The green desert

The Wildlife Trusts recently released a little film based upon The Wind In The Willows, designed to show how our precious British wildlife is in trouble and calling us to rally together to act to save it.

It is powerful and very well done. But something (other than Ratty’s accent) has been bothering me. It’s taken me a while to put my finger on what it is exactly, but I think I have it:

The film begins with typical scenes from the story, Mole and Ratty having a picnic in a beautiful lush riverside meadow, Badger at home in his underground house, Toad speeding down verdant country lanes on his latest fad, a motorbike… and then all changes. Bulldozers move in, the countryside is laid to waste with roads and the earth churned up to build more. The river, once lush and clear, is now dirty brown with obvious pollution pouring in and litter everywhere. The animals are left stranded.

It certainly highlights in dramatic fashion how our nature is losing its homes.

But. This is not our experience, is it?

When we go outside, generally all seems fine if we are honest. The countryside and parks are still lush and green. Our rivers run clear. The sun shines, the birds sing, flowers bloom. Sure, there is rather too much litter in places, and the odd road or housing development is going up here and there, but it is not the scene of utter devastation the film depicts.

That vision, to me, feels too disconnected from reality. I struggle to connect what I see with my eyes with the message that nature is losing its home here in our land. It would be all too easy to see the film, take a look out the window, shrug and carry on. It can’t really be all that bad! Not here.

And yet…

That disconnect is the big problem.

Nature is in absolute crisis. In spite of green appearances, the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the entire world, ranking a shocking 189th out of 218 countries studied in terms of how intact our nature is. The vast majority of the country has lost its natural habitat and balance of native wild species; whereas once the country was largely woodland, today just 13% of the country is wooded and much of that is under a century old. We have lost 98% of our wildflower meadows* in under a century. Over half our species have declined since 1970, the figures similar even if we just look at this century, and 15%, that’s 1.5 out of every 10, are either extinct or threatened with extinction in the UK. Of the almost 8,000 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish and invertebrates studied for the State Of Nature Report 2016**, 56% are in decline.

It’s true that the British landscape does not look all that different from when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s.

I visit my parents, who still live in the same place, and things are apparently almost unchanged in all that time (barring a few housing developments of the outskirts of the city that have encroached onto what had been farmland). It is entirely recognisable and familiar, still green and pleasant semi-rural England, not a trace of post-apocalyptic wasteland.

But then I cast my mind back.

My earliest nature memories are of my parents’ fairly ordinary suburban garden. It had tall deciduous hedges running down both sides, and a couple of apple trees at the far end. We had a patio, flower bed, lawn and veg patch. The neighbouring gardens were not dissimilar, though they differed in the amount of open lawn. I remember song thrushes bashing snails on the rocks in the flower beds, blackbirds and robins nesting in the hedges (on one dramatic occasion a blackbird nest was raided by a magpie and ‘I’ aged about 4, presumably with a certain amount of help, wrote in to a TV nature programme about it and had my letter read out!), and being frequently startled by frogs jumping out of the vegetation at me as I walked past in the summer! I remember having to scare off the rowdy flocks of starlings that descended if we tried to feed to birds to make sure the other birds got a look in. Occasionally, a lesser-spotted woodpecker called in and sat on our peanut feeder, shyly edging round to the back if it thought it was being watched. And sadly I remember having to get my parents to check up and down the road in the mornings for dead hedgehogs so I knew when to look away as I walked to school each day. Thankfully we often saw the live animals snuffling about the garden on summer evenings too, but the sad sights on the street were all too frequent. Every year we knew spring had arrived when we woke one morning to the sound of a cuckoo singing somewhere nearby, most usually in the trees of a neighbouring garden.

Out and about, our favourite local walk took us out down the back lanes from our large, suburban village into the countryside, where as a child I liked to see all the different farm animals. Along the lanes we would see flocks of swooping swallows, hear yellowhammers singing for bread and no cheese, a song I learnt very early on, and frequently spotted owls and partridges. Drive anywhere and the skies were full of lapwings, year round, a sight so everyday I blanked them. And on summer evenings, even as a teenager in the 90s, the car would become liberally decorated with insect remains, the lights often picking up small animals darting across the road or swooping bats or owls. A walk along the canal in early summer almost always guaranteed you the sight of a cuckoo, and the waterside hedges were alive with warblers singing away.

It all looks much the same today. The village, fields, lanes, canals and hedges are all still there, even if some of the hedges are now rather sparse in places. But if I compare my experiences back then with my experience of the same landscapes now, something has changed.

The song thrushes, hedgehogs, cuckoos and lesser-spotted woodpeckers are gone from the neighbourhood. There are still thrushes out there, but they are shy woodland birds, no longer the common garden snail-bashers that children would grow up familiar with. I don’t recall the last time I even saw a hedgehog dead in a rural area, much less in a town or village, or a live animal. Today it seems unthinkable that the latter two species would ever occur in a suburban garden at all, much less within an ordinary agricultural landscape like the one I grew up in. It’s an exciting day when a frog is spotted; they no longer spawn in the pond. Starlings are seen in small numbers in the winter, but are gone by spring; the great winter murmurations I used to watch from my bedroom window are now something to travel to a nature reserve or seaside town to witness, the noisy bird-table-raiding summer flocks a thing of the past. And it is now a rare neighbourhood with gardens as green as those I grew up with. Perhaps slug pellet use may have gone down in that time – but so has acceptance of trees, hedges and ponds. Most gardens are still green, but that green is typically lawn, low maintenance ornamental planting, or even plastic turf, walled in by solid, wildlife-proof fences.

Last time we walked out along the lanes, to my delight we did indeed see swallows and a yellowhammer – but I certainly don’t see so many these days. Most of the time I am out and about in the countryside in summer these days I would expect to see a few swallows, but would get excited if I encountered a yellowhammer as a rare treat. If I see partridges now, they are the introduced red legged partridge, and usually they are present in large numbers with the equally introduced pheasant – any there is always a game release not far away. The native grey partridges are gone. In contrast to my childhood experience, I have perhaps seen two in this country in my adult life, despite being a keen birder. I no longer see lapwings at all when I visit my parents unless we go to a wetland nature reserve in winter or happen to see a few passing high overhead. It’s been some time since the farmland in their area played host to the flocks it used to. Where I now live in the south west I do see them – but I know I am privileged to live in cycling distance of one of their last two breeding grounds in the region, a nature reserve where the field they breed on has to be protected from predators by use of an electric fence, so precarious their existence here has become. Driving about on a summer’s evening no longer requires screenwash, and rarely affords the sight of an owl or a small shape running across the road, unless it is a rabbit or fox. And to see a cuckoo these days requires a special trip to one of their last strongholds; here, that means hunting about on Dartmoor, where small numbers cling on, or a visit to the nature reserves of the Somerset Levels. They are gone elsewhere, and certainly would no longer be seen or heard by the canal near my parents. Lesser-spotted woodpeckers? Wow. Ancient woodland only, and only if you listen and look very carefully.

