-made’ – coming in at conclusive 99% probability – and that these changes are having a major and negative impact on our life and the environment now, the climate sceptics and economic opportunists (those with a selective fishbowl mentality) hold sway with the Commonwealth government. With the abolition of the carbon tax, the country has no serious emissions trading scheme. The federal government is also threatening to withdraw support to companies and consumers wishing to meet Renewable Energy Targets. We continue to invest in, and rely on dirty energy sources such as brown coal. In most cities across Australia, the public transport system is either an antiquated shambles, or the reinvestments are again in dirty energy sources such as diesel. And yet we are spending billions of dollars burrowing under cities – a tunnel here, a tunnel there – in an effort to get out of a traffic jam. What we’re really doing is simply putting the roadblock underground. I’m not sure who this helps and how? But maybe it’s a bit like sticking your head in the sand when faced with the obvious?

The say it will be a cool night tonight, followed by a ‘perfect day’ tomorrow. Can you believe that? I’m not so sure. I’ll leave you with an image of our top weatherman and see you in Europe. Australia’s chief forecaster doesn’t have a spinning bow-tie. But he’s a showman and a half when it comes to shifting our focus to entertainment.

A Man For All Seasons - particularly the hot ones.

A Man For All Seasons – particularly the hot ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Birch

Remembering Steven – walk number two

[map 33 - Yarra Trail, Kew, Victoria, Australia]

[map 33 – Yarra Trail, Kew, Victoria, Australia]

I set out with the intention to begin my walk at the Kew Billabong (more on that later). I studied the transport maps and worked out I needed to catch the number 48 tram to Balwyn and get off at stop number 33. I’ve been feeling lightheaded and pleasantly spacey. (I have felt the world too big of late, and kept myself small.) I caught the 109 tram by mistake. I didn’t realise my error until the tram was about to verge to the right instead of ploughing straight on. I jumped off the tram and decided to walk the remaining journey. Within a few minutes, I was standing at the gates of Kew Cemetery. Not my intended destination, but the place where one of my closest teenage friends, Steven Ward, has been buried for 35 years. I loved Steven. We lived on the same public housing estate and went everywhere together; most particularly to the Yarra River, the backyard of our childhood.

Deciding I couldn’t walk by the cemetery without visiting Steven’s grave, I went inside. I had visited him many times before, and was surprised that I couldn’t locate the grave. It angered me. I felt negligent. And guilty. It was as if I had forgotten him.

Determined not to give up, I walked the lanes in the section of the cemetery where I knew Steven was resting. I passed the graves of the old and young, married couples and entire families. Just when I was about to quit the search, I found myself standing in front of Steven’s tombstone. It was a bittersweet discovery, like frantically searching for the face of a loved one in a crowd, finding that face and experiencing its disappearance at the same time. I sat down and cried, not surprisingly, and unashamedly. Was it a fortuitous detour? I guess so. After all, I had been heading to our place. There was no question that Steven would come walking with me.

[map 33 - Kew Cemetery, Victoria, Australia]

[map 34 – Kew Cemetery, Victoria, Australia]

I stopped on a bridge above the Eastern Freeway – a river for cars. Victoria has a freeway fetish, matched only by our fetish for cars. I can spit further than the distance some people drive to work of a morning. A freeway flows reasonably around lunchtime when it’s quiet. During peak times, Melbourne’s freeways block up like an old sewer, and the state is forever on the lookout for solutions – of a limited kind. While Melbourne’s public transport system struggles with ageing infrastructure, each time a major road artery clogs beyond repair, we choose a bypass; a new artery with a limited lifespan before it too requires major surgery. Our latest transport solution is the proposed East-West Link, a tunnel that will burrow deep beneath the ground, welding two freeway systems together. Most cars travelling through the link on workdays will carry solitary drivers. I expect that eventually they will spend a lot of time in the tunnel talking to themselves.

