Tag Archives: tree

Hope makes babies

I squirted this out just after the 2017 U.K. General Election and then didn’t post it.
And now I did.

   The good news of a genuinely socialist government in the UK within reach (and against all the odds), changed everything for me. It feels as if there might be sunshine at the end of a long tunnel full of excrement. With so many years of bad news (41 years of bad news from where I’m standing), and then additionally we’re facing the realities of climate change, species extinction, and leaders everywhere who do little or nothing about it, or minus nothing by advancing the will of corporations at ours and the planet’s expense (which is the same thing). Then to ice this cake with more turd we climaxed with Brexit and then Trump, and then, well really – the dominoes of detached right-wing politics have been falling around the world…

                    Dark times. 

   But more than half the votes this time were for a peace maker, a Green agenda, a Scotland that might be independent of the neo capitalism directed by a pack of arseholes in London etc. Despite their best efforts to brainwash with division and smears for years, the ideas of care and hope and solidarity broke through the created fears. More than half of us want to be in it together, rather than for living in isolated ivory towers of accumulation. The political campaign from ‘New Old New Labour’ was mostly carried off with integrity, and by simply delivering the messages and the ideas in the manifesto and we liked that, a lot.

   So I’ve been writing a book (in case you just joined the party), with the aim of being one more positive voice, and I’ve begun to think what’s the point? We’ve wrecked the climate, the masses are brainwashed beyond repair and I’ve wasted my time. I’d have been better off building a bunker and living it up while I can.
The weight of it all had even pushed my mojo to the periphery, and the good news had herded it back to where it belonged; I now understand why after the 2nd World War people made so many babies. It’s all waking up again. Hope has a pervasive effect throughout the carcass and soul; it is a powerful medicine.

Hope makes babies

The evil self-interested neocons are still in power, but I can breathe a bit again. And I know it isn’t as simple as good and evil, but when the ‘evil ones’ cut subsidies to renewable energy at this time, and dismantle the most civilised project this country ever created – the NHS (the free National Health Service), and all their other mad schemes, then you have to wonder if they are possessed – nah not really. But they look flippin’ spooky don’t they, most of them). This ‘evil’ force has still got a vacuous puppet leader, and they had to get into bed with a seriously backward party to stay a Government. In other words, people are beginning to smell the smoke (and it stinks), and their mirrors are cracking. 

   So if you’re someone looking to raise children who might inherit a livable world for example, then don’t give up just yet. Support the progressive representatives who are in parliament or congress or whatever they call it where you live – in any way you can. Let’s also correct them – give them ideas. Let’s be a part of it beyond the walls of Facebook and Twitter etc., in the real world outside Zuckerberg’s bubbles. And of course, don’t stop at politics: Start something good, or give your time to a utopia building organisation doing world-saving stuff like 350.org, or Rainforest Rescue, or one of ten thousand others – just pick one. Keep irritating people about climate change, keep thinking more inspiringly about how to live together on planet Earth. Love more – yourself and everyone else. Without persistence and hope, we’re buggered – we really are. So thank you everyone who voted for peace, and helped me get laid. (Nah, made that last bit up – pity).

   I helpedin a small way (with old buddy Ross in the rain), the day before the election delivering leaflets, and on election day with what they call ‘getting the vote out’ – which means getting the (Labour) voters out to vote, obviously. It was easy and I enjoyed meeting random people I’d never normally meet on their doorsteps. (I’d have helped the Green Party but the Green candidate pulled out in my area to give Labour a chance, and I would be happy to have Jeremy Corbyn as PM). It felt good to do something, and being more invested in ‘the game’ made the result more exciting too. I only wish instead of helping the constituency of Southampton Test (where Alan Whitehead won by thousands of votes), I’d helped Southampton Itchen, who might also have a Labour MP now too – had I managed to get just 31 more Labour voters out of their house and into the polling booth! Sometimes it’s a really close call, and if more of us made the effort… we might survive the next 100 years. It’s going to be tight. Thanks.

   The most powerful instrument against political change is spreading cynicism. They say ‘oh well they’re all the same, they’re all corrupt, you’ll never win’, and pessimism can demoralise people engaged in a battle, so you have to believe that you can win, and history is made by people who do things. – Tony Benn.