All of this in my short lifetime in a landscape still so green and familiar. Nothing seems to have changed, yet casting my mind back, everything has.

The disconnect goes deeper too.

I believe the British public care about nature; the current outrage over single-use plastic generated by Blue Planet is an obvious sign of this. But here is the problem; because of the visibility of this issue, I get the impression most people think that this is the biggest threat nature faces. This was highlighted in a recent survey by Surfers Against Sewage, asking their members what they thought the biggest threats to the ocean were and what they should therefore focus their campaigning on. Plastic*** topped the poll. In reality, as visibly disgusting as plastic pollution is, it is only one small aspect of pollution affecting our land and marine environment, and pollution itself as a whole, though important, is having a much lesser impact on nature than other less visible issues. In the oceans, climate change and over-exploitative and damaging fishing practices are by far and away the biggest causes of loss, whilst on land, agricultural change, climate change again, and other forms of habitat loss such as wetland drainage or changes in forest management are driving the declines. Unlike plastic, none of this results in a sea less blue or a countryside less green, but catastrophe is unfolding nonetheless.

The barren nightmare vision of the Wildlife Trusts’ film is not what ecological crisis really looks like, most of the time. In all honesty, whilst most our nature is declining imperceptibly, there are a few evident species we can see bucking the trends, as species like buzzards and otters recolonise and the occasional conservation success is rightly heralded, making it even harder to see the underlying problem. In spite of the shocking declines nature is experiencing, more than half of the British public actually think that nature is in a better state today than 50 years ago.

Ecological crisis in reality looks deceptively green and pleasant, whilst our expectations of our experience of nature gradually, imperceptibly erode.

We look out on a countryside that still feels delightfully lush to ourselves. But what we can’t easily see is that to nature, the landscape is becoming a green desert, fields being cropped and harvested at the wrong times of year for ground nesting birds, hedges left to grow straggly and sparse or cut or flailed so hard back that they no longer afford safe nesting cover, and wild plants, ‘weeds’, being so near eradicated from arable land, pasture, verges and gardens that there is very little food available across vast swathes of landscape for pollinating insects, seed eaters, or the creatures that eat them. Invasive species have invaded, our riverbanks now festooned in beautiful Himalayan balsam and buddleia, leaving no room for wildflowers or the invertebrates that rely on them, whilst in the water signal crayfish and mink prey upon native species. Even pasture land has changed – from species-rich grassy meadows full of different grasses and wild plants, supporting all manner of other species and grazed by a range of different cattle breeds, much pasture now is a near monoculture of pure grass, grazed by high milk-yielding, intensive breeds of cattle. Still green, even more lush – but unwelcoming to nature.

I might well still be able to go out and have a nice picnic by a verdant riverside – but I would be accompanied today by fewer singing birds, blooming wildflowers and buzzing insects than I would 100 years ago, and would be very unlikely to bump into Ratty or Toad.

We need to wake up to what we’ve lost, in spite of appearances, and lift our expectations. Somehow we have to scratch the surface and see how impoverished we have become, and turn things around. Whatever the shortcomings of the Wildlife Trusts’ film, we should step up to its challenge to get involved and call for greater action to protect our nature. There is still time – where we make an effort and intervene we can and do turn declines around, and examples like the RSPB’s Hope Farm have shown it is possible to run a profitable modern farming business in a way that still benefits nature – but we must wake up and see what we are not seeing.


*That is, real species-rich grassland, a habitat vital to a huge diversity of species, which is not the same as beds planted with annual flower mixes. Most of our wildflowers are not even annuals at all! This figure comes from the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project.

**All other stats in this paragraph come from this report, pulled together by over 50 different conservation and research organisations.

***Most marine plastic is in fact not single-use plastic such as bottles and carrier bags, but microplastics from a range of sources (including the synthetic fibres of our clothes), and fishing gear.

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The Brexit fiasco

What can I say about Brexit that hasn’t already been said? What can my voice add to all the noise that’s already out there?

Maybe my own position…

I can’t be on the People’s Vote march today as health currently doesn’t permit. But if it did, I would absolutely be there.

I voted remain. Although there is plenty I dislike about the EU, I can’t see any advantage to leaving and losing our influence to change those things, and can see far, far more benefits to membership. I believe in international cooperation and freedom of movement. Although I voted remain, I can respect that we lost the vote in 2016 (the remain campaign was stunningly uninspiring it has to be said!). However – the result was extremely close. Since 2016, it has come to light that not only were the promises of the vote leave campaign false, but that the campaign broke the law, and that all economic analyses have concluded that all Brexit options would leave the country worse off than currently. Many leave voters have changed their opinion on the basis of all this. Polls are still close but seem now to be marginally in favour of remaining. Meanwhile, the government has ploughed ahead stubbornly as if the vote had been a landslide in favour of leaving the EU, refusing to engage in any debate or listen to any nuance. I feel like the almost half of voters who voted remain have been ignored and silenced through the whole process, in spite of current evidence being in favour of remaining. Both sides needed to have been listened to, but what we have seem instead has been inflammatory polarisation, extremists pitched against each other, and only one side being given any influence.

Looking at it pragmatically, I would have thought it would have made sense for the government to look at the result of the referendum and take note that leave won by a narrow margin. Therefore since almost as many people voted to remain, a sensible way to proceed would be to perhaps plan to leave since that is undeniably how the vote came out, but to spend a good period researching what reasons people had for voting the ways they did on each side and what aspects came out most strongly as to what people liked and disliked about EU membership and hoped to get from the result in future. Then they could have come up with a range of possible outcomes, carefully negotiated with the EU, to try to meet those aims, and put these back to the people directly or to parliament to vote on. Once a course of action had been agreed, likely a leave scenario, but possibly not, given that it looks like leaving will not benefit the country, that would then be the point at which to trigger Article 50 if needed. We could then have spent the two years carefully preparing a good exit strategy and making sure the legal framework and trade deals were all in place and well communicated to the population by the time we exited to allow businesses and British and EU citizens to know where they stood and make appropriate plans.

