Destiny Unfulfilled

You hold in your heart the dreams of youth, yet accept the jailor’s wage and give him thanks.  What dreams do pass you by as you give your nine to five and more?  To what end, to whose gain? Beware the greed that holds your life within its palm.  You believe the  jailor’s lie in the brief reprieve, the weekend cleans your greasy hands.  Gratification wakens your numb mind; you trip under the feet of the advertiser’s lure.  Oh, what magic lies within the boxes of acquisition as your soul serves another week of meaningless destiny.  The withered skin and pained hands of the aged shell you’ll wear will rue the young coward’s misery and hopes lost in the melting pot of a country’s crime.

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This short post is a response to the day 17 Writing 101 challenge to write about fear in a style different to your own.  I chose Shakespeare.  I’m not ambitious or anything.

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400… steps to go?

So it all started with the bliss of warm arms enfolded around me, warding off the early morning chill.  The pleasure enhanced through moulding the duvet into the spaces where the cold air would fill.  And then he whispers, ever so romantically it almost sounded like a proposal of everlasting love:

“Let’s go for a run?”

It took a while to register through the fog of a wine induced state that he was actually serious.  I’d been conscious of the steady downfall of rain through the night, it wasn’t letting up.   I mumbled something about tea, he got me water.  It left a metallic taste in my mouth, enough for me to go get the tea.  Grumpily I found the wicker base layers and pulled them on.  Darn it – two left socks.  Rummaging around, my eyes still not focused and lazily trying to draw me back into the depths of a dreamless sleep, found a comrade.

Glass of water and cup of tea later, the hamstrings were being coaxed into moving, of course, can’t forget my troublesome achilles heel.

Somehow, I’m walking in the pouring rain.  The heavy droplets already breaking the barrier of my thin showerproof jacket.  I watch them bounce off the canal surface like it was a trampoline and am startled by the noisy take off of mallard ducks as if they were going to war.  I’ve found a smile at last, Verd had the same notion, he starts to create vocal noises of gunfire.

The Garmin watches are synched, ready to time the first of our non-stop runs this year, having built up slowly again after a winter lull in the programme.  I mess up mine as always and start about 30 seconds after him.  I plod.  He looks like he’s running.  I watch him pass under the bridge and disappear around the bend, all I can hear is my own breath and distract myself by taking time to take in the signs of nature around me.  The song birds are making their presence known in the foliage above me.  I see a robin take off from a mossy dry stone wall.  Geese upon the tow path face the canal like they are on sentry duty.  They shift from foot to foot nervously as I approach.  I give them distance.  I’m getting my second wind now.  My feet and breath are in rhythm.

A dog obediently waits by its owner as I pass.  We exchange our good mornings.  I managed to get the words out without it being too painful, I’m nearly half way now.  Can I get past that bend? it’ll be the furthest I’ve gone this year.  Starting to feel comfortable.  He’s on his way back already, and gives me a very confused look as I continue in the opposite direction to him.  He didn’t know about my 30 second delay in getting started.  By the time I’ve turned around, he’s well ahead of me.  I slow to keep my heart rate in check before picking up pace again.

Under the last bridge, I know I’m going to make it this last hurdle.  Time up, and I slow to a walk feeling a sense of achievement.  I’m surprised how quickly I recover, so slowly jog to catch up to Verd again, an extra three mins.  I announce that we’ll be back doing the park runs again soon.

Invigorated.

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Written for the Day 19 Writing 101 challenge – to write 400 words without stopping.  So any errors of spelling and grammar are to be excused!!

The moral of today’s lesson: “Don’t do a do unless you know the undo.” (Irél)

“Don’t do a do until you know the undo.”

I will, at some point in the future, share how Irél, archmage of the Caemantarii, came to share this particular lesson with her eager young students of sorcery.  Irél is an eccentric character I created some years back, and I’m hoping to revive her again as part of the perhaps novel-to-be ‘Asura the Adamant (The First)’.  However, my purpose today is to consider a more serious situation – the “undo” to a do we didn’t know how to undo when we were doing it.

