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

 

 

 

Mother Nature……… by Anas Ahmadzai

The painfully sharp sapphire blue sky covers the above,

Skin flakes are grateful to have salty sweat moisture,

Cracks are inevitably dry on the face of the earth,

Like the dry rashes that lay on your arm , the dry land silently begs for moisture,

A heavy blessing from the heavens would only do for all,

Mother Nature’s eyes were once like glaciers but are now drowned in tears,

Mother Nature’s skin once like golden desert sand but now dry like the present cracks,

We’re not playing a game of poker,

If we risk our Mother Nature then we lose all,

We will lose all.

 

Hello from Islington Arts and Media School, UK

Hello to all Substations out there!

We’d like to introduce ourselves to you. We are a happy multicultural school in the London borough of Islington with committed staff, lots of facilities and many exciting opportunities to develop our talents further such as this Weather Stations project.

The IAMS substation is a group of Year 10 (15 year olds) students who have been working with Free Word. We meet up for a regular after school session with the Substation Co-ordinator from Free Word. We have also met up with some of the Weather Station’s international writers. So far we’ve; considered our favourite weather and childhood memories with Tony Birch from Australia; discussed writing from our own experiences with Xiaolu Guo from London; learnt about crafting a narrative with Oisin McGann from Ireland. Take a look at some of our writing on the Global Weather Stations website.

We are in the heart of busy urban London near to Finsbury Park station and not far from Arsenal Football Club. Some of us have lived in different countries however this project is introducing us to scenes, thoughts and ideas from around our planet and we’re very excited to be heading to Berlin later this year and meeting all of you!

So, goodbye for now and see you in September.

IAMS Substation.

A Thousand Words for Snow – Part Two


Continued from part one, which you can read here.

4.

The press conference is held in the morning. When the general delegates arrive, a line of important speakers are already on the stage. Tekk is on the stage too with a nametag on his chest. He is given a place at the side of the table, next to Hans.

The chairman makes a welcoming speech and emphasizes the deep importance of research into climate change. His speech is long. Tekk starts to doze, slumping in his seat. Then the chair begins to introduce the delegates on the stage: scientists, professors, activists, and so on. When he gets to Tekk, he announces Tekk as the ‘last Nanook from Greenland: the ice melting community.’ The audience applauds with excitement, while cameras click frantically. Hans hints to Tekk that he should stand up for photos.

Then the chairman continues: ‘Tekkeit Qaasuitsup, one of the last Nanook from northern Greenland will be making a speech in the next few days about his family’s traditional way of life, and what we can learn about the Inuit culture. Now, without further ado, let’s begin the conference…’

A few hours later, a huge close-up of Tekk’s face under his walrus fur hat has appeared everywhere in Berlin’s media. The headlines above the photo say things like: ‘LAST NANOOK IN TOWN!’ or ‘WHAT ESKIMOS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT OUR MODERN WORLD’.

The conference moves along smoothly, and soon all the delegates are having their lunch break. They are in the dinning room next to a very lush garden, enjoying a buffet. A number of people come to shake hands with Tekk, asking him about his family and his trip. Tekk’s attention is drawn by something in the garden.

His eyes are following a young woman in a red dress passing through the garden. Hans follows Tekk’s line of sight, and sees the black haired young woman, carrying a caged raven across the flower bed.

‘Did you see that? Hans? That black bird?’

‘Yes. A raven, actually,’ Hans answers, curiously. ‘A raven in a cage. It’s the first time I’ve seen a raven as a pet.’

As they watch the woman, she seems to sense their gazes and looks back. She smiles to them mysteriously. Just when Tekk runs into the garden, she disappears.

‘Sedna! I found my Sedna!’ Tekk cries.

‘What is Sedna?’ Hans follows him out.

‘Sedna! Our Inuit sea goddess!’

‘You mean the raven or the young woman?’ Hans asks.

‘The young woman! Her name is Sedna!’