However, this is not what has happened.

Whilst I recognise it is a very tough job and what I’ve suggested as a sensible way to proceed would not be nearly as straightforward as I make it sound, there is no excuse for the shambolic way this has been handled so far, with Article 50 being triggered before there was any semblance of a plan, and the time to exit day simply being run down to force last minute decisions.

On Thursday I attended a talk that was supposed to be about the impact of Brexit on farming and farmland wildlife. However, with just over a week to go to exit day, the speaker was still having to speak speculatively about what possible impacts Brexit might have. What a crazy situation, to not even know what the law will be next week! It sickened me to think how this is impacting farmers, who will be having to plan their crops, livestock, and land management operations for the year, or years, ahead, without even knowing what the legal requirements on them will be, or what payments or support they will receive. Conservationists are in a similar position, being unsure what legal frameworks will or won’t exist to protect nature in just a week’s time, what funding will be available, and what their own legal requirements will be.

How have we got to this situation?!

Businesses, institutions, investors and workers are leaving the country en masse because of the uncertainty already. In a week’s time, those of us left with it could be facing food and medicine shortages, and a breakdown in legal frameworks that could cause severe damage to the country and to us. And yet, we still do not know!

What staggers me the most is that the media is still baying that the patriotic thing to do is to press on with the course of action we know will damage our country the most, crashing out with no deal, and that the most democratic thing to do would be to deny the public and their MPs any further say in the matter, and that the public are buying it on a large scale!

Leaving the EU could have been done well. With some pragmatic acceptance that we got it wrong this time, we could still revoke Article 50, and still start the process over again, making it work as well as it can.

But right now we face a national crisis. Disaster needs to be averted.

This is why I support a new vote, with all leave and remain options on the ballot, and also support the Revoke Article 50 campaign.

If we are to leave, we need to stop, cool off, rethink, and then do it well. Otherwise, we need to be given the chance to do what currently seems to be the best we can for the country by remaining.

Native Tongue

Today Switchfoot are back from their (thankfully, in hindsight, hilariously short) hiatus with their eleventh full album, Native Tongue. I was treated to an advance preview as a volunteer music reviewer a couple of months ago, so I wanted to offer my personal review in addition to the official review I had published:

Put aside any preconceived ideas about what Switchfoot are about, or you will miss the point.

They’ve been around long enough they don’t have anything to prove to anyone.

Continuing what they started on ‘Where The Light Shines Through’ but taking it to new levels, this is a playful, creative, and highly accomplished exploration of sound. Every Switchfoot album is distinct in style, but this one promised a sonically disparate collection of songs and it certainly delivers! Influences on show span Queen, The Beatles, Coldplay and the White Stripes, the music of the Pacific islands, Celtic fringes and southern Africa, gospel, hair rock, hiphop, EDM and synth-rock, alongside styles they’ve already made fully their own, and full-on guitar solos nestle amongst layers of brass and strings. With WTLST they had experimented with different styles a little, let their influences show through here and there, and finally begun to show off their solo and improvisational skills a little, something they do effortlessly live but had always held back in the studio. But this takes that creative and experimental approach up a gear or two.

So let’s go:

The songs

The massive Let It Happen erupts euphorically over the soul in dramatic fashion. On the whole, the feel evokes 90s Britpop (something akin to The Verve); this is my era, my sound, and the passion it oozes brings me to tears of pleasure every time. And yet, they have worked into it a full-on Queen-esque solo!! I think they stole Brian May. Jon’s vocals are stunningly powerful as he voices our fears and anxieties yet entreats us to embrace the chaos and live in the now, as, paraphrasing Jesus, worrying about the future will not change it. This song has arrived in my life with perfect timing, the message exactly what I need as I feel myself walking into a new year that is going to shake my whole world up in many ways.

Let It Happen is followed by the similarly dramatic, infectious, drum-driven title track. Its message of remembering our origins in childlike love and acceptance is echoed by the tribal feel of the sound. The danceable beat gives way unexpectedly to a quietly moody outro, evoking the best of their b-side work. The message is good, but here is my concern – don’t we all think we are motivated by love? None of us identify as ‘the haters’. We just differ in our views of love. And when someone seems to be attacking your view of love, you get defensive, hence our divisions. Telling us to love is not sufficient; we need to learn to listen across those divides to understand the love position of The Other somehow… I have to listen in context of what I have heard Switchfoot speak about more explicitly about listening to one another across our divides and working from our common ground to fully understand what they mean here. It’s all too easy to simply extol the virtues of being nice to those we come into contact with, whilst shying away from politics because it is difficult, thus allowing the terrible things happening in our world go ahead unchallenged. Taken alone, I fear this song could reinforce that idea, but in context of Switchfoot’s example of trying to listen to and understand The Other before jumping in with our own views, I know it’s much bigger.

Next we reach the beating heart of the album – the beautiful, soulful, spiritual All I Need. The vocals here are gorgeous, and there is a bit of a Celtic feel to the melody (though not the sound, which is big-production Switchfoot). Developing the theme of what really matters in life previously explored in If The House Burns Down Tonight, the song forms the unifying thesis of the album around which the other songs seem to hang. Its central heart-on-sleeve question feels exposed and vulnerable.

After this, the edgy, bass-driven hiphop of Voices changes up the sound again. It explores anxiety, especially in a world with lots of information and opinions jostling for our attention, and how we are all so full of ‘voices’ of our own on the inside too, all our doubts and insecurities that can so fill our heads when our minds are not well. I will be honest, though I like it enough, this track low-level irritates me – but there has been at least one on every album and to a greater or lesser extent I always get over it*! I spent a while trying to think what it reminds me of, and eventually hit on it – Justin Timberlake!! Sorry. 😀 But the backing harmonies are lovely, and the use of a ticking clock sound at one point is spot on, and soundwise it does connect back to earlier work, most notably parts of Vice Verses. The song was released back in November, and the music video is a work of art that adds so much to the song itself, really bringing all its angst to the fore and lifting the music. It manages to be poignant, creepy and humorous all at once, and is really visually creative.

