Today I was wandering, as I often have to, on one of my self-serving errands, if you must know to the hairdresser. Not only was the day balmy, teasing between grumpy clouds and crayon-blue sky, but I was free to dispose of my time as I saw fit for the better part of some hours. So you see, Petunia, I was able to loiter with perfect right, at the base of a forested hill. Free to enjoy the empty street and drowsy houses, free to listen to the patch of dry forest hum its song of season's change. The trees were too far away to see me of course, and I don't think they marked my staring in any case as I am sure they were gazing across the narrow valley at the other patch of their brethren on the opposite slopes. I could not stay - my leash of time and commitments would not permit it. Such days should be enshrined in the vaults of memory. I should like to think that the half-understood songs would play again in my almost-dreams, those moments between sleep and somewhere else. So Petunia, even such a far off host has played its soothing song for me. What can this world be without trees?
Hairdressers are of course not without their skills. Indeed apart from keeping the Suschewalden citizens' locks tidy and attractively coloured, they hold the office of knowledge keepers. So, if anyone knows anything about anyone it's Florence Bowsflint, the owner of Hair-Lock the only hairdresser and barber in town. She cuts and colours the women's hair and her husband Reg looks after the men. The only person who has never visited her establishment is Mr Holtsmyer the florist. The fact that he has a cranium of thriving follicles only adds insult to injury as far as Florence is concerned. But he keeps his secrets and his hair studiously away from her salon, despite the coupons and cut-price vouchers she regularly slips into his mailbox or leaves on his counter. Each time, the little slips of paper reappear on her counter with a single seasonal flower. No note, no mention of them in conversation, just the single flower and the untouched vouchers. What perhaps annoys her the most is his apparent complete unconcern about the black mane he casually braids into a long cue which swings a confident pendulum across his back as he walks past her shop. Her fingers convulsively snip the big silver hairdressing scissors even as she returns his cheery wave through the front glass-window. She says people with secrets were not to be trusted.
What an unattractive name. May I call you Petunia?
Since I am expected to speak to you on a regular basis I thought it should be on a first name basis.
This week was the 39th anniversary of the “Wow” signal – that anomalous signal from somewhere near Sagittarius (maybe) picked up by the Big Ear radio telescope during the SETI program and named after Jerry Ehman’s hand written exclamation in the margin of the printout. In 2012 on the 35th anniversary we apparently sent a 3 minute burst of 10,000 tweets into the region of space we think the signal came from. Although we only ever heard the “Wow” once it is still the best evidence of a signal from aliens.
I think it’s good to reflect on things bigger than ourselves from time to time.
I think of you, Petunia, a little like the “Wow” – I don’t expect you to call back, but I know you are out there, somewhere.
I also think Frans Holtsmeyer who owns the flower shop on Mains Street is a little like you, from the flower perspective, and I have it on good authority that he owns a telescope. Not that I am insinuating that owning a telescope should in any way make him any more extraordinary than anyone else here in Suschewalden. Of course no one else owns a telescope. Or lives on a cliff-side house with a widow’s walk that overlooks the gorge. Or spends his nights on the walk with that huge telescope fixed up at the sky. But everyone should have a hobby, it keeps them out of mischief. I think he’s looking for comets. Well, one comet in particular. I do hope he doesn’t find it.
Dusk is falling across a flawless blue sky while distant magpies call their melancholy good nights. In some melancholy I too bid goodnight to the sun.
I wrote some few years ago during a warm mid-winter day about the simultaneous alarm and pleasure it gave me. Enjoying the balmy weather did nothing to settle the deep disquiet from knowing why we were having the warm spell. This year the experience is multiplied. The long stretch of warm days, and I do mean summer temperature warm, does nothing for my existential tummy butterflies.
Despite my firm belief in Utopian rather than Dystopian futures, I constantly seek evidence among the litter of human affairs of a greater mass pulling in the favour of the former rather than the latter. I can’t help but think if we spent far less time being afraid of each other, we’d find better solutions to our problems and do it much quicker. No small part of my angst is fuelled by the grief caused by the galloping loss of our natural world. I had barely a nodding acquaintance with a fraction of it and some oaf has trampled it. By oaf I mean us of course. I guess if I could blame, say, an asteroid, I would feel better, but no, alas it is our own work.
Nature has made way for our need for swimming pools, mobile phones, stretch jeans and soup in a can. In short, civilisation.
So adjusting for personal preferences and the imperative to keep surviving I have no choice but to believe in an Utopian future, where humans harness technology responsibly and respect the natural planetary systems, realising they need both to survive. Hence solar punk. That’s punk without the dark.
The sun has gone down.
I am going to go and light a candle to burn alone in the darkness and let its quiet light solemnly mourn for our losses, a silent apology for the losses to come.
Tea-drinker, writer and editor. Ecologist, environmental scientist, futurist and student of irony.