“Green Fire – Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic For Our Time”

Aldo Leopold died of a heart attack while battling a fire on a neighbour’s property on April 21, 1948. He is one of those literary figures better known and much more influential in America than on this side of the Atlantic – like Henry Adams, or to a certain degree Emerson or Thoreau. I first came across him when reading about solastalgia  , which lead me to A Sand County Almanac and the concept of the Land Ethic:

“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”

“This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.


I have remarked before on some of the aspects of Leopold’s work which might strike one as dated – for instance his unself-conscious engagement in hunting, not seen as implacably opposed to conservation as it often is now (in Britain especially) . But by and large, Leopold’s work is all too relevant. Indeed, as the disappearance of species accelerates rather than slows down in our supposedly green-conscious age, the rediscovery of the Land Ethic looms larger than ever as an imperative rather than a luxury.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/8669977″>Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user2926562″>Jeannine Richards</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


“A leader for whom silence was a virtue” Sudhir Hazareesingh on Charles De Gaulle

It seems a bit of a truism to describe Charles de Gaulle as an extraordinary figure, but truisms are no less true for being true. It is hard to know which episode of his political career was most compelling; his sheer bloody-mindedness in rising from relative obscurity and defying the contempt of his soi-disant allies to become the incarnation of Free France, or his approach to the Algerian Crisis. And it is often forgotten that the biggest demonstration in Paris of May 1968 was in support of de Gaulle.


As this TLS review by Sudhir Hazareesingh of a new biography of  De Gaulle  states, his reputation has only grown until he is now “celebrated by the entire French political class”:

During his remarkable political career, he twice rescued his country from disaster: first through his bold leadership of the Resistance after France’s defeat by the Nazis in 1940, and later by his skilful handling of the crisis provoked by the Algerian war of national liberation. As the founder of the Fifth Republic in 1958, he redesigned France’s political system along presidential lines, and his shadow has loomed heavily over all his successors (on his official photograph, Emmanuel Macron’s most prominent talisman is an open copy of de Gaulle’s War Memoirs). Once reviled by liberals and progressives for his authoritarianism, and by the extreme Right for his anti-fascism and anti-colonialism, de Gaulle is now celebrated by the entire French political class. Indeed, le grand Charles has become the nation’s most revered historical figure, with thousands of streets, schools and public squares across France bearing his name. His vision of Frenchness has reshaped his compatriots’ sense of their collective self, and of their country’s rightful place in the world. To understand de Gaulle, in sum, is to appreciate what it means to be French, both intellectually and emotionally.

The most interesting part of this review is the next paragraph. It is hard to know how “a leader for whom silence was a virtue” would get on in the age of Twitter. Although perhaps it would be a highly effective approach to the babble of our time:

However, any attempt to reconstruct the Gaullian mindset is fraught with challenges, as Julian Jackson recognizes in this wonderfully poised, erudite and captivating work. This was a leader for whom silence was a virtue, and impenetrability a defining quality. He tended to keep his innermost thoughts to himself, and often made conflicting observations to members of his entourage – simply to gauge their reactions. He was an inveterate producer of myths, framing grand idealized narratives that distorted the French past, while systematically exaggerating his role and belittling that of his rivals and adversaries (many wartime documents of his Free French movement, and even his own collected speeches and notes, were later doctored). Moreover, as Jackson notes, de Gaulle was riddled with “extraordinary contradictions”. He veered between buoyant optimism and crippling melancholy, calcu­lating rationalism and ethereal mysticism, selfless abnegation and narcissistic egotism, shameless opportunism and obdurate inflex­ibility (fittingly, his surname was derived from the Flemish word for “wall”). To this list might be added his greatest paradox: he loved France, but was contemptuous of the French – a characteristic example of the Gallic intellectual preference for idealized abstraction over empirical reality.

Doon Mass Rock, Doon, Co. Donegal.

Doon Mass Rock, Doon, Co. Donegal.

While the Holy Well and the rock where the O’Donnell chieftain was inaugurated are better known, the site near Termon in Donegal features a well–preserved Mass Rock. These photos capture it from a few angles on a recent sunny day (haven’t they all been)

In recent years the muddy tracks which one had to follow to climb have been replaced by tarmac paths, not to everyone’s taste and I must say something has been lost while obviously a great deal of access has been gained. .











A resting blessing from the Carmina Gadelica

From Alexander Carmichael’s collection of the Scottish oral tradition Carmina Gadelica , a resting blessing


AN ainm an Tighearn Iosa,
Agus Spiorad ìocshlain aigh,
An ainm Athar Israil,
Sinim sios gu tamh.

Ma tha musal na dusal,
Na run air bith dhomh ’n dan,
Dhia fuasgail orm is cuartaich orm,
Is fuadaich uam mo namh.

An ainm Athar priseil,
Is Spiorad iocshlain aigh,
An ainm Tighearn Iosa,
Sinim sios gu tamh.
*         *         *         *
Dhia, cobhair mi is cuartaich mi,
O ’n uair ’s gu uair mo bhais.


IN name of the Lord Jesus,
And of the Spirit of healing balm,
In name of the Father of Israel,
I lay me down to rest.