[map 34 - Eastern Freeway; Melbourne, Australia]

[map 35 – Eastern Freeway; Melbourne, Australia]

It took me no time to leave the traffic behind and find myself at the Kew Billabong. The billabong is the remnant of a vast wetland that once dominated the landscape. It was home to a vast array of birds and animal species, few of which remain. (Although programs to provide a suitable habitat for birds is ongoing). The billabong is an important cultural and spiritual place for the Wurundjeri people, the Aboriginal nation of greater Melbourne. They are a remarkable community. Faced with the onslaught of the British occupation of their land from 1835, the Wurundjeri’s courage, intellect and ingenuity has ensured that their knowledge of, and claim on land remains vital to sites such as this.

[map 38 - Welcome to Wurunjeri Country]

[map 36 – ‘Welcome to Wurundjeri Country’]

When we were kids, we would ride out to the billabong on summer afternoons. The bikes we rode were put together affairs, assembled from bits and pieces we scrounged from around the streets. There were no bike paths in those days, very few people out walking their dogs, no freeways bulldozing our wayward days, and no signs welcoming visitors to Aboriginal country. But still we played the game of Aborigines every chance we got. Our blood was strong, but our skin, burnt brick-red by the sun, would never do. We would begin the game by jumping naked into the billabong, scooping up handfuls of mud at the water’s edge and smearing it across our bodies. We went black face, I guess. But all for a good cause. We were wild and did not want to be civilised or assimilated. We hid our faces from progress. In the billabong, we were safe. While we imagined spearing anyone who dare invade our country, we were sure we would never grow and never die. As long as we stayed in that water.

[map 37 - Kew Billabong, Victoria, Australia]

[map 37 – Kew Billabong, Victoria, Australia]

The billabong could not hold us, and we did grow. We roamed the river for miles and claimed all of it as our own, with little competition, as the river was unloved and neglected by others. We would sit on along her muddy bank, smoking cigarettes and singing to her. The river wanted to know that we loved her, and tested us at every opportunity. One summer we pledged to jump from each and every bridge from the city centre to the Pipe Bridge, the last bridge along the river before the billabong. Jumping into the water from 60 feet above its surface should have created fear. It never did. Even deep in the blackness and pockets of chill, I was sure the river would hold us true. If you have never jumped, let me share a secret with you.  In the space between your feet leaving the safety of the railing and hitting the water, there is a moment of genuine flight – everything stops, except your imagination.

[map 38 - Pipe Bridge, Fairfield, Victoria, Australia]

[map 38 – Pipe Bridge, Fairfield, Victoria, Australia]

And then the saddest day arrives. Some of your river has been taken from you, and destroyed by those fools in suits who love freeways. And those other fools who would rather sit, stuck, immobilised, in capsules spewing shit into the air. Other parts of your river have been opened up with pathways, bikeways and walkways.

You have a choice. You can share the river with others, and their dogs, and their frisbees, and kites, and expensive baby strollers. Or you can leave and carry the river and the soul of your teenage friend with you. All you can do is leave behind an epitaph for those who will never know the river as you do. Maybe you don’t want to admit it. Maybe you can’t face up to a truth; these new people who come to your river may just love it too. Yes, that’s the hardest truth of all. You do not own this place. And you cannot – if what is left of the river is to be cared for and saved.

[map39 - epitaph to the Lost Boys - beneath Chandler Bridge, Kew, Victoria, Australia]

[map 39 – Epitaph to the lost boys – beneath Chandler Bridge, Kew, Victoria, Australia]

You return home, to the falls. The river you love – this is her heartbeat. As the water rushes over the falls, the vibration shakes the ground. It is good to know that she is alive. Just when you are feeling as selfish as a stupid man can be, thinking, ‘why don’t these people just fuck off and give my river back to me,’ a serendipitous sound shifts against the sandstone steps on the far bank. You think it is a trick. A deception tugging at your deep sense of loss – for your people, for your loved boyhood friend who shared the water with you with his gleaming skin and velvet hair.