Dig New Streams sounds uncannily like it escaped from the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s** and somehow found its way to Switchfoot, quirky, trippy, and packed with awesome riffs, solos and changes of pace and time. It’s so accurate it made me laugh out loud in amazement that they could have pulled this off! I need to live with these lyrics a little more, but I hear Jesus again, this time throwing a lifeline to those hurt by our religion, and it’s certainly the most original of the album.

Joy Invincible’s soft vocals are luscious. This track has an electronic vibe, a huge sonic soundscape that would fill a club, and nice guitarwork under the ending. It’s very moving, and I would love to know the back story.

It leads nicely into the raw and passionate Prodigal Soul. A raw, acoustic opening becomes full band plus strings; it feels vulnerable, and a bit Coldplay, as Jon finds himself identifying with the homecoming son of Jesus’ famous parable.

Next stop on this musical mystery tour is the full-on EDM of The Hardest Art, blending elements of 80s electronica with bang-up-to-date synth rock – and do I detect a touch of Abba?! Guest vocalist Kaela Sinclair takes the second verse, and for just a moment as their voices join together in a gorgeous acoustic interlude there are echoes of Jon’s solo work. The repeated refrain ‘the hardest art is love is surrender is love is the hardest art’ is stirringly anthemic and I cannot help singing it out. And then, something uniquely precious to my ears – the track closes with a touch of soaring guitar that sounds remarkably like Stu G (think the close of Delirious?’s Obsession)! I have goosebumps…

The deliciously laid-back, piano dominated Wonderful Feeling comes next, another track strongly influenced by The Beatles, particularly with its unconventional chord progressions and build up. Jon’s vocals are incredible once again, as again he demonstrates seemingly effortless vocal control, moving back and forth between forceful expression and pretty falsetto, and we are also given another guitar solo, this time more in the relaxed style of George Harrison.

And then another twist, as the unexpected, heavy, headbanging riff of Take My Fire crashes in. Jon’s voice now sounds classic-rock rugged, and though you can tell Hendrix isn’t far away, this is definitely born of the White Stripes’ school of 21st-century rock. The bluesy feel and spiritual theme also made me think of Verra Cruz, another of my favourite bands but too little known to be an influence.

All jangling guitars and lush harmonies in 6/8, The Strength To Let Go has a Celtic, folky thing going on again, but again this is big-production, big-sound CCM. By the time we reach the heartfelt ‘I am lightning and You are the ground!’ it really feels like a Rend Collective classic! But we are treated to a little ‘ha!’ of Jon’s early on, which I couldn’t help but smile on hearing.

Oxygen is a vulnerable and gentle soft rock ballad featuring slide guitar. It’s left me wondering where such a powerful break up song has come from, especially as it so accurately captures the unreal sensation of losing something (or someone) you had come to depend on, but it’s a tear jerker that is going to hold close folks going through loss and break up.

We’re Gonna Be Alright follows, blending global musical influences and an immensely fun bass riff in a similar vein to When Was The Last Time (minus the arcade game midi), and definitely recalling Michael Franti both in style and content. Appropriately for a piece about reassurance, the vocals have the intimate quality of a father whispering into the ear of a child. You can’t help but feel it. I hope this makes it into their live sets; I can see it already, everyone clapping along and singing the chorus together.

You’re The One I Want closes this eclectic album with a simple piano and cello love song; it feels like it connects right back to The Legend Of Chin somehow even in the vocal style, but now everything has grown up – a resolution of the early relationship angst, a certainty, a maturity of understanding, and the grungy vocals of a song like You have mellowed into this soft warmth.

The production throughout Native Tongue is stunning, the sound layered and full, every element carefully placed, and it sounds made for vinyl.

My perspective

I think after three albums now I can finally state that Jon’s writing style has changed; prior to this I would not want to have called a change where he could merely have been experimenting with something different, especially without any sort of timeline given for The Wonderlands songs, many of which are typically deeply layered, poetic and philosophical in keeping with Jon’s previous and well known style. But that aside, we’ve seen very little of that since Vice Verses now, and I doubt we’re in for any more gravitational entropy waves. There’s still depth to his themes, and his intellect and prophetic gift are still in evidence, but his writing is so much simpler, more straight-up, and his focus has shifted to rhyme and to creating anthems a crowd can sing out together. Native Tongue, like Fading West and WTLST, is dominated by the strongly-rhyming, hiphop-influenced songwriting that has characterised much of his recent work.

It’s very much a Christian album, the story of a ‘prodigal soul’ finding home in the love of God. Themes from the Gospels shine through strongly, as does the real-life journey of an artist who has spent 20 years wrestling with a sense of being far from home and out of place finally discovering home, both spiritually and in a very earthly sense with his own family. In this respect it feels very introspective and focussed on close personal relationships with family and God, rather than looking outwards to the wider context of our lives in the world.

It’s also their least angsty album to date, lacking their usual lyrical bite, which in such truly angsty times I find a bit hard to swallow. There’s much that will appeal to the American church here, and little to challenge it. With no space given for lament or any encouragement to take a stand it’s not speaking to the current climate for me, but perhaps I haven’t arrived yet myself? Or perhaps it simply underlines the difference between my truth-to-power approach and Switchfoot’s approach of bringing people together into a safe space, both of which are valid and needed in these times.

Perhaps there’s no way back from here and this sense of home to the kind of songwriting that wrestles with the depths – but nor do I wish it on Jon, as I know he’s written those angstier songs from painful experience and he sounds like being in a good place now. That genuinely gives me joy. The songs are clearly written from the heart and I would rather they continue to do that than to write the sort of songs I would have them write. They don’t owe me anything! And these lyrics will doubtless push and challenge me in new ways and find different parts of my life to embed in, just as Let It Happen is doing already.

But they are home. It’s very much a celebration of that.

And it’s all about the music; they certainly can’t be accused of stagnation or of selling themselves short in any way, they’ve thrown it all in there. The range of styles is going to divide opinion, but there’s little doubt it’s a musical masterpiece. In my ‘official’ review I rated it 9/10; this is because although I truly mean that, and it’s perfectly produced (without being overdone, which they’ve been guilty of at times in the past), the range of styles is going to be too broad to appeal to everyone. And it doesn’t have so much in the way of the thought-provoking lyrics I fell in love with Switchfoot for, so I can’t see it being an album I personally live and breathe, that becomes a part of me and helps me engage with the world in the same way as most of their work to date.

