Edible weeds

f13

Along the river we went like your ancestors had done. We examined the weeds and reeds closely deciding what was safe and edible and sometimes referring to our expert Patrick. A salad was prepared using all the approved plants as well as some olive oil as dressing and some garlic for extra flavour. The exercise we performed by gathering the plants, weeds and herbs was called foraging. Most of the plants had a salty or bitter flavour and other flavours resembled broccoli and rocket. The salad contained 12 different herbs, plants and weeds at all had their own unique and contrasting flavours.

– Mac / Footscray City College Substation

Foraging reflection

f15

We stepped past the wrappers, through the swarm of abandoned plastic bags. The ground littered with the remnants of oil-soaked meals. We found what is underneath the plastic coating, what has been sprayed with countless poisons. They keep resurfacing, they have always been here. Here before the flashing red and yellow lights of fast food. Here before the endless aisles, the rows of processed, packaged food. These are the plants that have fed for thousands of years, which have been pulled from the ground by generations. Tasting of bitterness and green, these are the foods of the earth.

 

– Maxine / Footscray City College Substation

Food foraging

f10

Today was an interesting day. A man named Patrick from Daylesford came in and took us on a food hunt. We walked down to the Maribyrnong River and Patrick showed us which plants and flowers we could eat. He told us that we should be careful what we pick because some plants have been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. We collected a whole variety of plants and flowers and the walk overall was great. Patrick showed us that you don’t have to go to the shops to buy food when you can just go out into your backyard and find loads of different foods.

The salad looked delicious and colourful although it was a bit spicy. The smell was very strong so I didn’t like it in the end but the salad tasted all right.

– Gabriel / Footscray City College Substation

The Things On My Skin

For younger kids, or primary school teachers, here’s a little poem about Earth and the daft life that lives on it.

 

AAAGH!

These things on my skin!

These things on my skin!

I’m all that they’ve got,

I’m the world they live in.

 

Flowing waves, blowing winds,

Move like hands round a clock,

I’m a thin living skin,

Round a hard ball of rock.

 

Just look what they’re doing!

Can’t they smell the bad air?

I was fine with the poo and

The farts that’s all fair.

 

They’re all living creatures,

They have to let rip,

It’s part of their nature,

But I’m ready to flip!

 

AAAGH!

They’re drilling my skin!

They’re drilling my skin!

They’ve oil rigs and diggers,

They’re jabbing them in.

 

It’s the smoke that’s the thing,

That drives me insane.

That and the digging,

The drilling . . . the pain!

 

I’ve got land, I’ve got seas,

There’s enough to go round,

But stop cutting down trees!

Don’t dig up ALL my ground!

 

They crawl on my surface,

They’re making me itch,

The smell makes me nervous,

Makes my atmosphere twitch.

 

AAAGH!

They’re eating my skin!

They’re eating my skin!

Machines in their billions,

Gulping it in!

 

Watch them poison my soil,

Watch them making a mess,

Burning coal, burning oil,

Liquid dinosaur flesh.

 

It took so long to make,

It took millions of years,

But they’re so quick to take it,

They have me in tears.

 

My whole body’s ruined,

I mean, sure, it’ll mend,

If these slobs, these buffoons,

See some sense in the end.

 

They put stuff in the air,

That should stay in the land,

What’s that doing up there?

I’ve had all I can stand!

 

AAAGH!

They’re burning my skin!

They’re burning my skin!

Their fires like cigarettes,

I’m breathing in!

 

The air and the oceans,

Are losing their cool,

It’s got me emotional,

Feeling the fool.

 

The smoke’s like a blanket,

All itchy and hot,

It’s warming this planet,

When I’d just rather not.

 

My weather’s mutating,

And not for the better,

The bits they all hate,

Will get hotter or wetter.

 

AAAGH!

These things on my skin!

These things on my skin!

They’re changing my weather,

With new waves and winds.

 

The heat whips up storms,

Churns up the sea’s flow,

From the whales to the worms,

Nature’s hit with cruel blows.

 

But there’s still hope for me,

There’s still all those kids,

Who are starting to see,

What the grown-ups did.

 

To that thin layer of air,

The air they all breathe,

Now they’re starting to care,

About where this all leads.

 

Flowing waves, blowing winds,

Move like hands round a clock,

I’m a thin living skin,

Round a hard ball of rock.

 

I’m all that you’ve got,

I’m all that you need.

Before I get too hot,

You should stop and just . . . breathe.