But it is not a trick. It is an offering from another visitor, standing by the water offering a song. For the river. And for me. I wave across the water to him and say ‘thank you.’ I leave knowing that I am the only fool today. I am the one who needs to know. I need to know that the places we love are not ours to covet. They are not ours at all. We belong to them.

[map 40 - Sax Man, Dights Falls, Victoria, Australia]

[map 40 – Sax Man, Dights Falls, Victoria, Australia]

An epilogue

I leave the river thinking that thinking about the walk and the river is over. There is nothing more to write about. My journey ended perfectly, at my favourite corner of the world, and with a perfect end to a piece of writing about walking, and places, and generosity – all thanks to the mysterious sax player.

And then I come across a wall. Separating me from the river of cars. And I discover an act, the art of defiance.  This place lives. So, let’s end here instead.

[map 41 - Freeway Wall, Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia]

[map 41 – Freeway Wall, Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia]

 Tony Birch

Waste Not

[map 6 - abandoned TV sets - Carlton, Victoria, Australia]

[map 6 – abandoned TV sets – Carlton, Victoria, Australia]

Not far from where I live, homeless men sleep under a bridge, particularly during winter months when it’s wet and cold. The makeshift shelter they have erected is less than a couple of metres off a bicycle and walking track. I sometimes use the track on my daily jog and make a point of nodding or waving to anyone using the shelter. The residents rarely wave back. People sometimes leave weighty bags in front of the entrance to the shelter; blankets and sleeping bags, secondhand clothing, food and cooking pots. Unfortunately, they leave too much stuff. Enough blankets to melt an iceberg and a mountain of camel-coloured chinos and chambray shirts – the weekend uniform of city lawyers.

Running by the shelter around sunset on a cool weekday night, one of the homeless men did wave back at me – and smiled. I stopped running and asked if there was anything he needed. He laughed and pointed to the truckload of ‘handouts’ that had turned up outside his ‘home’ in recent weeks. ‘Please, no,’ he laughed, raising his hands in defeat. ‘I’m in enough strife getting rid of all this shit’.

We accumulate so much excess we can’t give it away. Nobody wants it. There was a time when we worried about a thief jimmying the front window, sneaking into the house in the dead of night and knocking off the family TV – a traumatic event, if ever there was one. Our family’s first television was a His Master’s Voice. My mother, who continues to swear by the brand (if only she could find one) is still proud of the fact that our old HMV lasted fifteen years. (In dog years that’s around 90. I’m not sure of the arithmetic in TV years).

These days televisions, as with many electrical goods, are as disposable as a shitty nappy. They are built to last NOT. And when we tire of them, or they go bust, we don’t bother getting them fixed, selling them off secondhand or even giving them away. We dump them in the street, where they remain for days, even weeks. Nobody bothers taking them home. People have their own televisions that they need to get rid of.

Thinking about my involvement in the Weather Stations project – and the trash we create – I began a photographic project several weeks ago, documenting the TV sets I passed in the street each morning on my way to work. I quickly gathered an album of more than thirty images. As a consequence of the project I discovered that there’s nothing more forlorn looking or useless than a dead TV. (Or two dozen pairs of secondhand chinos).

Consumer culture is underpinned by an economic model, underpinned by manufacturers, underpinned by government policy and tax concessions, demanding that we buy more and more stuff. We then quickly get rid of the stuff and buy other stuff. (Which is often the same stuff). The stuff we get rid of is sometimes donated to the ‘less worthy’, helping us to feel good about ourselves. Other stuff we recycle, helping us feel exceptionally good about ourselves. But a lot of stuff just hangs around, lonely and materially obsolete. And it’s not that some of this stuff is not capable of a full and long life. (While multinational companies assure consumers that its not worth repairing that three-month-old mobile phone, take it to a local outdoor market and a dedicated Mr (or Ms) Fixit will have the device working in five minutes for a reasonable fee).