If there be evil threat or quirk,
Or covert act intent on me,
God free me and encompass me,
And drive from me mine enemy.

In name of the Father precious,
And of the Spirit of healing balm,
In name of the Lord Jesus,
I lay me down to rest.
*         *         *         *
God, help me and encompass me,
From this hour till the hour of my death.

Choctaw artist/writer Waylon Gary White Deer to lead Tipperary Famine Walk 28th July 2018

Choctaw artist Waylon Gary White Deer  to lead Tipperary Famine Walk in Ballingarry on 28th July. From the Ballingarry Facebook Page:


You are invited to this year’s Famine 1848 Walk which takes place in Ballingarry from the Young Ireland and National Flag Monument in the village of The Commons to Famine Warhouse 1848, the OPW national heritage Museum on Saturday, 28 July at 3pm.

The Walk will be led by Waylon Gary White Deer from the Choctaw Nation in the United States. The Walk will recall the extraordinary act of kindness of the Choctaws to the starving Irish during the Great Famine

Organised by the Ballingarry 1848 Society.

Waylon Gary White Deer’s website describes him as a “Choctaw Indian Painter and Author based in Co. Donegal, Ireland”. This profile pictures him in front of Muckish and describes him as living in the “Donegal Gaeltacht”

The Commons claims to be first place the tricolour was flown as an Irish national flag.

“But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us”

From ” “Dare to Journey–with Henri Nouwen (Designed for Influence)” by Charles Ringma”

We need to resist making unhelpful distinctions where we play off one thing against another. Prayer, for example, is not opposed to work; and the search for solitude is not opposed to active involvement in our world. These seeming opposites belong together. Prayer leads to work, and work needs to be done prayerfully. Similarly, solitude is not simply a withdrawal from the world in order to be renewed and refreshed. It is also finding a new center of inner quietness and certitude from which we act in the midst of a busy and demanding world.
Nouwen expresses the seeming paradox in this way: “The movement from loneliness to solitude is not a movement of growing withdrawal, but is instead it movement toward a deeper engagement in the burning issues of our time. This seeming contradiction finds its resolution in the fact that we can lose ourselves in our much-doing but cannot find ourselves simply through withdrawal.
In our much-doing we lose perspective, lose our energy, and more importantly, lose our creativity and sense of humor. We thus begin to carry the world on our shoulders and soon become overwhelmed or disillusioned. But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us. Rather, the movement to solitude is to find a renewed self, and from the center of being loved and nourished we can again enter our world with purposeful engagement and joyful detachment.

“Conas tá an misneach?” / “How is the courage?”

I have been reading the beautifully produced book Aneas – Saíocht ó thraidisiún Gaelach na Mumhan. This book features various proverbs, sayings and idioms of Munster Irish, with a text accompanying each in both Irish and English (interestingly, while the texts are similar in theme and sentiment, they are not direct translations of each other) The book features haunting photos by Lanke Haouche Perren (the cover is reproduced below and the photo below is from Haouche Perren’s LinkedIn page)

Aneas 21.1.14-600x600

“Conas tá an misneach?”

Ar an misneach a mhairimid. Coimeádann sé an dé ionainn, nuair a chaithimid coimeád sa tsúil, agus an saol dorcha timpeall orainn, go drí go ngealann an ghrian aris dúinn. Rud a dhéanann, le foighne. Aithníonn an beannú coitianta seo i gCora Dhuibhne tábacht an mhisnigh, tuigeann sé a leochaileacht, tacaíonn sé lena fhorbairt. Léargas deas é ar fhealsúnacht an chultúir.


Éilíonn gach aon tsaol agus gach aon tréimhse sa tsaol, a mhisneach uathach féin. Agus ins na laethanta diana trína bhfuil an oiread sín daoine ag streachailt faoi láthair, ni mór misneach a chothú. Níl aon rud buan. Casfaidh an roth.  Mar a deir ráiteas gaoiseach eile:

“Is mairg a báitear le linn an anaithe / Mar tagann an ghrian in ndiadh na fearthainne”


My own translation of this (apologies for any errors, and the English text from the book is certainly more elegant as a piece of prose):

We live on courage. It keeps us going, when we come across difficulties in our way, and life is dark around us, until the sun shines again on us. It does things to us. This saying from Corca Dhuibhne reminds us of the importance of courage, it understands it is fragile, it needs to be given support. It is a good insight into the philosophy of the culture.

In every life and in every period of life, courage is needed. And these days of trial, when so many people are struggling, courage must be maintained. Nothing is permanent. The wheel turns. As another saying has it:

“Sad the  he who drowns in the storm / for the sun comes after the rain”

The English text in the book:

This is a common greeting in Corca Dhuibhne. It reveals a great deal about the culture of the region. Courage is fundamental to a good life, sustaining us through the bad times, allowing us to reach the good. The question in itself implies communal support for the individual in daily life. It indicates a comprehension of the volatility of courage: it ned not always be strong, it may waver, it needs support and development.

In  modern society where chaos threatens, and social systems under strain, the need for courage is manifest. It is well to remember that cycles change. The sun shines again. no matter how strong the storm. We endure, things will improve. Keep up your courage, and accept the help of those who help you to sustain it.