‘Okay, calm down, Tekk.’ Hans says: ‘Do you want to tell me who she is?’

‘Yes. She was a very beautiful Inuit girl with long black hair, just like that woman.’ Tekk is still walking around restlessly in the garden, hoping to encounter the scene again. ‘Everyone in our region knows the story. Because Sedna was so beautiful, she was always turning down the hunters who came to her house wishing to marry her. But Sedna’s family was very poor, so her father wanted to marry her off. Her father said to her: “Sedna, we have no food and we will go hungry soon. You need a husband to take care of you, so the next hunter who comes to ask for your hand in marriage, you must marry him!” One day a hunter covered in smooth black fur arrived before their igloo, and asked Sedna’s father if he could marry his daughter. Sedna said yes, though she didn’t even see the man’s face. She was then placed aboard the hunter’s kayak and journeyed to her new home. You know what a kayak is?’

‘Yes, I know what a kayak is. So what happened to her and her strange husband?’

‘It was a long way on the sea. It was snowy and windy. They covered themselves in their heavy robes. For the whole tripe, Sedna never saw her new husband’s face. At last they arrived at an island. Sedna looked around. She could see nothing. No hut, no tent, no cooking pots, just bare rocks and a cliff. Her new home was a few tufts of animal hair and feathers strewn about on the hard, cold rocks. As they stepped onto the rocks, the hunter stood before Sedna and pulled down his hood. He let out an evil laugh. Guess what?’

‘Sedna’s husband was not a man but a raven! Is that the story?’ Hans smiles.

‘Yes, you Germans are clever people! He is a big ugly black crow!’

‘So then what? Did she live with that evil bird for the rest of her life?’ Hans asks impatiently, aware that everyone around them is finishing lunch. Yet Tekk and Hans have not started eating yet.

‘Of course Sedna didn’t want to live with that ugly black bird. But it was a long way home. She couldn’t just go back by herself… ’

At this point the conference organizer comes to them and interrupts Tekk’s story. ‘Hello Tekk, hello Hans, I hope you are enjoying the press conference this morning?’

Tekk shakes hands with the organizer. He then realizes how hungry he is. He rushes to the food table, grabs a plate and serves himself some food.

‘Indeed. I just hope our friend from Greenland can take a whole week of conferencing!’ Hans greets the organizer, heaping salad onto his plate at the same time.

‘Don’t worry. If our Inuit friend gets bored with all the talks, you can take him sightseeing. There is lots to do in Berlin – the Holocaust Museum, the Checkpoint and so on. What do you think, Tekk?’

Tekk’s face cracks into a dry smile. He is busy with his deep fried schnitzel.

‘How did you find Berlin, Tekk? Have you seen our famous bear yet?’ the organizer asks.

‘Bear?’ Tekk swallows some schnitzel, startled. ‘You have bears in Germany?’

‘Yes,’ the organizer answers, ‘we have our own famous polar bear. His name is Knat.’

‘You are teasing me!’ Tekk stops eating, and is exasperated. ‘Where is he? Can we go to see him now?’ He turns imploringly to Hans.

Hans laughs. ‘Not now,’ he says, ‘but maybe later if you are not too tired.’

Journalists crowd around them, urging Tekk to pose in his fur hat and to smile at the camera. Tekk poses with the hat, but he cannot summon a smile.

 

5.

Tekk and Hans are queuing in front of Berlin Zoo. Like them, there are lots of people waiting to enter. Eventually, Hans gets hold of two tickets.

As they pass the entrance, Tekk is already impressed by the scale of the zoo, with its lush plantations and artificial hills. He asks lots of questions.

‘So people find all sorts of animals and then put them here, not killing them?’

‘No. That’s why we can see them, I mean, to be able to see a live tiger eating and running before our eyes.’

‘A tiger!’ Tekk exclaims: ‘I saw them on TV. Very scary animals! I don’t want to see them. Please don’t take me to meet one.’