Your current TV, phone, laptop or iPoddy thing may not be looked upon with the same affection my mother continues to hold for her elder HMV. But maybe you could learn to love it a little, and a little longer. The homeless don’t want or need it. Local thieves sneer at the stuff. And when it finally finds its way to landfill, there it hibernates – for a long, long time.

Tony Birch

Nature in the sky: a sixpenny song for Billy Bragg

[map 42 - Singapore]

[map 42 – Singapore]

NATURE IN THE SKY

 

When the rich get richer

and pretty as a Monet picture

when the common touch

don’t mean that much

we’ll build nature in the sky

 

with palm trees and grass

and a deck-chair for the arse

we’ll enjoy the show

dying down there below

from our nature eyrie  in the sky

 

When you don’t count

and cannot amount

to a lump of coal

in a mining hole

or my ode to nature in the sky

 

we’ll kiss the world goodbye

 

Tony Birch

 

Speedo Boy punches above his weight on the world stage

Before joining Rupert Murdoch for dinner in New York recently, the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, reminded the world that he is a ‘job lover’, while those who believe that climate change is a serious problem, and that serious policies need need to be implemented NOW to address the effects of climate change are ‘job haters’.

(I have a job – and sometimes I hate my job, so there may be some sense in what Tony has said).

[map 21 - Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, swimming against the tide]

[map 21 – Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, swimming against the tide]

 The PM uses such sophisticated political language, reminiscent of his 2013 campaign mantra – STOP THE BOATS – STOP THE CARBON TAX  – (&) – THE COUNTRY WILL BE OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Abbott uses a language that appeals to the lowest common denominator. And the lowest common denominator is his own government. Abbott is not simply acting strategically. He is a TRUE BELIEVER – not in the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the immediate and future impact of climate change – but in a fundamentalist position that regards science itself as a threat to an economic, political and spiritual view of the world reliant more on the Bible than rigorous research.

Yesterday, while in New York, Abbott did state that climate change is ‘with us now’. But not as a real and present issue, but as some sort of mild nuisance easily pacified and contained. (See my previous entry on giant rabbits for Tony’s solution). Climate change is a problem for Tony only to the extent that it impinges on his grand project – leading a nation existing in a state of fantasy; a white outpost of some colonial homeland that no longer exists, in an unchanged climate existing as a convenient fiction.

I’ve never been an optimist (except for the blind faith I have in my football club). But if I’m a pessimist, I hope that I’m an ACTIVE pessimist. I have no faith in the current Australian government’s will to deal seriously with climate change, just as I had little faith in the previous Labor government. Strangely, I do have HOPE. Hope that even if it is through the hip pocket, Australians will realise in the near future that if our country gets left behind on assertive climate change policy, it will hurt us economically.

I have hope in direct political action. I also have hope in grassroots action. There’s more of it out there than we realise.

I even have faith in Tony. Why do you think he does so much swimming – up and down the pool, in the sea and in the bathtub? And why does he stride about in his togs? Because in his heart, deep down there somewhere, he knows that if the country continues to support his lack of action of climate change, we’ll all need to be really good swimmers.

He knows this. He knows this. Deep down in the heart of Speedo Boy. He does.

Go Tony, go.

Tony Birch

Shout To The Top?: for World Environment Day

One of the priorities of the Tony Abbott Coalition government (Liberal/National Party Coalition) when it came to power in 2013, was to axe the federal Climate Commission, an advisory body on matters of climate change and the environment more generally. Thanks to crowdsourcing and philanthropic donors, the organisation was reformed as the independent Climate Council.

