thomas m wilson

Two French Pastorals

April 11th, 2007


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This is the south-east of France, in the hills north-west of Lyon that drain into the Soane River. At the start of 2001 I stood on a hill here, near the tiny village of St. Cyr le Chatoux. I was alone and I sat down on a grassy bank beside the road, and looked out into the valley before me. This is what I saw. The pastoral quiet and gentle sunshine still rise clearly from my memory.

Monet’s Poppies is a painting familiar to many. Take a look at this new take on that old painting. I saw this image recently and it made me think anew about the concept of pastoral in the rural landscape. The machine in the garden marks a turn for the pastoral idyll of literature past, and this painting is a kind of anti-pastoral spoof of Monet’s pastoral scene.

Spreading the Word

April 9th, 2007

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This is one of the most memorable photographs in the history of the Australian conservation movement (thanks to the Terania Action Network). The year is 1979 and one of the last pockets of the subtropical rainforest of the central eastern Australian coast is about to be logged at Terania Creek. A hundred or so long haired hippy types arrive, and for the first time Australians see images in the media of direct confrontations between conservationists and police and loggers. This photo stand out though.

Here we see the power of physical affection to break down barriers. Authority is humanised through love, not further strengthened through the expression of hate. In this one moment caught on film, we see how the ‘pig’ in black and white can become the man with the beating heart. I think in contemplating the issue of climate change today we need to remember this image. Instead of become frustrated with the majority of our fellow citizens lethargy when it comes to becoming carbon neutral, we need to take a deep breath and talk to somebody about the issue you might not normally talk to. Instead of ‘shouting at the idiots for not doing enough’, remember that everybody is, as W. H. Auden said, ‘jealous of their privacy and easily hurt’. Everybody is human. Approach with the sentiment of brotherhood and unity and you’ll get more traction. The best tool in the skill kit of the active conservationist is to find something to love in that man or woman who doesn’t seem to care. And then to draw them forward with gentle prods and hints.

Ok all you young dudes, the hippies who are now in their fifties were right…

one love.

The Peace of Wild Things

April 6th, 2007

Sometimes life gets a bit too much. Too confusing or stressful or whatever the case may be.

Shelly’s sky lark, and Keats’ nightingale, were envied by those nineteenth century poets for the peace of unreflective sentience. Today I want to share with the world a poem by Wendell Berry, the English lecturer turned farmer from the east coast of the US. Like Shelly and Keats a century before him, Berry reminds us of the peace experienced by nonhuman lives. It is an instructive lesson:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Amen.

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