Falling in Love with Polzeath – Molly Slight

Polzeath - Cornwall

Every summer, my family would pile into two cars at three o’clock in the morning and set off to Polzeath, Cornwall, arriving just as the sun was coming up over the water. Before even checking in to our holiday apartment, we would change into our wetsuits in the car park off the beach and run straight for the sea. If you’ve ever swum in the English Channel – you know how brave this is, even in a wetsuit.

We would surf until our hands turned blue and then struggle up the beach, making lines in the sand where our boards dragged behind us, to the little café where we would buy bacon sandwiches and hot chocolates which scalded our tongues. Other people went to the Caribbean or Malta for their holidays, but sitting on the beach, warming our hands on polystyrene cups until they were pink again, this was perfect for us.

Molly Slight lives in London and works as a Publishing Assistant for Scribe. She escapes to the sea whenever she can.

After Flying for a Day and a Half Halfway around the World

By Mirko Bonne April 29, 2014

Tell it to the Bees: Australian Journal 1

The lovely light over Melbourne that first bright morning – as though the world, the whole south, would be nothing but bright blue. I hadn’t yet seen or heard a single bird, but all night long I’d heard the twitter of an air conditioner from the roof of the neighboring apartment building, exactly as though a flock of budgies were roosting there. A sudden loud swell of windmill sails, perhaps a dream, but then a fire siren came racing down the chasms of the streets. After flying for a day and a half halfway around the world – from Abu Dhabi on over Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean, past Perth and Adelaide – it was the most restful sleep I’d had in months. To wake up in such light – to wake up just once like that from the unreality in your life.

And don’t forget: from spring you flew into fall. Where was the summer en route? I grasp this autumnal April only in the Carlton Gardens, where I walk beneath the old sycamores and chestnuts and hear the first strange birds, a crawking and squeaking, an agitated bursting into flight, not a rustling, a rattling, clattering. Fallen leaves are everywhere, but the air is mild, a warm wind, a cirrostratus sky, but with clouds three times the size as those over Hamburg, Frankfurt or Paris. Again and again in these first days in Melbourne I observe vast cloud fields, mostly flooding in from the west over the Yarra River, seeming inconceivably swift, even when the wind barely stirs the treetops. Darkness falls quickly, dusk lasting barely twenty minutes, and the weather is just as quick to change. A cool rainy morning is followed two hours later by a radiant, warm noon; by an afternoon rent by gusts of wind and darkened by towering clouds; by an evening in which, at sunset, three frigate birds circle in the orange sky.

 

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole

 

The Island’s Caretaker

By Mirko Bonne February 17, 2015

Tell It to the Bees: Australian Journal 16

My fear of the sea floor’s rapid drop into the submarine night beyond the reef, of encountering a moray, a fear as old as my thoughts of what could happen if a shark, a spider crab, a school of poisonous jellyfish trailing yard-long strands of burning nettle hooks, a grouper… my fear that panic could seize me in the water is too great for me to go swimming and snorkeling with the rest of the group. I gaze out at the water. I don’t dive, but my eyes dive down.

Suppenschildkröte

A pale turquoise sea turtle lollops past. A fish swims by so close to the boat that I freeze in wonder: so big, so bright red, almost perfectly round and striped black. And several pale-brown sharks, not very big, but big enough, circle around, crouching as it were, making a school of fusilier fish part before their flat snouts and whir off in different directions like finches before a buzzard.

After returning to the ship, several snorkelers post the photos they’ve just taken on Facebook or wherever, while I gaze over at Woody Island, a clump of mangroves where access is forbidden, and probably impossible. At least I certainly wouldn’t survive there long, what with my fear of those creatures waiting for God knows what in the salty mud between the tidal trees.

Bell Rock-Leuchtturm vor ArbroathOn Low Island there’s a lighthouse that was imported from Scotland in the 19th century – it might even be the work of one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s relatives, who were among Scotland’s leading lighthouse builders.

The island where the Scottish lighthouse stands is so tiny that a ten minutes’ walk takes me past the same seagull standing just as before in the sand, looking at me questioningly.

A museum little larger than a bicycle shed covers the history of Low Island, the first island in the Great Barrier Reef to produce all its electricity solely from the wind and the sun. But then, it has only one inhabitant.Low Isles

And not always the same one. The island’s caretaker switches every three weeks; the Low Isles Preservation Society LIPS organizes the volunteers. The “Sailaway IV”, a sailing catamaran whose diesel motor is used only near the coast, is taking the past weeks’ caretaker back to Port Douglas: a stocky elderly lady who talks about the cooperation between the LIPS and the local aborigines.

The skipper of the “Sailaway” recalls a caretaker from his boyhood. In 1972 the man took his two sons out to the island in a dinghy to save them from an approaching storm, and none of the three was ever seen again.