‘Okay, no tigers then.’ Hans smiles, leading him further into the zoo. ‘I will make sure you don’t meet any animal you don’t want to meet. But you haven’t finished your story yet. About Sedna! What happened after that beautiful girl married the ugly raven?’

‘Yes… Sedna discovered her husband was only a black crow. Frightened and saddened, she tried to escape, but the big bird would drag her to the edge of a cliff, threatening to push her off. The bird also begged her to be his companion, as his life was too lonely to endure. So she became the raven’s wife, living on bare rocks. Everyday, the raven would fly out and bring back home raw fish. And that was the only food she could eat. She cried and cried and called her father’s name. The howling arctic winds carried the sound of Sedna’s weeping cries all the way to her father’s ears. Sedna’s father recognized the call in the air and knew it came from his daughter’s weeping. One day—’

Tekk stops narrating the tale. He is distracted by some big animals in front of him. His face is anguished and frightened. They are in front of some gorillas. Apparently Tekk has never seen a gorilla in his life. He is crying and laughing at the sight of such large, dark, human-like animals.

‘Maybe they are also men, don’t you think, Hans?’ Tekk asks with a trembling voice.

When a gorilla comes towards them, Tekk becomes very still. Then suddenly he drops to his knees, facing the fence and praying to the gorilla.

Hans observes Tekk’s strange behaviour, raising an eyebrow but saying nothing.

They move towards the enclosure where the giraffes live. Tekk carefully observes the towering animals, impressed by their long necks.

‘I wish I had such a long neck, so I could see the enemy coming from a far distance.’ Then he kneels down again: ‘Hans, we must pray. Otherwise they will revenge us one day.’

Hans shrugs his shoulders, watching Tekk pray to the animals while murmuring a string of inaudible words.

Finally they walk towards the zoo’s most famous tourist attraction: the polar bear. The area is surrounded by tourists. Everybody is waiting by the fence with their cameras and smart phones. According to the news report, the famous bear has made no appearance for a few days.

But as soon as Tekk gets close to the fence, things change. From behind some large rocks, a huge white body gradually appears. All the visitors hold up their cameras with anticipation. Tekk stares at the great bear, the famous Knat, who is now sitting on a rock by the water, looking bored and lonely. Paying no attention to the tourists and constant clicking cameras, the polar bear surveys the shallow water around him.

‘Oh Tekk, you are lucky to have a chance to meet our city’s super star. He has created about 2 million euros annual income for us.’ Hans says with some excitement.

‘How?’ Tekk asks.

‘How? You see all these people here? They bought tickets just want to see the polar bear.’

‘Knat…’ Tekk murmurs. ‘In Greenland we don’t wish to see bears face to face. We would wish them the best of luck, but don’t want to invite them any closer.’

A team of school kids arrive. They push Tekk to the side and jump around, trying to catch a glimpse of the super star animal.

‘Well, Knat has not been very happy in the last few months. Some animal experts say he is missing his native land, or he needs some companion. He does look a little sad. Sometimes he refuses to come out to bathe in the sun. He just hides in his caves, so no one can see him.’

Tekk seems to understand this situation very well. He says; ‘I would be the same, if I were put in a big cage. I would die, I think, probably in three days. ’

The more Tekk watches the bear, the more he is affected. As if caught by some magic power, Tekk is rooted to the ground. His hands grip the fence. His eyes follow every movement the bear makes. And he speaks as if in a dream: ‘I think he knows me…’

Under Tekk’s gaze, Knat finally seems to respond to Tekk. The animal’s eyes shine with sadness and hope. Tekk is in trance, and keeps murmuring. ‘Oh Hans,’ he says, ‘he is watching me. I think he knows me…’

 

6.

A gust of wind blows above the zoo, carrying the sound of sirens and city traffic. Knat suddenly makes a sorrowful and angry cry. Slowly, he walks back to his cave, and decides to hide himself away for a little while. He shakes himself as if from a swoon, rubbing his eyes. Hans asks if he’s alright. Tekk says nothing, pulling at the fence, his head down. Then, suddenly, as if snapping out of a dream, Tekk resumes his black raven story.