Sound complicated?  Hopefully not.  I’m going to share the stories of three people who have acted alone (or at least with a supportive partner), made a difference and have inspired not only their own communities but are also globally influential.

Flower-on-Tree-Trunk-for-web
Doing the do

The ‘do’ in this case is desertification.  The process of desertification is attributable to the removal of vegetation from the land.  Unprotected, exposed and bare soil loses its organic structure, is unable to retain water, dries, and then is washed away in heavy rains, or blown away with the wind.  This leaves infertile land that bakes, becomes hardpan and desertified.

In my short article “In Search of a Lost World”, I promised a set of three articles promoting effective solutions.  I’m going to begin with the third of those promises and share three, very different regenerative methods for reversing the desertification process.  Whilst each method is facilitated through community cooperation, each has been created by the work of a single individual who has dedicated their life to this cause.  I am sharing these stories as I hope that they inspire the belief that one person, you, can indeed make a difference.

“The Man Who Stopped the Desert”

The Sahel region of Africa is a biogeographically distinct region situated between the Sahara and the Sudanian Savannah.  Desertification in the region has led to the fragmentation of small communities dependent on arable land. The inability to sustain a living has led to migration to urban centres for work.  One small farmer, who observed this process, rued the demise of local communities and became the ‘madman’ of the village when he set about making a change.   His name is Yacouba Sawadogo.  His story is featured in a documentary directed by Mark Dodd entitled “The Man Who Stopped the Desert”.

Yacouba, of Burkina Faso, battled for more than 20 years against opposition to a simple farming method he introduced into his local community.  It is called ‘Zai’ and loosely interpreted, it means ‘pit’ or hole.  Yacouba began the process of food forestry, one hole at a time, literally.

Knowing the Undo: The Zai Method

On a flat area of hard pan, a small pit is hacked into the ground, using an implement like a pick axe.  The hole is approximately one foot (30 cm) in diameter and slightly less than a foot deep (20 cm).  Recruiting local help is useful, as a row of these zai needs to be carved into this difficult ground.  This process is repeated until many rows of zai cover the land entirely.  The method is facilitated by working along any existing contours in the land and is undertaken in the dry season.

You may have read my earlier work, where I’ve preached the dangers of digging.  But this area of the Sahel was barren, there was no carbon in this land to release to the earth, no organic matter to be scorched by the sun or soil to destroy.

The pits are filled with organic matter, not easy in a land with so little.  Yakouba uses sheep and cow dung, ashes from the cooking pits and any vegetation, like leaves that he can gather.  He then places small rocks between the pits in readiness for the little rain that falls each year.  The aim of the rocks is to slow water run off.  On such hard, impacted land, it will flow quickly away from the area.  The purpose of the method is to capture and store it.   Before the rains come, seed is sown into the pits and crops are grown.

Yakouba followed an instinct he had about the importance of trees.  Trees are planted as well as crops, leading to reforestation of the area.  In spite of many obstacles, he is now an avid teacher of his method, providing other communities with the skills to avoid the famine and poverty that had tormented the region for so long.

Millions of dollars are spent on research by the west on reversing deforestation and even with advanced technologies have met with less success. The beauty of Yakouba’s approach is its simplicity.

Mark Dodds eloquently summarises this quality:

Here is how to make your own zai pits.

  1. Start the process in spring, or the dry season if you live in the Sahel. Find an area of flat barren land. You will need hard packed earth with low rainfall, between 400mm and 800mm per year. You will also need a large team of helpers.
  2. Working in rows, hack pits into the ground with a shovel-axe, about 30cm wide and 20cm deep.
  3. Step forwards over your pits and continue this process until the area is completely covered with pits.
  4. Fill the pit with compost. This can be made from rotted cow/sheep dung, leaves, and ashes from wood-fuelled stoves.
  5. In each pit put a few seeds of millet or sorghum.
  6. If you happen to have a termite mound nearby you are in luck. These guys will help break down your soil and encourage rain infiltration
  7. Spread the word! Invite friends and family to see what you have done.

