Autumn Equinox   (first published by, September 2013)

As we approach the autumnal equinox I am aware of the richness of this year’s harvest. This summer in Ireland has been exceptionally sunny and warm, with record-breaking temperatures and dry spells of the like that have not been seen in decades. In my own garden it has been a bumper year for fruit, strawberries especially and virtually everything, that doesn’t need constant watering, has done well.

This dry spell was much needed, not just for farmers who will have good grain yields this year, but as a general morale boost for a population depressed by cold and windy winters, continuous poor summers and the depravations of political austerity that has hit most of us, even the ultra-rich in some cases. Much as this has been a spiritual uplift for many it has brought to mind some more serious issues.

In Ireland the good weather is welcome but I am aware that elsewhere others are suffering drought, wild-fires and devastation as a result of one or the other, or even both. This reminds me just how lucky we are to live in a temperate and stable part of the world that does not suffer extremes, almost everyone here is well fed, clothed and in most cases housed, even if they could be described as poor. We take our abundant water supply and abundant food so much for granted that we annually waste huge amounts; in fact, in the case of water, over a third of it is lost in broken pipes before it even reaches people’s homes.

This year, like all years, I am grateful for the amazing harvest from the Earth, that we rely on throughout each year. However, I am also aware of how fragile the balance is that gives us all that we need to live and also I am aware how careless human beings have become with regard to this eternal balance of life and death. Right now Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant continues to contaminate both Japan and the Pacific Ocean, more than two years after the initial disaster. GM corporates continue to bully farmers around the world and lobby governments to inflict their toxic ideology on populations when farmers and ordinary people are already under pressure from extreme weather and food insecurity.

My awareness of the bounty of my own personal harvest and its impact physically and psychologically is made all the more powerful by an understanding that while I receive the fruits of my work and the generosity of the land, others are blighted, starved, harassed or even killed on the other side of the globe. It’s so easy to see ourselves as islands, and in my own case I live on one! In reality none of us are islands – everything is connected.

Our own apathy or ingratitude here has repercussions elsewhere, just as the gratitude, the efforts to facilitate positive attitudes and real-world changes also reverberates far beyond our own home, town or country. There is a very real need to accelerate changes in how we live on this planet and I personally think the best way to inspire others is not just to talk about it but to live by example and actually show people that we really need far less that we think we do.

Our desire for far more than we need is disastrous, a subject I feel passionate about. A poem I wrote some time ago on this issue had sunk to the back of my mind but thinking about this time of year and recent reading material (such as ‘The Moneyless Man’ by Mark Boyle) reminded me of it and how blasé most us have become – so here it is! I hope you all enjoy this wonderful time of year and I hope you’ll also find the time to reflect on how blessed we truly are.

What I Need

I need a fast car, with plenty of electronics
I need expensive clothes, made in an Asian sweatshop
I need cosmetics and spa treatments, ‘cause I’m worth it
I need cappuccinos, ciabattas, couscous and curries,
Since I can no longer remember what my own culture eats
I need an i-Toy and 24 /7 TV so I don’t have to be alone with myself
I need internet friends since my real friends don’t have time
I need to feel relevant, cool, sophisticated and successful
I need more stuff, more me-time, more
I need self-fulfilment, as simply being happy is not enough
I need a holiday, above all from myself!
I need a kick in the hole,
I need to take responsibility for this world,
And my part in its fading beauty
I need to wake up…
I need to LIVE.