Peace on earth

Gyula Varnai’s Peace on Earth at the Venice Biennale 2017. (see text image below)

Gyula Varnai

Text from Gyula Varnai’s work at the Venice Biennale 2017. (see above)

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A sludgy whirlwind…

Cabin 01

   An improvised reenactment of a court case in front of an audience of lawyer students. I was one of the characters on a panel, representing someone in real life, and I’d just done my bit – been asked how I knew the suspect or whatever. I’d been instructed how to respond to help the story along. I did alright. The rehearsal had been slightly better but I felt like I was channeling the real person somehow. And then woke up in the cabin where I’m living, and started to write this… I’m tired…

cabin 03

   Someone wrote to me asking about the book last week and prompted this… it’s been a while. And I felt, well, I’ve had a recurring thought that I miss you, and I’ve wanted you to know that. This is an open letter to everyone – especially those people who’ve actually passed through my life. Who I’ve shared time with. How do I miss you if I’ve never met you? I miss the great embrace of everything, or perhaps I’ve never quite been there but would like to. To live brim full. I want five lifetimes – 100, and meet everything and everyone. And those of you who I’ve met along the way these last 41 years – I do miss you. I moved house, city, country – leaving trails of memories and connections. But I never felt like I was leaving, just going away. I disappeared to write, and at the beginning of this year – I joined my cousin and her feller on their permaculture farm. To build a retreat in a wood and get closer to the soil. To escape the mad economy and do something ‘real’ I suppose. While Rome burns I would plant things that will grow and build a community.

   Now I feel far away, but I never left you. Not in my heart.

   Isn’t it strange, this time we’re in? Yeah, corse it is. This underlying confusion and helplessness. The far away big governments who ruin our world, and media, the migration of tens of millions, species extinction, plastic, Monsanto, wars, climate change – everything so slow to change. Who is China? Why is Trump? Brexit. The rise of the far right. Corbyn, May and all those terrible people she works with. It’s a sludgy whirlwind. I’m fighting my ego in writing this suddenly. I want to let the morning sensitivity guide me in writing rather than – my ego wants to shape the words carefully. I’m enjoying writing ‘automatically’. Even if it’s a bit shit and disjointed I’ll post it regardless…

cabin 05

   Maybe you have the same experience – not in the detail, but the same feeling of being dragged by the background force of that whirlwind, and just trying to grasp details of living that make it ok, that seems to make it ok. Make the sixth mass extinction OK. Tweak the details. Focus on what’s in front of me to the detriment of all that goodness I’ve known. And what’s in front is all I have the energy for. Keep my head down as much as possible because all that big global stuff is exhausting. I’ve got to take the world in as I would a film. And then it’s nothing like that. I stare it dead in the eye and have the feeling of being swept away. And then I feel power for a moment and plan to face it with you. Face-off this stupidity/insensitivity in some creative way. With the growing movement. You and me and all of us. All the threads joined at last.

Cabin 02

   It’s cold. Last night the fire was going and I was creating again. I forget how much I enjoy making physical things – this time reimagining the tree prints for a Christmas market. I remembered that I’m a good artist. I’m blowing my own trumpet – not really… It really doesn’t mean much. Really – I’m so tiny. So, so tiny. But it helps to remember when trying to finish a book that many people are ‘waiting’ for – that I can at least please myself with my efforts. And I have been writing. Lost in it. It’s not writing like this here – a mess. I’m compacting and compressing ideas and thoughts. Trying to shape everything because I can’t seem to shape anything else. In the book, I talk about the world, but it’s in there on the page, on a screen, stored in the microchips, and not that real world out there, really. It’s not really real is it? It’s just an echo of that world in words. I feel like a crusher, crushing the echoes onto paper. And sometimes I let the pressure off and let them reverberate.
It’s the 3rd and a half draft. I’m getting close now to giving the stuff to an editor, and who knows what she will bring to it. That will be an adventure. Whatever I’ve been doing with this book, it’s pretty nutty. It’s the world filtered through me – as if there was a separation between me and the world. As if the echoes were not also the world.
It breathes in size. I’m trying to fit everything in. Say everything. Understand the bigger picture and the smaller one and piece it together, and lay it out which is impossible for me. I’m getting to the point where it doesn’t matter anymore. I mean, at some point it will be what it is, and that point is coming. Not quite yet. I hope I’ll get it to you. Next year.

cabin 04

   What a luxury. I am living in Utopia, on the backdrop of hell. I squander this luxury by worrying. By not being fearless. By trying to make the words count too much. By getting depressed because I’m uncertain and lonely (sometimes), and the sludge is too much. And I’m a failure. Jeez.