‘So I was telling you that Sedna had to become the raven’s wife, and cries her eyes out on the cliff every day. Then one day, Sedna’s father heard his daughter’s cries through the snowy wind. He felt very guilty for what he had done to his daughter. So he decided it was time to rescue her. He killed a big walrus, preparing food to eat for the next several days. He loaded up his kayak with food and water, and followed the sound of the crying. He paddled for three days through the icy arctic waters to Sedna’s home. As soon as he approached the island of Sedna’s husband, he saw a red figure standing on a cliff. He recognized his daughter, wearing the same red dress she had had on when she left home. She was so happy and surprised to see her father, she ran towards him and quickly climbed into his kayak. They paddled away without hesitation. After many hours of travel, Sedna and the father turned and saw a black speck far off into the distance. They knew it was Sedna’s angry husband flying to chase her.’

At this point the polar bear inside the cave howls twice, as if he can hear the story and understands it well. The bear then emerges from his cave. Tekk stops speaking: he cannot help but be drawn in by the bear. The bear seems to meet Tekk’s gaze.

‘Maybe we should walk around the fence, in between the tourists,’ Tekk suggests. ‘So I can see if the bear really recognizes me.’

As they walk around the enclosure, at first the polar bear loses sight of Tekk. But after a few moments, the animal finds Tekk again amongst the crowd. It’s like some electric current passes between their eyes. But then suddenly two zoo keepers distract the bear by throwing a large rubber seal into the enclosure, their hope being to get the depressed bear to do some exercise. Knat seems to be roused into an angry state, leaping from his rock, and starts to tear the rubber seal apart.

Tekk turns away in disgust. He drags Hans away from the enclosure to a bench near a tree. With a sigh, he continues the story: ‘So the big black raven chased after his wife, steadily gaining on her, riding on the wind. Finally he swooped down on the kayak. Sedna’s father took his paddle and struck at the raven, but missed it. The huge bird continued to harass them. Finally the raven swooped down near the kayak and flapped his wing upon the ocean. A vicious storm began to brew. The calm ocean soon became a raging torrent, tossing the tiny kayak to and fro. Sedna’s father became very frightened. He grabbed Sedna and threw her over the side of the kayak into the ocean. “Here”, he screamed: “here is your precious wife. Please do not hurt me. Take her!” Sedna screamed and struggled as her body began to go numb in the icy arctic waters. She swam to the kayak and reached up, her fingers grasping the side of the boat. Her father, terrified by the raging storm, thought only of himself, as he had always done. He grabbed the paddle and began to pound against Sedna’s fingers. Sedna screamed for her father to stop but to no avail. Her frozen fingers cracked and fell off into the ocean. Gradually, all her fingers turned into seals and swam away under the water. She tried again to swim and cling to her father’s kayak, but again he grabbed the paddle and began beating at her hands. Sedna’s hands froze and cracked off. The stumps slowly drifted to the bottom of the sea, this time turning into whales and walruses. Sedna could fight no more and began to sink.’

‘What a sad story,’ Hans gasps. ‘The father is as bad as the raven.’

‘In Sedna’s desperation,’ Tekk went on, ‘she turned her body parts into sea creatures – her hair became millions of shrimps and little fish, her intestines became lobsters and octopuses, her sorrow became seaweed and her longing became a sand dune on the beach. Finally her red dress became the Mara Mountain towards the North Pole, protecting people from the icy wind. Now all the hungry Inuit families could get their food from the rich sea which had become filled with sea animals. They could now build their huts at the foot of the mountain. It is for this reason in our region that after a hunter catches a seal he will kneel towards the direction of the Mara Mountain and drops water into the mouth of the mammal before he kills it, a gesture to thank Sedna. Sedna is our sea goddess.’