The only person shocked by the story is me. After all, Australia is the continent of disappearance, so much so that you have to wonder whether Australia as a whole won’t vanish from the earth someday, just like that.

WallabyEverything disappears here. Person after person gets lost in the outback. Whole swathes of land burn. A tornado destroys the sugar cane harvest. A prime minister sinks into a kelp forest. Animal species seem to die out overnight. A river dries up. People clear forests that for thousands of years have housed koalas, and bats that exist hardly anywhere else in the whole endangered batless world.

Everything belongs to an endangered species, everything is endangered, mangroves, platypuses, dingoes, parrots that now exist only in zoos. Restaurants catering to day-trippers keep pythons in glass cases, and barbed-wire cages house wallabies with eyes so sad that they bring you to your knees. No one knows whether the Tasmanian tiger still exists. They’re looking for it, but decades on, it still hasn’t been found.

Lagoons turn into train stations; droughts devastate a region as large as the great country of Poland. Tasmania’s aborigines were wiped out, except for one woman and one man. And another man, charged with the care of a coral island, rides out onto the sea with his sons in a little motor boat.

He rides and rides and rides and rides and doesn’t even notice that he and the two boys are long dead.

Photos: green turtle (1), lighthouse at Arbroath, Scotland, built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather (2), the Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef: Woody Island, left, and Low Island, right (3), Wallaby (4)

 

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole

The Fig Tree

By Mirko Bonne December 1, 2014

 

fig tree 1

Summer’s rubbish everywhere, plastic splendor on every slope. Tossed away, trodden flat, left lying, forgotten – the packaging of what once was, and is never to return, bottles of all colors, rust-corroded tins, a faded bag, a torn suitcase. Cars abandoned years ago by the roadside, wrecks, half-cannibalized, half-decayed, shat in, besmeared, oil-slicked. You squat, eye caught by something pale on the asphalt, and see a little goddess doll, with just half a head, no more body left, but Aphrodite’s smile on its lips. In the dry grass, layer upon layer, lie the remains of what couldn’t be stuffed into the crevices and niches of these walls whose stones have been used over and over, over and over again. Severed power lines in the trees, a branching of wires. On the beach a tide of toothbrushes, a spume of bags and bottle tops, caps and pens, laces, buttons, and the faded blind eyes of stuffed animals.

fig tree 2

On the tiny Greek isle of Symi, just a few sea miles from the Turkish coast, a house stands in the upper town of the fishing harbor, its roof beams, walls and floors prized open by a tree that has claimed, bit by bit, the abandoned masonry. The beautiful dark green fig grows on the junk and trash that is tossed in through the windows – tossed as though into a shaft in which the inevitability of decay merges with emptiness, and time and death fade in the face of sheer life.

Feige in Santa Barbara

 

 

 

 

Photos: Plastic in the Mediterranean near Rhodes (1), house with fig tree on Symi (2), fig tree in Santa Barbara, California (3)

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole

Thoughts on the stories we have told.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the old stories – seeing links between these and the climate change we’ve brought upon our planet. In particular, I’ve been thinking about Pandora’s Box and also The Expulsion from Eden and seeing, in these tales, ripples out to the story of now.

In the Climate Change version of Pandora’s Box we were all complicit in the whispering urging to open that box, “for the advancement of human kind open it now Pandora!” And once it was out we couldn’t or wouldn’t put it back – unlike Pandora, we were entranced not horrified by what we’d released.

And did a weary God shake their head as we plucked that apple of knowledge – the one that made us so very aware of all we wanted and all we could take from the garden we were supposed to care for? It was the moment we exalted ourselves above all nature; the moment we believed ourselves to be somehow both separate and more than all that. Yet, once expelled, we didn’t heed the lesson, but instead like a petulant child we obstinately and defiantly repeated and expanded our mistakes. Of course, in the retelling we insisted that it had been God who had exalted us in the first place.

Did we ever really feel our connection with this wondrous place – our home? Was there a time when we rejoiced in our position as a small component of all that our home is? A time when we understood how we were a mere strand of all that existed? A time when we knew that a tug or break on this strand or that led to the unravelling of so much more? A time when we heard Gaia’s heartbeat – when lying on the earth watching the ants toil felt like watching the universe? A time when laying palm upon the soil felt like placing a hand upon your own skin?

Now we gleefully disembowel her in a frenzy of greed and displace the truth tellers who, inconveniently, tend the places we have set out to plunder. So I wonder, Pandora, what little scrap is left fluttering at the bottom of the box – is it still hope? And Adam and Eve when will you understand that you are but a tiny singular strand of that whole precious web?

Iluska Farkas, London Substation coordinator