Tuesday, 27 April 2010

On my doorstep

Time passes so quickly.  Already, we're almost at the end of April, after what has felt like a very difficult beginning to the year.  However I'm filled with optimism for the coming months.  The light evenings are so welcome, the healing sunshine is exactly what we need and life around us is full of joy and wonder.  These amazing little creatures belong to a colony of newts living under our wind turbine.
We love to visit them - one of their companions (not pictured) is clearly full of baby newts, so we're excitedly awaiting their arrival. 

Other wonders have been arriving on my doorstep too.  I recently sent some of my Shetland fleeces to the new Halifax Spinning Mill and they were returned to me a few days ago.  
Here they are on my felting platform, and I have to say they're absolutely beautifully processed into carded sliver.  Here's some of Jack's fleece, carded to perfection.  I can thoroughly recommend the new mill.  So good to have facilities back in the north!
Another woolly wonder has been the arrival of this Great Wheel, or Walking Wheel.  
It arrived courtesy of the  Wool Board, and, I have to say, it isn't mine.  It's for the use of the North Pennines Wool Project which I've been instrumental in setting up to try to promote local wool, support local wool workers and achieve a better wool deal for local farmers.  It's a very embryonic project just now, but before too long should see some exciting developments and be a mine of information for woolly-minded people.

And here's a little spring brightness.
My Daphne Mezereon is flowering for the first time in heaven knows how many years.  It resides in what I affectionately term my 'Suicide Garden' or 'The Garden of Last Resort'.  I only grow 'useful' plants and this is in the corner of my garden populated by the poisonous herbs - Wolfsbane, Monkshood, Foxglove, Mandrake, Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley, Bittersweet.  No plans ever to use them, but I do love these beautiful plants.


  1. Hi Ellie, this is a pleasant reminder that I have not made the effort to pop over for a cup of tea! Shame on me. I am also really enjoying the delights of spring, it really lifts me, I stood this morning and just absorbed the sunshine. The wheel looks like a great piece of kit! Hope you are well.

  2. Relating your earlier post's reference to the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Universe with your belief in only growing 'useful' plants, I wonder what you think about the rest of the world out there that isn't useful? Can't it be enough to simply exist? Does everything have to have a meaning?

    I ask in the spirit of free enquiry, and will use an abridged quote from a philosopher who is far better equipped than I to articulate meaning (no pun intended there!).

    "...Perhaps, then, rather than answer the question of why we are here by looking backwards, we should look forwards. What future purpose or goal would make this life worth living? The problem with this line of inquiry was identified more than two millennia ago by the patron philosopher of common sense, Aristotle. His point was that we do many things for the sake of something else. We eat to live, work to pay the mortgage, study to pass exams and so on. But unless at least one thing is done for its own sake, there is no point in doing anything. Not everything can be a means to an end: there must be ends which are valuable in their own right. So if living must at some stage be valuable in itself if it is to be worthwhile, why not here and now?"

    "... Albert Camus claimed (there) was only one serious philosophical problem: why shouldn't we kill ourselves? Why should we think that this life, with all its problems and pressures, really is valuable in itself?

    It's an excellent question and it doesn't take a philosopher to answer it. We all of us know of things that give life value. In his movie Manhattan, Woody Allen's character made his own personal list: Groucho Marx; Willie Mays; the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony; Louis Armstrong's recording of Potato-head Blues; Swedish movies; Sentimental Education by Flaubert; Marlon Brando; Frank Sinatra; those incredible apples and pears by Cézanne; the crabs at Sam Wo's; Tracy's face. Another person's list might focus less on their own pleasures: eliminating terrible suffering; helping one's children build their lives; winning a personal struggle."

    "This is why there can be no final answer to the question of life's meaning. There are many things that make life worth holding on to and savouring. But life is unpredictable and we are often mysteries even to ourselves. We think success, happiness, helping others, or surpassing ourselves will make life worth living, but we can always be wrong or frustrated by events. Philosophers have a lot to say about the value of all these things, and a little less to say about one of the most valuable things of all - love. So we can be clear enough about what it means for life to have meaning and value, but when we put down our philosophy books and actually get on with living, meaning and value can be elusive. Living well is more art than science or philosophy."

    "...the only sense we can make of the idea that life has meaning is that there are some reasons to live rather than to die, and those reasons are to be found in the living of life itself."

    So, Ellie, maybe existentialism is back on the ascendancy, for newts, plants and people? In the living of life itself, we may find that Chief Seattle's quote "...All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it" easier to understand.
    Just a thought...

  3. For me, personally, it is most certainly enough to exist. Like most people I wasted much of my teens and twenties philosophising about the meaning of life, but am firmly and comfortably of the belief that life has no meaning.

    However, I do think our planet has a harmony, which we, as a species, are upsetting. I am very grounded, I think - a very earthy person. My own small attempt to make amends for my own part in using the planets resources is to try to do as little unnecessary harm to the planet as possible. Hence, my insistence on using only local, renewable materials for my work and only making items which have a use - the materials themselves are so beautiful that they can be both aesthetically pleasing and useful.

    Similarly, in my garden I only grow plants which have a use beyond the mere aesthetic.

    Now, not for a moment am I suggesting that this is for everyone, but it's how I've made my own personal peace.

    I believe Chief Seattle is expressing the view that man is no different from anything else on the planet - animate or inanimate. Everything is mutually dependent and interconnected. His views, I think, mirror my own in that we have no right to exploit the planet. However, that is exactly what we all do every moment of our lives.

    In the words of E O Wilson "man is the self-appointed, but still profoundly ignorant steward of the world's natural resources" - I don't believe we will ever overcome either this ignorance or this arrogance, but we can aspire to finding our place in the web of life.

  4. That's a brilliant answer, Ellie, and one with which I completely agree. I feel I should apologise for making such a clumsy challenge - reading it for a second time, it does seem rather overblown and slightly disrespectful. You are, as you say, a very grounded person, so I guess that you're not easily phased by the rawness that comes from living in the moment, since it provides such a rich contrast to the exaltation of wonder when you glimpse a little bit more of the universe.

    That said, and since I agree with you that everything is mutually dependent and interconnected, does that not mean that all plants are useful, either directly to you as medicine, food, fuel or windbreak, or indirectly as attracting beneficial species, pollination or increasing biodiversity - or simply as a source for wonder, helping us to find our place in the web of life?

    That carded fleece, b-t-w, looks almost too good to use. It seems complete as it is!