For me, it feels a little like listening to the Fiction Family album rather than Switchfoot (though I must emphasise that the sound is still very much Switchfoot not Fiction Family!) – even aside from the fact that that’s previously been Jon’s outlet for his Beatlesier side, it’s musically brilliant but I don’t connect so deeply with most of the lyrics, and you just don’t know what they’re going to pull out next, it’s full of surprises! I feel like that’s where it will sit for me, being enjoyed obsessively when I’m in the right frame of mind for something a bit eclectic as with Fiction Family, rather than being chewed over regularly and meditated upon like a typical Switchfoot album. Because of this I’ve found it hard to rate relative to their other albums. I think I’d say I like it better than Fading West (though that one has such a feel-good sunshiney vibe it probably has the highest play!), though quite a bit less than WTLST, which gave me favourite song after favourite song and, though had its evident influences, simply sounded like Switchfoot showing their own versatility.

I am wowed by their soloing on this album – but they do so here largely in the style of other artists. So whilst they reveal their skills to an impressive extent, we still haven’t had much from the studio of Jon and Drew’s own original mighty improvisational solo styles, which so captivate us live. They remain an elusive treat for those of us who get to see them on stage! But they leave you in no doubt here of their capability. Go see them live if you get the chance!

Bringing in very strong elements of other artists’ sounds also runs the risk for me of triggering my low replay tolerance for many of these other artists, who I can enjoy from time to time in small doses but who will quickly begin to grate on my nerves if I play them too much. Switchfoot have never yet made anything that doesn’t become irritating on repeat for me, and that’s unique, but that has possibly relied on them sounding entirely like themselves.

That said, however many elements they have borrowed from other artists, it’s still very much Switchfoot. Every track has its roots in earlier material somewhere I can trace it back to, and however diverse these songs are they certainly don’t feel disconnected from previous albums. Nor do the tracks feel disconnected from each other. Diverse they may be, but it feels as deliberately crafted as I know it was, every track standing in sharp contrast to its neighbours. And though the sound changes constantly, the lyrical themes are very consistent, perhaps more so than ever, which considering Switchfoot have always crafted albums around strong themes is impressive.

And it really is a joy; I’m very proud of them and glad they’ve finally made this collection, something they’ve hinted at doing for some time now. It’s great to hear what they have been capable of all along. It’s a homecoming.

 

*It’s happening already; M came home the other night to find me playing it loud and stomping round the kitchen to it, so I think it’s winning! 😀

**M says Abbey Road. He is quite correct. 😀 😀

 

Living with thorns

Last month I was invited to take part in a teaching series my church has been running on mental health. Each session had looked at a different aspect of mental health from the perspectives of scripture, a mental health professional, and a testimony from a church member. I was invited to be the testimony for the session on depression.

I was actually very excited to speak about this, as being open about my mental health is really important to me personally and in terms of creating a space for others to talk about it too. You can listen to the whole teaching slot here (search for ‘Living With Thorns’), featuring myself and a therapist from the congregation being interviewed by the preacher as part of the talk, but here is my testimony itself:

Interview:

In your darkest moments what is it like for you to live with depression?

I found this first question a bit difficult as I’ve had two experiences of depression, one severe in my teens and before I became a Christian (I was actually spontaneously healed when I fist met Jesus!), and more recently a spell of mild depression, mainly through 2016, though I’m still very much walking through recovery from that now, it can be a bit of a process. So the lows are all very much past tense, and day-to-day now it is pretty mundane. Maybe that’s helpful to note in itself?

Depression takes many forms. Back in my teens I had severe depression and it manifested in suicidal thoughts, hopelessness and emotional numbness. My recent, mild, illness has been more like a crushing lack of energy and motivation and a tendency to feel so overwhelmed it paralyses me, only occasionally spilling over into low mood. But it’s all the same illness, it presses down on you as a heavy weight. For me, recently, the bad days have felt like a spiral out of control; my thoughts assail me so heavily it feels like being beaten round the head and knocked down. Thoughts of failure, of not being enough, of inadequacy, and on top of that, of all the myriad things I ‘should’ be doing, and you can imagine how upsetting is would be to have someone have that sort of rant at you – it’s like that, I break down in tears and can’t easily separate out what really needs to be done now from all those ‘should’s under the weight of it all. So – I get stuck, end up lying on the sofa, having an uphill battle to even make myself drink a glass of water…

So that’s the worst of the current beast I live with! Most days now it just manifests as a lack of energy, a frustratingly low burn-out point, despite my hope and joy and love of life.

But the darkest I’ve known previously has felt like absolute hopelessness. It is dark and terrifying to be unable to see any hope or potential for change. Depression can lie so convincingly that there is no hope it feels like an objective fact that no-one else could ever possibly understand from outside. But having come out the other side I can tell you it is a lie, and that there absolutely is always hope, in God’s big picture that is bigger than us and our lives if nothing more, and as long as you are breathing you can live for that and be part of it.

We know you have faith in Jesus so could you tell us what it is like to follow Jesus through depression?

Positives and negatives; because my illness lies to me it can be harder to hang onto the truth, I easily find myself projecting my own insecurities onto God (ie in my case I first realised I wasn’t well when I noticed I was starting to wonder if God had a place for me or had just made me ‘for decoration’ without a real purpose in God’s plan… in truth, finding my place and purpose is not easy. I’m struggling with that myself. But that’s not God!). Faith is also potentially an area I can beat myself up over, for example when I want to read the Bible but don’t for whatever reason – it’s normal I think to feel bad about that, but when depression weighs in on it it can feel really bad (I can start telling myself I’m a bad Christian…).

On the other hand, I’m more aware of my need for God, even if God feels distant or silent sometimes. Sometimes God has felt extremely close in the silence. And there’s been something special and important about giving God some very raw prayers, rants, tears… Sometimes, when things have felt very dark and I’ve lost hope for myself, I’ve seen God’s light and the big-picture hope of God’s Kingdom coming shine so strongly in contrast to it that it takes my breath away! Without the dark I couldn’t see how strong and bright that hope is. That’s been very good for me. So too has seeing God using my experiences to help others – that’s been an incredible honour and I know God’s been using me there.

What were the best and worst parts of being part of church during times of depression?