‘But what happened to that horrible father and the evil bird?’ Hans asks.

‘Both the father and the evil bird were taken by a polar bear. Actually the polar bear was the master bear of that region and he knew all this was going on. So he punished the raven and the father.’

Tekk has finished his story. They both grow silent, as they gaze back into the distance. Inside the fence, the bear has already retreated into his cave. Hans sees this as an opportunity to leave. He promises Tekk that they will come back to see Knat tomorrow.

 

Read part three of this story

There is never enough water … by Rita Paz

The earth is in a cry for help.

Our skin burns like never before

as cracks cannot be filled in, as if the earth’s crust

was like glass.

As we take a wrong step we break our surface.

Pods cannot grow in such darkness.

We act as if there is no right or wrong on our planet.

But is there a solution to the decay of earth?

Are we saving ourselves or are we never learning the lesson, until

until…

until it is too late.

Are we as intelligent as we think we are?

Is our brain big enough to understand that without a planet, we cannot study the planet!

So should we keep searching for WATER in the Universe or SAVE the ONE that we HAVE?

THINK.

There is no more hope…by Mo Konteh

The unforgiving clouds release no rain

Skin is as dry as the ground we walk

Cracks appear and cannot be covered

Like a fish out of water, it is hard to cope.

A droplet would create peace of mind,

Pods of replenishing goodness is a thing of yesterday.

There is no more hope.

Never did I expect to admit this.

Is this a sign of weakness…

Enough warnings were given.

Water is gone and we are to blame.

A memory by Bella Amodeo

 

For me the sea used to be a beautiful place with a pleasant atmosphere but now as things change, the sea also changes in to a dangerous weapon that takes lives rather than regenerates them…

                                                                       

                                                        As I walked closer to my new discovery                   imagesCAZTWVAZ  

I could hear the light blue waves

washing up on to the hot golden sand.

As I approached the waves I could feel

the scorching earth grow colder and colder

until I stopped and waited for the transparent water to tickle my toes.

The blazing sun beamed down on my back

turning me red like a lobster.

The delicate ocean touched me gently

giving me goosebumps all over my skin

As the waves retreated they drew me in.

I followed their lead and threw myself in to that deeper world,

My body moving quickly in shock from this new sensation.

I let this feeling wash over me so I could explore this new

magical place that I now found myself in.

 

Rare Species

In our workshop with Xiaolu she asked us to move on from the rural images of our mythical past and focus on the urban environments we walk every day. To be true to our experiences and speak of what our eyes witness every day.   Here is my story.

Students at Islington Arts and Media School working on their creative writing, using the senses as a stimulus.

Students at Islington Arts and Media School working on their creative writing, using the senses as a stimulus.

IMG_6711

Rare Species

When I walk the streets of my youth

It is hard to ignore a pressing truth,

that everyday a species dies

But no one listens to their cries.

Where are the things I took for granted,

That made me feel rooted, planted.

I am not talking about things of green

But the places, the spaces, I have been.

The Post Office, Corner Shop and Coffee Bar.

Where I ran an errand, bought some sweets,

Got taken out for Sunday treats!

They have become dots on a corporate plan

That doesn’t care about the little man

whose business slowly dies a death

while customers watch his dying breath

from over a sea of Caramel Latte

They enjoy the branded party.

When I walk the streets of my youth

It is hard to ignore a pressing truth,

One we should have seen from afar:

That What we drink, has become Who we are.

By Ashley Grey

When I was then

The sun beamed onto the crystallised grass,

Although bright, the air was frosty.

The wind slid through the door leading to my garden which chilled our bodies as if we had been plunged into winter.

The grass cunched like autumn leaves. Our night clothes practically set in stone and our bare feet were as cold as a witch’s heart.

Our quick footsteps pounded across the lawn as our feet numbed.

We soon realised that going on a trampoline in polar-like temperatures was not the best of ideas.imagesCAAKVBAB