   What now then? I want all these different threads of my life joined up somehow. I’m remembering Richard’s face, or Liz, or Peter, or… joyfully laughing about a shared something ten years ago, or one year ago. I know you’re at the end of a phone. There are so many of you. All these threads. And yeah I can’t keep you all, all the time. Mostly almost none of you any of the time at the moment. It’s another life suddenly, here. Exciting, yes sometimes. Confusing. Uncertain. I sound a bit sad, or like a man who woke up from a fake court case in a real midlife crisis – and there is sadness, or rather melancholy in this morning drowsiness, in me… I could wake up tomorrow and write a very different post. Optimistic. Enlivened. I’d leap out of bed.

   I’m still not quite sure what I should expect from this life, even after all this time, but I don’t feel content. Should I feel content with Rupert Murdoch in the world? Or Tony Blair. Or the extinctions…  I want it to be a party though, or an open house all the time. I want… I want teleportation. I want the mice in the walls to stop eating the cabin. I want the face of a person who grew up in the safety of a wise and kind tribe. To feel like I am part of the land, and it is part of me. To feel comfortable in the world, neither ‘owned’ nor knowing ownership, but instead shared belonging and safety. And you will be there, in your fullness – fearless and joyful. You do appear in my mind, really, and I hope to see you soon. I hope we can clean or remake this sludge soon. And hang out in a jovial and meaningful way.

Art of Climbing Trees page 263

Yep. One entry from the book.

   With the sun coming up, and my alarm going off I end. But my ego wins and I edit this a little bit a few days later – because sometimes my ego knows best.

Ps. My knee is mostly ok thanks – much better. I can run without falling over in agony. And this is a painting on the wall:

cabin 06

story about Book

email story header

Old friends, acquaintances, crowd-funders and long lost cousins… 

I’ll get straight to this story about spinning the fading relics of a year* into something curious and useful. Searching the nebulous patterns in my head for inspiration, milking the web for its knowledge, squeezing the light out of the night or day and pummelling the stuff into a code on my screen. Hunching, stretching, pacing, lounging with my head angled towards a page of the book, a tree I climbed, a conversation or an idea I had and modified, cracked open, spat on, sang to, ran with, edited, laughed at etc.

After getting the cart a little bit in front of the horse, and crowd-funded for an unfinished book, I had to then kind of basically write it. I built a pretty nice room for myself in a London warehouse to get this done. Thanks to my house mates a kitten arrived, who quickly became a cat (Mayo). I began the project of writing here as planned but the city had a way of drawing me in, while also weighing me down. Who knows, but I wasn’t getting the book done effectively.
*that ended in 2011! 

mayo

Then Mayo, my writing companion and the best cat in the world died just before Christmas (2014). I reluctantly ran away to Norway which was the best thing I could have done…

drobak

Then I actually did what I said I was going to do. I did what I said I was going to do. I did what I said I was going to do in a cabin with a view over the Oslo fjord*. For four months I wrote every day, nearly. Nearly every day. And I chopped wood, and spent time with my brother, and we both needed it badly. Quiet. Fresh air. A beautiful view. Dumpster-diving for veg* Winter stews. Do it.

I din’t realise the stress I was carrying until I had a chance to put it down, and set fire to it in a wood burner. I couldn’t see the depression I was wrapped in until someone helped me unravel it. Making writing progress helped too.
*Thanks to Gisken and John and Magnus. **We ate very well out of supermarket bins which is unbelievable and fun to do. Please sign this food waste petition.

Beech hill

Then back to Devon, England where I joined the Beech Hill Community* for a spell. Chickens. A wind turbine. A walled garden of veg. A chunky wooden dinner table surrounded by lovely people. The first day I rescued a hedgehog from the broken swimming pool. The second, a field mouse. I feel lucky. I am easily one of the lucky ones who’s got to give nearly everything to writing ideas born out of an adventure.
*Thanks to my mum’s old friend Lucy and the Beech Hill Community. They do AirBnB, by the way.

sørkedalen

My carbon bill is mounting up: Back in Norway, and here to help* build a wooden house in the forest. (It turns out you have to earn money to live). My home during the build was a wooden box usually used for art storage. Cute. With running water from a plastic container. Almost lonely at night sometimes, with my screen, and my body tucked into the corner under a duvet feeling a day of smacking nails with a hammer. So quiet save for great thumps of water battering onto the tin roof off the Norway Spruce trees glowing with moss. Brushing my teeth and pissing in the forest, waking to the surround sound of birds and occasional Greenland Husky’s mating, – which is quite a sound. I’m getting a taste for this pace and quietness. I’ve developed an allergy for too much city, – too often a crap example of what shared space could be. I’m dreaming about my own hideaway as I write here on the deck in the afternoon sun. I’m dreaming about taking on our corrupted leaders and running away from them. I’ve been having dreams of hot sand…
*Janicke, Torolf, Frid and Sol. Thank you all!