It’s made me flaky (even in recovery!). I struggle to commit to things, have to take things one day at a time, pull out of things if I don’t feel up to it (I can easily get overwhelmed, I’ve less capacity, and things get on top of me easier), and can struggle with motivation (ie to go out, or to do certain things). All this makes it very hard to get more actively involved in church, and get to know people and become part of the community (it makes it very hard to arrange to see friends too…). That in itself can feed back into the illness as it doesn’t feel good. Church/homegroup is particularly hard if it feels like everyone else is doing fine and has their life in order! On the other hand church/homegroup can be a supportive and safe environment and somewhere I can get out the house and most importantly seek God and truth.

What helps you to cope?

Talking about it. Depression thrives on secrecy, but getting it out in the open lessens its grip, whilst also helping you to find help and support from others, solidarity with others also going through it that helps you feel less alone, and also helps you find others you can walk alongside too.

Prayer. Honesty before God. God is big enough to handle our rawest emotions, let it all out.

Self care. It’s not an easy ‘just do this and you won’t be depressed’, but it genuinely does help to be more intentional about things like exercise, healthy eating, socialising, doing things you enjoy(ed) of find/found relaxing.

Work. Having a job with a lot of structure and regular hours, and supportive colleagues and a good mental health and wellbeing culture, really, really helps.

Perspective. I need the big picture hope narrative of the Bible to pull me out of myself and keep reminding me that whatever happens in my lifetime, God’s Kingdom is coming and love wins.

Therapy. I’ve been to a CBT course, it felt frustratingly like being taught how to walk – but if I’d had a debilitating accident and lost the full use of my legs I would need just that, so why expect different of my injured mind? It’s been helpful. I’ve also been seeing a counsellor to try tackling my underlying issues.

Switchfoot! I’m only semi-joking; admittedly I am a megafan of theirs and was already before I got ill, however, the work of Christian artists who are grappling with this stuff can be a real help and support. Switchfoot is one such band and certainly do a lot for me, but there are other musicians and other forms of artists whose work explores depression and mental illness at times, and I recommend finding artists who can give words to what you’re experiencing and point you towards hope.

Here’s the vid of the interview that we recorded as a back-up in case I couldn’t speak in person on the day (featuring a feline cameo!).


If you’re struggling, or just not feeling quite right, please do try to get help – it isn’t always straightforward, but help, and hope, are out there. For a start, try this if you are in the UK, and this might be useful wherever you are.

The INTJ

‘Sorry world.’

I used to tag the apology on whenever my personality type came up in the topic of conversation, as it will do amongst friends who’ve been exploring personality for themselves. But I’m not going to do that any more, and in this blog’s spirit of openness and vulnerability, this is why.

To be able to tell my story I’m going to need to give you a bit of background to the Myers-Briggs personality classification system, or MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)*. This is a system for determining and understanding personality differences developed in the last century by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers after Carl Jung’s work. MBTI is based around four pairs of personality traits, each represented by a letter (capitalised for each pair below), and sees everyone tending towards one side or another within each pair. The pairs are:

  •  Extravert/Introvert – this is about where you predominantly draw your energy from (interaction with others or time on your own) and whether your dominant ways of thinking express themselves outwardly for all to see or inwardly inside yourself;
  •  Sensing/iNtuition (do you tend to be a details person, or someone who sees the big picture?);
  •  Thinking/Feeling (do you tend to solve problems with your head or your heart first, do you tend to consider principles or people more when making decisions?);
  •  Judging/Perceiving, which is actually about how much you tend to need to have things planned out or value spontaneity, rather than anything to do with being judgemental or perceptive (I confess, not understanding where these terms come from, that I’ve come to refer to them as J for planning and P for jumping..!).

Both traits in each pair are neutral; neither is better, so it’s not a measure of how good you are at a certain thing or as a person (for example Ts are not more intelligent than Fs nor Fs necessarily better with relationships than Ts). Everyone can and probably does use all 8 of those traits (ie everyone thinks and has feelings that come into play when they make decisions), but has a preferred one for each pair, in the same way you can use both your right and left hand to write but have a dominant hand that’s easier, and can be more or less practised at using your less dominant hand.

It’s measured using responses to a long questionnaire** to try to tease out which side of each pairing you tend towards. This scores how strongly your answers point towards one side or other of a pair, however the score is more a measure of how certain you are about that tendency, rather than how strong that tendency is, and this is influenced both by how well you know yourself (the more self-aware you are, the more you will know the way you think and react, and the better you will be able to answer the questions about this), and how practised you are at using your non-preferences (for example you may naturally be a ‘P’, a person who craves freedom and spontaneity, but have spent all your life in a work environment that requires you to be very organised and plan everything through, meaning you answer the questions testing your need for planning in a more ambiguous way, or even in a way that suggests you prefer to have things planned!). The result gives you a 4-letter code for your personality type (E or I, S or N, T or F, J or P), and since there are four pairs, there are 16 possible combinations of traits and therefore 16 base personality types.

I like it because it doesn’t put people into boxes; it doesn’t tell you anything about what kind of person you are or how you are going to behave, but it explains people’s underlying tendencies and helps us understand how we work. You remain an individual, because although this is a way to identify the basis of the way you tick, the simplest building blocks of what makes you who you are and from which you build yourself, your actual personality is going to be made up of that plus all the other stuff of life.

I have taken this test more times now than I can keep track of, and probably did it for the first time around 15 years ago. I’ve come out as an INTJ every single time, regardless of how much I have changed as a person over those years, how much I think I have developed different aspects of myself, and how much I’ve pushed boundaries of interpretation when answering the questions! So what does that mean?

Firstly, I. I am an introvert. I can be loud and forceful. I love to be on stage, up front, lead a group or speak in public. If a decision is to be made, you will be left in no doubt what my views are! But my batteries are drained extremely rapidly if I spend too much time socialising, or in intense one-to-one conversation. I need time alone. I can spend many happy hours away from others, content to be with myself and my own inner world. I need people very much, but I’d far rather have a few close friends than many shallow acquaintances (which is a real struggle for me at present as I feel I’m in the latter situation here just now).

I am an N. This is the trait I’ve long been most unsure about, as I’ve not really understood what it means. As a scientist, I’ve always thought of myself as someone who bases her understanding of things more on facts and evidence than on gut feeling, so how can I be an ‘intuitive’ rather than a ‘senser’? However, I’ve never been assessed as an S, and when I’ve read about S types, none of them ring true for me. Last year I took part in a workshop with an experienced MBTI practitioner and got to explore it a bit more, and it seems this pair is more about how much we tend to focus on the detail or see the bigger picture. And that clicked! I am absolutely a big-picture person, and actually that’s probably the single most important way to understand me. It’s also been one of the most helpful concepts for me to grasp in terms of the differences between how different people think. It’s not that I disregard detail, or evidence, the tried and tested or the importance of ‘now’. But so much of what goes on inside me is big-picture stuff. I’m always in the wider context for whatever it is I’m dealing with at any particular time. Don’t try to appeal to me with individual case studies; explain to me the scale of the problem and I will be dreaming of solutions and how we might get from here to there.