(1080 Films,  accessed 02-05-2015)

However, he didn’t mention that you might need a thick skin to cope with being called crazy and the resistance which was as extreme as a burning of your crops!

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The Man Who Once Killed Elephants

Based in Zimbabwe, Allan Savory’s story is truly a case of ‘doing a do’ before knowing the ‘undo’ to extreme cost and devastation.  However, with all good stories, it does have a happy ending.  Allan finally found the undo to the do he did.

As with Yakouba Sawadogo, Allan is perhaps the best to tell his own story.  This I am able to share, as he created a moving TED talk about the mistakes he made as a result of initial research into desertification and how he came to find a solution he now shares and avidly demonstrates.

Knowing the Undo: Natural Grazing

In earlier articles, I have stated how I’ve come to believe that the permaculture principle of ‘observe and learn’ is the most important.  Nature is a wonderful teacher, and a lesson, fortunately Allan Savory was not too late in discovering.

The Man Who Greened the Desert

Taking on a 10 acre area of land in Wadi Rum, Jordan, Geoff Lawton, permaculturalist, not only attempted to use his approach to land regeneration in a hostile environment, but this patch of desert also suffered from salination.  Theoretically, nothing should grow here.  It is now an oasis which could be extended, using nature’s principles of succession.  I have often shared this 13 minute video of Geoff Lawton’s work with my 17-18 year old politics students when I introduce them to the concept of deep ecologism.  It is one of the few ‘stories’ I share that has a very deep emotional impact on them.  Several have been close to tears.

I never fail to be inspired by Geoff Lawton’s success; the open warmth of his personality, and the vibrance and energy with which he shares his knowledge make him very accessible.  I previously wrote about my thoughts on the importance of stories for sustaining a permanent culture and felt gratified by Geoff’s similar views on their value.  Through sharing the stories of these inspiring individuals, I hope to contribute to the permaculture we’ve been inspired to develop.

Although I’ve shared the video in ‘My Quiet Revolution’, I do think it worth bringing to the fore again.  You will notice that the technique he uses is not unlike the zai method, although mechanisation is used to a quicker end.  He also met various obstacles which he overcame despite the deflated feelings he experienced.  An additional link is given below as it may help you to find other highlights of Geoff Lawton’s work.

Geoff Lawton’s Website

© Safar Fiertze (2015)

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This post is a response to Day 13 of the Writing 101 Blogging University challenge:  Serially Found.  This follows from the previous ‘Previously Lost’.  I chose to write about lost soils, with a view to presenting ‘doable’ solutions to the key problems of this contemporary age.

Another inspiration for this post came from a work-based request to share a favourite book in readiness for Children’s Book Week next week.  I chose ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, a short heart-warming and highly believable story by Jean Giono.  As I am leaving employment in 3 months time, and my work entails the use of a great deal of paper.  I have promised the universe I will redress the balance by planting trees… one blister at a time!

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Med One

Although blustery, the clouds part like curtains, allowing the warmth of the sun’s rays to shine through.  We depart in good humour, but experience the frustration of the stop-start traffic, and realisation of the temporary nature of the sun’s time upon the sky’s stage.  My sandalled feet meet the weight of the clouds’ new act, rain.  It shouldn’t be so much of a surprise, the met office had forewarned us, but my wet toes are testament to my inappropriate optimism. We trip our way between hurried shoppers, careful to avoid the puddles and pause before the restaurant door.  The familiar waitress is already smiling, used to our regular Saturday lunchtime visits.  Although there is little change in temperature when we enter, the welcome is warming.

We must be creatures of habit, as she asks if we need the menus, but on agreeing that we need a promotion to a new table, she leads us upstairs to a room we’d not witnessed before.

