.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What we eat, we are


Sun setting about half an hour ago (9.30) -last rays caught in a row of trees, orange/ red on green. A beautiful evening. I wanted to be everywhere at once - down on the Solway shore and up in the high hills and walking along side a river somewhere in between.

Just finished reading through the Old Statistical Accounts (1790) for Galloway, and started on the ‘New’ ones (1840). Got the Third series (1965) still to go. When other sources added in, got 400 years worth of local history to follow through.

Some of it - the early material, is dramatic - a 13 week siege of Threave castle in 1640, the persecution of the Conventiclers and the ‘Killing Times’ (1662-1688). But mainly it is the slow transformation of the landscape.

In places the changes are minimal. About 1500 years ago some Irish monks (no more than ten) built a wooden chapel on Ardwall Island on the edge of Fleet Bay/ Wigton Bay. The physical scene - the sea, the mud/sand flats, the Cairnharrow hills, distant glimpses of the Isle of Man and the Machars peninsula, even the sound of osyter-catchers - remains the same. The modern details - the farmed landscape and holidaymakers on the beach - fade away at sunset.

In the high hills you need to get above and beyond the dark green sea of Sitka spruce and scramble amongst the tumbled granite boulders on the Dungeon range to find the white quartz sands of Loch Enoch. Here - 10 000 years of time, a landscape of moss, grass and heather have re-covered the scars of the last ice age.

In between - a land divided, cut up and intersected by a fine grid of enclosures: stone dykes, hedges, shelter belts , fences and drainage ditches that were once streams; and by a coarser network of roads and tracks, with rivers embanked, bridged and dammed.

A landscape pacified and rationalised- civilised? Take the river Dee (our Galloway Dee). One of the New Statistical Accounts mentions her ‘Lammas spates’, comparing the Dee with the Nile. In late July/ early August summer rain storms in the hills would raise the river’s height by 8ft overnight. The flood waters would sweep away the farmers’ meadow hay and riverside crops. Sometimes the red flood waters would surge past Threave castle and over the marshes to fill Carlingwark Loch and almost re-estbalish her ancient course to the sea at Orchardton Bay.

And the people? Were the Galloway Levellers resisting the ‘pacification through enclosure’ of the land? I can’t make that argument formally (acdemically) -insufficient evidence.

But what followed has been a slow loss of intimacy between land and people. To be fully materialistic, for the 8 to 10 thousand years of deep history, land and people were physically indistinguishable - the physical bodies of the people were made from the food they ate, water and other fluids they drank - and all came from the land they lived within.

The clothes they wore were likewise products of the land, as were the houses ( wood, earth, stone, thatch) they lived in and most of the tools they used.

So if anlaysed at chemical/ physical level - land and people would have been indistinguishable, would have been one.

But could this physical intimacy have any influence on consciousness and/ or behaviour? Guess it depends on how determinism works - and how influential ‘non-deterministic’ ideas are- the culture changed many times, as did the language.

Given myself two hours for this. Time now up.


Blogger angel said...

Hey alistair,
just came across your blog.
I lived at puppy mansions with Brett. I remember you very well, we lived in Ilford at the same time. Val and I were at St. Martins together.
I googled Kill your pet puppy and up you came!!
would love to get in touch with Val. I still am in touch with Greenhair, but I live In Los Angeles now so only get to England about twice a year.
You can contact me on myspace or at aangelsiren@aol.com.
If I remember correctly it was my photo on the front of the evening standard, to do with the black sheep housing coop.
please write back would love to speak to you

1:35 am  

Post a comment

<< Home