And this ties into the next pair; I am a T. Anyone who knows me at all knows I have feelings!! They tend to explode on me at full force, and quite often you’ll see that explosion externally too, be it anger or love or grief or whatever. I care deeply about others, whether I know them or not, because people really matter to me. But I am so much more a head person than a heart person. I say that relates to the last point, because so much of my care for others actually stems from the idea, the knowledge, the theory that the other and their situation is important, rather than an emotional response. Going back to the case study versus the concept of the problem, if you tell me about a poor cocoa farmer who is struggling to feed her family because she isn’t being paid enough for her crops, I care because of the idea of the injustice of that situation and knowledge that there must be so many farmers out there, not just cocoa growers, in similar situations because world trade is set up to pay them as little as possible, rather than an emotional connection with her as a person. I still care. I can be quite reserved because I’m not great at knowing what to do with emotion, especially other people’s emotions, and that’s compounded by my introversion. And if a decision is to be made, it matters much more to me that that decision is correct in terms of it working, than it being correct in terms of it pleasing everyone.

Finally, I am a J. Spontaneity really stresses me out, which is great when you are married to someone who finds having everything planned out stressful! His idea of a perfect day out, and my nightmare, is to just wake up one day and decide to set out not knowing where you are going, and just wander. I want to have put that day aside for a day trip at least a few days in advance, and to have agreed where we’re going the night before at least, with a map and at least a rough idea of the route, and to know the weather forecast, where the loos are en route, what time the bus home goes and how long it will take to get to the stop! We’re both learning..! I need to have an idea what to expect and to be able to plan responses to scenarios in advance, and hate last minute changes of plan being foisted upon me.

So that is my type; the head-based, big-picture-thinking, introverted planner.

So why apologise? What’s wrong with that? Well. My type is the one that frequently gets typecast as the evil genius! You see it in all sorts of fictional villains, and alas there are real evil geniuses that fit too. It’s a combination of traits that easily lends itself to a person being quite detached and calculating, wanting their own way, and also being able to apply knowledge and understanding to achieve it. There are many very basic MBTI type summaries out there that give this sort of thing as the short and pithy description of what my type is like, portraying us as cold, reserved and scheming. Not great. Especially when you are neither particularly evil nor a genius! But there is more. Digging into my profile a bit more, you’ll see we’ve a tendency to ‘be right’. We know we are right, and we will say so! What is more, even if others disagree, or are trying to take time to come to a decision together, we are headstrong and independent enough to just go off and act on it ourselves regardless, without waiting for a go-ahead or a consensus. There’s a tendency to be inflexible, both to ideas and plans of action, and to the feelings of others. Argh! Now that does hit home! I have many a time made myself very unpopular in that sort of situation, both at work and in social scenarios. It’s an unattractive arrogance. I’ve been working hard to become more aware of that in myself and to learn better ways to handle situations and treat others, but it’s not easy.

My ‘sorry world!’ response was a little tongue-in-cheek, but in truth I was always a little embarrassed by my profile, and envied other types. The trait pairings are neutral, and so are the personality types; they do not dictate who you will be, or how you will react, or what you will be like as a person. But they do explain your underlying tendencies, and I can’t deny it, some types have much nicer starting points to work from! I read some profile descriptions and frankly they sound lovely. Mine is not that!! But you can start from a profile with tendencies to be big-hearted, creative, energetic lovers of harmony, and still act like a jerk. You can start with basic materials that tend you towards arrogant independence, and build a compassionate life upon them.

And this leads to where I am today; I am starting to love what I am. Yes, after 15 years working with it, starting, though I’ve loved who I am much longer. I’m beginning to recognise the beauty and wisdom of what God has made me out of. I’ve known in my head that all the types are needed to make the world work, but in practice have struggled to appreciate why such a potentially difficult character like myself might be necessary. But this is the good news isn’t it? All of us are full of potential, and none of us are sorted yet. We can all, particularly walking alongside the God who put us together and knows us, has a plan for us and gives us strength to be our best, build something amazing from the basic building blocks we’ve been given. I find the MBTI tool incredibly useful in understanding myself and my strengths and weaknesses, and in developing my character, and also in understanding the different perspectives those around me are coming from and so working better with them (particularly understanding that different styles of thinking are not wrong, just different perspectives as innate as my own). So there’s a fair bit in my make up that requires self-awareness just to behave decently. But we all have a bit of that, and I’m discovering that actually my type have some really beautiful characteristics waiting to be developed. I’m finding God has been at work in me, at least over this past year, helping me to uncover this, and I hope with God’s help I can grow into it in future.

So far in my journey with MBTI I’ve found it easier to see what I suspect others see of me; my tendency to put forth my ideas. What I have overlooked is what goes on inside me all the time; the vision. What is that inner world that I feel so at home in? It’s full of big ideas, concepts, dreams and an ache for justice, for the Kingdom of God, for restored relationships in all things and everything to be put right. That is where the INTJ mind can be a thing of beauty, and I’d never really grasped that before! In Switchfoot’s words, the tension is here, between who you are and who you could be, between how it is and how it should be… I see what things are like and where they’re headed, but I also see the potential. I may be short of the practical details on how to get from here to there but I am forever dreaming up vague roadmaps. The big picture drives me. As a scientist, activist and Christian, it makes sense. Somewhere inside I see before me the coming Kingdom of God, the world put right. I see the potential of humanity to not only turn around and overcome problems such as climate change, xenophobia and unjust trade, but actually be a creative force for good in the world, shaping it into something better than we started with (probably way outside my lifetime and even this era of history…). Big dreams! I think God can use that.

I recently wound up my latest round of counselling with an amazing session with my therapist*** in which she had me go over some of the damaging labels that had been put on me as a child (weirdo, daydreamer etc), and we worked through them (I won’t go into detail here, it would make a whole other blog post!) until I recognised I could replace those unhelpful labels with a better one: Visionary. I may have been a bit weird, and I was frequently off in my own world, elaborating in my own head ideas and stories based around what I’d been taught and read, which would have frustrated a teacher trying to keep me on track with the lesson. But there is the seed of the person I am now.