Before I proceed, I should tell you about the desire for ‘promotion’. Med One is a busy restaurant and the mild-mannered and quiet-spoken manager exudes pride in his establishment.  He looks disappointed when you haven’t booked a table in advance.  During those busy times, he seats us at the foot of the stairs to the upper levels of the restaurant.  The table is rectangular.  Its position enforces a distance between those seated that makes it difficult to hear each other.  I may be a teacher, but I don’t like to raise my voice.  On one occasion, a frazzled waitress managed to stumble on the stairs and later knock an umbrella from the upper floor.  The umbrella was alarming, as it flew like a missile aiming for my partner’s head.  It missed, we joked, but have since nicknamed it ‘the naughty table’, for those who fail to book.

Ushered to the new VIP room, we do accept the menus.  Despite the seating being more spacious, its positioning makes it feel more private – and safe.  We select a table near the window.  I take pleasure in the golden glow of the herbal-infused oil bottles and enjoy the aesthetics of the contrasting green of the basil leaves placed beside them, the effected by the diffused light passing through the moulded glass.  The disagreeable weather is soon forgotten as I am transported to the balmy atmosphere of Mediterranean shores.  I slide my fingers over the leather bound menu before opening it.   Sipping on the ice cold effervescent mineral water I opt for something I’ve not tried before, Lahm Ajeen.  Verd remains a creature of habit!

The presentation of the dish is impeccable.  I am mesmerised by the careful preparation.  The pastry is crisp, delicate and perfectly enfolded into an open parcel.  Its content include lamb within a tomato and chilli sauce.  The lamb is minced to a very fine texture, the vegetables reflect the pride and high standards the restaurant attains, there is a fastidious, elegant attention to how they are prepared.  The garnish is a herbal and spice mix, the colour enhancing the contrasting, yet subtle flavours.  The aroma of cumin is distinctive and I know that it will pique reminiscence of the restaurant in the future.

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Med One, Lebanese Restaurant situated in Hudderfield town.  Highly recommended, but avoid the ‘naughty table’!

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Based on the Day Eight challenge of Writing 101, Blogging University: Death to Adverbs. The challenge was to create strong visual imagery by showing and not telling, but omitting adverbs.  (I did however include a paragraph of ‘telling’).   The first draft included ‘particularly’ (twice) and ‘finely’.  Interesting to see what words I use too often!  Anyway, keen to know if I succeeded in the challenge.

Asura Honours a Most Loyal Servant

Dear Krabz,

I am writing to inform you that following a review of your performance the ruling on your continued employment has been fully logged and filed with the Department of Dismissal, Severence and Discharge.  It was deemed, under the Act of Constructive Commission (982 AD), Section A, exception 2(ii)a, that you are unfit for continued service to the realm.  The actions requested and unsuccessfully undertaken by you are hereby declared:

1.  On the date of third moon, Krabtz was deployed to the Elven city.  His mission was to pollute the Elven queen’s divining waters.  The Imp duly added lotus veritas to her divination bowl.  The Imp clearly lacked the skill of stealth necessary for the appointment of Sentinel and was duly challenged by a ranger.  In a state of seeming panic, the Imp, in order to arrest his interrogation, drank from the divination bowl, hence incurring the ingestion of the truth-telling properties of the Lotus.  The private plans of Pasithea and Her Eminence, etc. were hence revealed to the enemy.

2.  On the blue moon of the fourth rising, Krabtz was deployed to the Human City to feed misinformation to the townsfolk about the true father of their Queen’s unborn baby.  The purpose of the mission was explicitly stated as “to create discord between the townsfolk and the Bradach clan by inciting the fourth of the sins of Solomon: a jealous heart that devises wicked plots.” The resulting outcome of the Imp’s endeavour was ridicule, The Bradach are still singing songs about our Illustrious Emminence with the suggestion that her womb had been infested by repulsive human seed.

3. On the last day of the fifth moon, Krabtz was served with a final warning to prove his worth as Sentinel and commissioned to serve three missives.  The first to the Archmage of the Caemantarii, the second to Lue’iten, Shadow Elf and the third to Aoife, Bradach Ace.  The aforementioned imp proceeded to muddle the missives, resulting in a war that Pasithea would have lost, if it were not for the intervention of the White Wolves.