The Council’s most recent report, Abnormal Autumn, provides sober information for those concerned about climate change. Not only has Australia experienced our warmest two years on record, with the likelihood of an El Niño weather event affecting the continent later in 2014, into 2015, it will only get hotter and certainly drier in the southern half of Australia. As the overwhelming majority of scientists now agree, the Council is telling us that climate change is not a concern for future generations; ‘Climate change is here, it is happening and Australians are already feeling its impact.’ (Climate Council report, quoted in The Guardian, 2 June 2014.)

[map 19 - 'I'm not going to take it anymore' - factory wall, Melbourne, Australia.]
[map 19 – ‘I’m not going to take it anymore’ – factory wall, Melbourne, Australia.]

The Weather Stations project asks creative writers to express our views on climate change. When the four writers from Europe were guests of the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, we talked a lot about the basic question – what can writing and writers do to inform the wider community about the issue? The talk was healthy and helpful, although, not unexpectedly, we didn’t come up with a clear answer (not to my knowledge, at least). I was initially frustrated by my own inability to confidently state – ‘I can make a difference’.

I’m no longer frustrated, because I realise that there is no answer to the question. I do not know if my writing makes a difference or not. But I do know that many writers have had an impact on the way I understand and respond to climate change, including our guests from Europe. The only way forward for writers and artists, I believe, is to do the work and put it out there. Give an essay, story, poem, film or image its life. And hope it connects …

In the meantime, we have the here and now – real weather change – to deal with. Here and now. I’m positive than if politicians and businesses continue to ignore the drastic need for new and assertive policies to deal with climate change, there will be increased levels of protest and direct action across the globe. This is an act of necessity when confronted with inaction.

When I was in Sydney last week for the writers’ festival, I went for a long run around the harbour. The sky was clear and the water sparkled. It was a beautiful day. While running, I thought about what would happen if I were to take a gallon of dirty oil and pour it into the harbour – in front of locals, tourist and the water authority. I expect I would be set upon and arrested (and, possibly, beaten to a pulp).

We are pouring poison into the atmosphere – NOW – and we’re getting away with it. Or so we think. In fact, we are paying a heavy price for our vandalism. And we’re not poisoning somebody else’s water and air, somebody we can forget about. We’re poisoning ourselves and each other.

Tony Birch

Never trust a man with a rabbit under his hat

A CROWN FOR A KING

A CROWN FOR A CROOKED KING

‘I’ve got a climate change solution,’ the winking PM spun throughout the cabinet room. ‘Try this on. We hunt down some rabbits, we fill them with hot air, we place them in a quality location – and wait for the people to come. They will be so taken with the rabbits, they’ll forget everything else. And I mean everything. They’ll be dizzy on hot air – and be all the happier for it.’

The cabinet room giggled like a kid on a gallon of red cordial.

[map 11 - The Hot Air Rabbits descend on Sydney]

[map 11 – The Hot Air Rabbits descend on Sydney]

And so the rabbits came. And geez, they were big. And for a time the people came, thousands of them. And they did forget – all their cares and woes. They wondered at the marvel of the giant rabbits. They nuzzled into them. Nobody worried at all about all that hot air. Where it might go and the damage it might cause to the planet were thoughts not worth contemplating. The rabbits were a gift of joyous distraction. And who could complain about that, without being told, ‘get over it, Mr Misery, and let the kids have some fun.’

[map 12 - one unhappy hot air rabbit - Sydney]

[map 12 – one unhappy hot air rabbit – Sydney]

But there was trouble afoot. And it was an angry rabbit’s foot, bringing no luck but bad. The hot air rabbits discovered that the grass beneath their feet was plastic. It tasted, well, like plastic. They didn’t enjoy being poked at by children. Or having elderly men fall asleep in their laps. And they were disappointed that they were full of nothing but the winking PM’s hot air. So the rabbits held a meeting and decided that enough was enough. They plotted against the PM and planned an escape.