I may not be the person with the wild and original ideas, or the practical sense to make something work, or the patience to see a project through, and certainly not the people-person with the natural warmth and sensitivity to bring people together and look after others’ needs along the way, but there is a place for the ones with vision, especially vision grounded in the present reality, who can see the potential in the wild ideas and lift the collective expectation above the everyday. I have a way to go to work out what my place is in the world and how to harness a mind like this to make a useful contribution to the world. There’s definitely more for me to work on when it comes to working with others. But it’s exciting to see what’s always been in there!

So, no more apologies. I am an INTJ, I offer the world this perspective to work alongside yours, and I believe in us together. 🙂

 


*Disclaimer – I am not a psychologist, just someone who’s been using this to understand herself and how she relates to others for some time now, so apologies for what I’ve undoubtedly got wrong! This piece is really about my own journey.

**You can try a version here or here, these sites also give you a bit more background, plus you can read more about all the different personality types too

***Incidentally, the same tendency to see the big picture and resist inertia probably put me in therapy in the first place; if I wasn’t so bitten by failure, I’d be the sort of person who would much rather aim at the big vision and fail than to accept things as they are, and that is likely exactly what I’ve done with myself, to the point that I now have failure issues…

Implicit worship

Fake News Of The Week amongst the Switchfam was this satirical article from the Babylon Bee, ‘Switchfoot release implicit worship album’.

It provoked mixed reactions – but I have to admit, I laugh-snorted!  The article does have a dig at Jon’s writing style – it’s fair enough, except that he’s a lot more versatile and varied than is implied – but the classier dig is at the likes of me, who actually really get a lot out of that sort of songwriting. It’s bang on, and a proper ‘ouch!’.

The piece actually nailed so much of what I love about Switchfoot. And that got me thinking, why is that? I’m passionate about worship, yet this article shows me that ‘implicit worship’ is something I’m really behind. ‘Implicit worship’ sounds like a bad thing. Shouldn’t our worship be explicit? Shouldn’t we be saying it like we mean it? Are we not..? Here’s where my thoughts led me:

Firstly, I think we are. Being explicit is good and there’s a place for that, and you’ll find it within Switchfoot’s repertoire as well as in my own life.

But worship is more than singing praise songs. Worship is whole life. It would quickly become dry and meaningless if all we did were state our praise in words, especially in words that had been said many times before to the point of cliche, just as we do not live our personal relationships entirely through love songs. Worship cannot be words alone. Music helps it to stir our emotions, but that in itself is not enough. Worship must touch our whole lives, turn around our entire way of life. We need to be able to bring the whole of life and experience to God, engage with God there, allow ourselves to be challenged and changed and reshaped and motivated to act, and then go out and live it in God’s general direction. Simply singing ‘I love You Jesus’ songs has its place, but will not fulfil that whole purpose. Those songs I will use in church when we all need to be able to sing something simple together, and in moments when that is exactly what I need to express, but are not the sorts of songs I carry with me day to day, that help me work out how to be a better follower of Jesus in the everyday situations I find myself facing. They are not the songs that stretch and broaden my understanding and deepen my awe of God. For me, Switchfoot’s music takes me to those deeper places, the places that help me wrestle life and faith together and work through how to walk it out in the world I’m living in.

Implicit worship. Worship that involves the trajectory of my life, not merely my words. It’s precisely why someone like myself will connect more with songs of the sort the article pokes fun at, such as Stars, than with their more straightforwardly ‘explicit’ material, like new single You Found Me. They are the songs that go deep in my life, that I walk with over the years, that make me think, and change me, slowly, into something a little more Christlike, as they help me figure out what a faithful response to the world I live in might look like. Switchfoot’s music won’t do that for everyone, if it’s not to your taste or the way you think, but it does for many of us who connect with it.

And music has a purpose beyond explicit praise too, even for Christians believe it or not. And that’s an important factor to understanding the Foremans’ ethos. Switchfoot’s aim is not to be a church worship band. They are artists, making the music that expresses what is on their hearts, purely for the sake of that authentic expression. Music has value in itself. Its value is not just in ‘worship’ music. That is no higher or more spiritual than any other music. Music helps us to make sense of the big stuff, where we can turn with the things we don’t understand. Where we can experience feeling, and mystery, and wonder. That is as important to the Christian journey as singing praise songs, if not more so, and God, and good, can be found in any kind of music or art, labelled ‘Christian’ or otherwise. There is more to the human existence to experience and express than just the religious bits, and God wants to be involved in it all. We are made creative beings in God’s image, so simply using our creative capacity for any artistic expression is itself a godly act. God does not need to be excluded if we choose to use that art to express say our romantic feelings for another person or our frustration with politics or struggles with depression for example. God is present. And in music we can explore how to handle those situations faithfully. That too is worship, lived out.

So ‘implicit worship’ need not be a negative. It’s not about being ashamed or embarrassed of Jesus. Switchfoot are more than happy to speak openly about their faith and to publicly call themselves Christians, as am I. If we couldn’t bring ourselves to talk openly about Jesus at all we’d certainly have a problem. So too if I thought Switchfoot were trying to hide their faith to gain popularity amongst non-Christians. But that’s not their game. Theirs is just a different approach to both music and to worship than that of a ‘worship band’. Their calling is to make honest music. ‘Worship’ is not explicitly their aim, any more than it is mine when I go to work. Yet every day on my way to the office I’m praying for God to use me and my work that day. I’m not about to start a praise party in the office, and neither should we expect it of Switchfoot just because music is involved, but it is all worship nonetheless.

I don’t want my worship to be limited to the occasions I am singing praise songs. I want my whole life to imply worship. And long may there be music in our lives that moves us to live that way!

Summer

I stand on the edge of an endless ocean

Longing to dive in and swim

Have exhilarating waves come crashing in to meet me, challenge me, carry me

Today… I must wait

Learn to enjoy the shimmer and sparkle as I stand at the edge

Back on land, the earth bakes in the heat

Everything thirsts for rain and respite

And I thirst too

I want the harvest

Today… I must wait

Learn to enjoy the sun on my skin and the comfortable cool of the long evening

Today, all is on pause

I ache for action, for change, for movement

Today… this season is for waiting

For patience

For just being me

Here

Now.