Your incompetence has raised questions as to your loyalty and whether you are indeed a traitor to the realm.  You will be aware of the penalties if such were found to be true.  However, I do recognise the loyalty of your intention and accept your apology.   I have also considered your request for the respect of the realm.   I have deemed it fitting to provide you with an honour as befits your service and duly summon you to court for a judicious ceremony in your honour.

Yours sincerely,

Her Illustrious Eminence, Asura the Adamant (The First)

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The letter was duly sealed and handed to a trusted goblin bureaucrat.  The goblin awaits patiently for her orders, knowing well not to interrupt the devious thoughts of the demon Queen.  Finally, she uncurled her fingers to reveal the beauty of her talons, an expression of the inner workings of her duplicitous mind, and she pronounced her decision:

“Prepare for the Honour of Loyal Maladroit, and upon the closure of the ceremony, assign him to the Commission for Complaints.  His ineptitude will serve us well in that department.”

Asura extended her leathery wings and floated above her throne.  As the goblin shuffled off to undertake the dispatch, she disappeared in a vapour of abyssal quickening.

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© Safar Fiertze, 2015 (includes image).

Based on the Day 14 challenge of Writing 101 – to write a post in the form of a letter.

Children of Lir

Children of Lir (an Irish folk tale)
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Swans' Pond

Once there was a great and mighty warrior, name of Lir, who believed himself worthy of the title of King, but his fate was not to be.

The Tuatha Dé Danann were blessed with four treasures, each brought to Inis Fáil from the four great cities of Murias, Gorias, Findias and Falias. From Falias, they brought the magical stone, Lia Fáil.   It had the power to reveal the name of the true King.  When it came the time for choosing, Lir presented himself before the stone.  Lia Fáil resounded not upon the approach of Lir, but instead chose his rival, the greater of the two men, Bodb Dearg.

Lir, went with a heavy heart and parted company with new king’s men, not accepting Bodb’s authority. The king’s men wanted to go after him, but Bodb knew it was a fool’s errand, and held them back from attacking Lir’s house.

The months passed and the cycle of the seasons continued their passage through time.  Lir was to later lose his wife to death’s fingers, and in being a good king, Bodb offered the hand of friendship to Lir, and invited him to feast within his court.

At the feast Bodb offered the gift of one of his three daughters. Lir accepted.  He chose the elder of the three. He came to love both the inner and the outer beauty of his new wife. She bore him children, first a son and daughter, then later two sons, Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn.   The couple loved their children dearly, and in each of them, Lir saw the beauty of his wife reflected.

Lir was to bear yet another great grief; his wife died in childbirth. The loss weighed heavy also upon the heart of Bodb Dearg, but in friendship again, offered the second of his three daughters to Lir, to lie with him as his wife and care for her sister’s children.  Her name was Aoife.

Lir, in caring deeply for his four children, never let them out of his sight and even in slumber he kept them within his sight. This great love was too much for Aoife to bear, and in her jealousy, she lured the four children to the dark lake.

There, Aoife planned to take the lives from each and every one of them.  Her heart was dark, but yet, she had not the strength within her to do it.  Instead she took up a druid’s wand and turned Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn into swans, cursing them to 300 years of feathered imprisonment.  But with the curse, came three gifts: reason, speech and song.

Many a traveller has passed the shores of Lough Derravaragh and accepted the wisdom of the four swans who dwelled 300 years upon its waters.  Many a fisher who cast his net in the Sea of Moyle has spoken of the stories told to him by the four swans who dwelled 300 years upon its waves and if you take a walk beside Irrus Domnann, you may still hear their plaintive song.

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Irish legend retold by Safar Fiertze, 2015.

A response to Day 11 of the Writing 101 challenge, Blogging University: To pay attention to the length of sentences and mix it up a bit.

I also thought it was time I added another tale to the “Stories Speak” collection and inspired by Debbie, chose the Children of Lir legend.