[map 12 - the escape vessel, Sydney Habour]

[map 12 – the escape vessel, Sydney Harbour]

That night, after the crowds had left, the giant rabbits began to scratch at each other, piercing holes in their hot air coats. They quickly deflated, expelling the last of the hot air from their bodies. In the early morning the now flattened rabbits disguised themselves as giant plastic bags. They headed for a nearby ferry terminal and and bought one-way tickets for a ferry ride across the water, vowing never to expel wasteful hot air again – or for that matter, disguise themselves as plastic bags.

The PM was perplexified. No rabbit in the political history of the nation had dissented in such a manner. No rabbit had ever claimed that hot air was not good for the people, the environment, or rabbits themselves. He needed to spin a new distraction to keep the people at bay – satisfied, pacified, and holding to their position at number 6 on the global happiness register.

[map 13 - The Happy People]

[map 13 – The Happy People]

[map 14 - The More Happy People]

[map 14 – The More Happy People]

The PM came up with a new plan. It was as cheeky as his wink. He created a NEW SET OF DISTRACTIONS, and put them before the cabinet. His ministers replied as one, ‘yippie, you’re a genius.’ The PM had offered the people beauty pageants. He built them A Stairway To Heaven – which unfortunately ended in a cloud of poisonous hot air left behind by the polluting rabbits.

[map 14 - The winner of the 'get my mind out of here before I start thinking' pageant]

[map 15 – The winner of the ‘get my mind out of here before I start thinking’ pageant]

[map 15 - The Stairway to (even more) delusion]

[map 16 – The Stairway to (even more) delusion]

But the people had finally seen through the PM, and his wink, and his overblown rabbits, his tiaras, and bright lights, and said ‘enough is enough, we must act and not sit back.’ So, the PM, in a last-ditched effort to win the people over, suggested, ‘hey, let’s do yum cha.’ And they shouted back, ‘no yum cha, today, Sonny Jim,’ (although that was not his true name – which we cannot mention as we have a law suit hanging over our heads).

[map 17 - the final manifesto to save the planet]

[map 17 – the PM’s manifesto for saving the planet]

The PM was furious. Both eyes winked madly, like a speed freak in a lighting shop that’s gone on the blink because there’s been a power cut down the road which means that the globes tend to behave erratically and that’s why we’re gradually phasing them out and replacing them with LEDs.

Lost for words, lost for spin and sinking in the polls, the PM communed with GOD – and was told, ‘you have given the people everything, Sonny Jim. All your spin, all your love of the common people, all of that mad eye of yours. And what do you get in return? Abdicating rabbits. People who wouldn’t know a cheap meal if it bit them on the arse. And a guy who can’t run an electrical store. The time of entitlement is over, Sonny. Tough times require tough leaders. It’s time you cracked the whip. And you’re the man. It’s your hot air the people need, whether they know it or not.

‘What Do We Want?  Hot Air!  And When Do We Want it?  Now!’

So Sonny Jim, Prime Minister, leader of the  GREATEST nation on Earth, suited up – ready to deliver some hard medicine.

[map 18 - The Semi-Final Solution]

[map 18 – The Semi-Final Solution]

 Tony Birch

Big Sky Home

[map 9 - Station Street, Carlton, Victoria, The World]

[map 9 – Station Street, Carlton, Victoria, The World]

On the arrival of the humans the sky lay quiet, waiting. The humans could not look to the sky with knowledge, and with handfuls of dirt thrown into the air the sky was darkened with weight and poison. The sky fell and pressed against bone and skin until the humans lay down, their bodies flattened to the earth. They could not see. Or breathe. And waited to die. Their ears blocked with waste, they did not hear the call of the magpie’s arrival. She opened her wings, and on them the sky lifted and floated above once more. The humans gathered their bodies and stood again, and blessed the magpie and came to love the sky. Yesterday, when our friends arrived, and tomorrow when they leave us for home and those they love, we want them to know we share the same sky. And we will remember them –  always – and we will love them as the magpie and the big sky love us.

Tony Birch