Look, I’m just telling you all this to clear my conscience:
I’ve been doing what I said I’d do.

I’ve gained new friends, and a richer sense of time and space,
but I’ve cropped most of my old world away for the time being.
What will be left when I come back to it?
I’ve sacrificed something here, possibly.
OK. Thanks. Please continue…

Then I had a holiday in Cadiz, Spain*, and found out playing in the waves is crazily fun. (Not all sacrifice). I haven’t felt like a pig in s**t like this for years, or a kid in a sand pit is perhaps better. Joy. Got to get more of this joy.

But of course, I also put finger tips to the key board and continued making that verbose music for you. That’s Professor Gauntlett below, looking for me at my desk. My desk that overlooked a surprisingly noisy street. Cadiz is bloody noisy, – just for the record. Quite a shock after the forest. At the same time the city has the most incredible and inspiring South American trees; I want one. And waves, bring me some waves**.
*Thanks to Jacob and Ross. **Said Climate Change to the Arctic.

cadiz 05

Have I tricked you to read thus far?

Above left: house in a place called Box thanks to Ross and the rest of the ‘Chequers’ household. Right: Bristol*, – where 5.5 years ago my life took a bizarre twist up trees, – is where I’ve finished this first draft. (I think that’s called coming round full circle).

The book is… NOT finished, but I’ve now got 400 pages of a first draft. All the recorded conversations I had in trees have been reduced, and all but the final family tree party tree has been edited. This is what I’ve been waiting for to tell you. Rather than give energy to updates I gave it all to the business of writing.

I’ve realised the tree climbing was paradoxically both integral and irrelevant. It has basically got me studying/researching: the biosphere, and relationships, and the properties of light, and quantum physics (a bit). Has given me a worthy focus. Made me (a bit) cleverer, – expanded my mind, forced me to slow down and get less pretentious on my ass. Has helped me stop smoking.

Tree climbing is integral because the body is part of the brain, and viscerally interacting with nature creates a bond with it. Play, sensitivity and a modicum of intelligence will help us climb out of the problems we face.

What’s it to you then? Sooner or later you’ll get to read it, then perhaps you can let me know what it is to you.

Thanks for your patience. Thanks for your interest. Thanks for leaving me alone. Thanks to everyone who made writing this last year possible.
I hope you are all well and inspired…

Henrik x

The End.
(for now. With tenacity – I plough on).

*There was an antique petrol pump in the living room where I wrote, – a sign of things to come. A symbol of hope? Thank you Woody.

Oh yeah. I did finish one book, – a children’s story I wrote for my niece Sophie, using photos from the tree project… 
free troll

HELP! NEWS! THANK YOU! and a seedling.

If you want to give God / destiny / the future a good laugh then tell them your plans…

Hello!  Finally another update on the book… BAM!

I’m both stressed by how overdue publishing the books are, and also very inspired as I edit the material. This will be a special book!

Certain vision3

It’s been 9 months since I started the crowd funding so it’s not surprising the money generously offered me so far has run out. Passing the hat round started wearing thin but I’m eager to crack on, so here I am swallowing my pride and asking for your help again!

Please, please share the project with your networks and friends who might like to support it and consider buying a print or other UpTrees stuff, or pre-ordering a / another book.

family tree seedling3

Beside my desk a sprout grows in a pot. It came out of a seed from the very top pine cone of the last tree I climbed with the whole family in Norway. It’s a useful reminder to me that little things with great potential take time. I have to accept that and I’m hoping you can bear with me on this book!

I’ve literally just reached a mile stone as all the hours and hours of audio have now been edited ready for transcription! Finally! It’s taken a long time!

I really appreciate your good faith in me to produce something special!

family tree seedling

Seedling from the top pine cone of the last tree climbed.

I’d love to hear from you questions or suggestions! Thank you again!

Henrik

The raggedy quote in the top image is what I see in front of my desk and reminds me what I’m trying to do!

UpTrees Radio Edit 02

Conversations from three trees during the project scratching the surface of what’s to come in the book. With Eva Bakkeslett – an artist, curator and eco activist, John Gillbert a brilliant tree consultant and others who participated in igfest tree games!