A while back. Not so long ago.
An email from my agent came, forwarded from Letters to the Earth. The request was for letters, to the earth, to be read at various venues, by people. Protest letters, love letters. Could I write one, would I write one.
This is what I wrote.
When I was young I would lie, pressed to the earth, eyes wide to the skies. I would watch you in your hundreds, criss-cross, hunt on the wing, layers of birds, some so high, seen only as dark commas against the blue, some so low to skim the reaching seeds of long grass.
When I was young I believed you carried the promise of summer sun on your wings.
When I was young I watched as you gathered mud in your mouth to build a home beneath the eaves of the houses of humans. Architect, potter, parent. I watched your shadow rise and fall, heard your children call, saw you answer them with food, watched them fledge.
When I was young I marvelled as you gathered, toward summer’s end, small dots on wires like wild music, fast, furious rhythm, written against the sky.
When I was young I didn’t know the distance you travelled, away from my winter, to warmer lands. I didn’t know how you carried in your bodies the maps of the earth, the paths of the flight, scenting the land, knowing its shape, each rock and stream and tree and river and ocean. I didn’t know how this knowledge was born in the egg, before egg became bird became flight, but I knew you were a miracle. Every single soul.
Once some believed you slept all winter beneath the ice in ponds.
Once some believed the Earth is flat.
Now some believe climate change is fiction.
But now, when I lie on my back in the long grass, breathing its scent, eyes wide to the sky, my heart still lifts to see your wings, though you are now so few. Each year more sky, more space, and each single swallow more precious for that.
And I still marvel to see you gather as autumn scents the air, still writing your wild music on the wires in the sky. But now the music is a lament, more space between each note, a song of praise and loss, an elegy for the ghosts of gone birds.
And I know, I cannot live without you.
And I sent a swallow, and now she flies with the Letters to the Earth and it is, for me, beautiful to see her alongside protestors in London.
And alongside my letter there are many others, now published online, for many to read, to gather, to sing, to shout for change. But the one that has moved me most, in its words and delivery is this, by Nick Drake.
‘I am the future, but before I appear,— CultureDeclaresEmergency (@CultureDeclares) April 12, 2019
Please – close the scrolls of information,
Let the laptop sleep,
And shut your eyes.
Listen – Things are going to change’#Fleabag star #AndrewScott with his sister Hannah present @nickfdrake ‘s #LetterToTheEarth pic.twitter.com/UgpJmRSlKr