Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Davy Carlin: 'Fill Up My Senses'

Over the last few days of wonderful weather my partner and I who both hold a growing and keen interest in the environment and nature, have enjoyed our local facilities. With a ten-minute walk from our home we can sit on the side of a beautiful mountain, ‘our mountain’ {Black Mountain} and overlook the city of Belfast.

With that my partner sketches while I pen or type articles. This with the memories of our immediate childhoods just a glance away, mine having been the Murph {Ballymurphy}, while Marie’s being the Turf {Turf Lodge} as we look from Black mountain upon such. We can now trek and ramble to the top of the mountain and beyond, {now opened} and take in one of its nature trails. This while breathing in not only the fresh air, but also the splendid scenery which of course stretches over Belfast to the opposite mountains, and to the loch and sea beyond. The array of wildlife, birds, flowers, shrubbery is bountiful as you make your way up past beautiful white horses grazing in the fields. Each aspect of nature I am finding has its own independent smell and feel of touch, and each eatable berry, its own wild flavour.Yet having hauled our foldable chairs up with us, and although with the heat beating down in the hottest day of the year, we where ‘chilled’ and contended, as we breathed in the scenery, with a chat and a good book in hand – and of course an amply filled Cool box. This while keeping an eye on our wee dog who had encountered a few new friends in the form of colourful butterflies and birds which I am just beginning to put names to, as I trawl though wildlife books. In fact I have found myself stating things I would not have thought myself stating years ago such as, ‘isn’t that flower beautiful’, isn’t that tree magnificent’, isn’t that sky amazing’’ this scenery needs no words’ etc. Yet in a sense I find it hard to explain, but I feel I am ‘drawn’ to such things which where once completely unacknowledged by oneself. And indeed this has intensified as I work to finish my book about growing up in West Belfast and that of my recent activism. In fact such provides both inspiration and comfort because as I have found that as my senses become more alive and aware, then in a differing but similar sense, so do I {if persons can understand what I mean} -------------

Another five minutes and a lazy dander from our door in another direction we are inside a large open park, which holds a huge array of tended flowerbeds and shrubbery. The park also hosts a leisure centre, various pitches, play areas, bowling greens, outdoor basket ball and bike courses as well as a river lined with magnificent trees which run through it.In the evening my Partner and I frequently take a jog around the top pitch which on a summers evening is a beautiful experience in itself. On one side of the pitch one can look upon Belfast as the lights come on around the city, while on the other side one can look upon Black Mountain as the sun sets behind it. The array of colours, purple, lilac orange, yellow, red etc when the sun is setting behind the ‘Blackness’ of our mountain in all its glory, is simply amazing on these summer evenings At the bottom of our park is an award winning {UNESCO} nature reserve. Within it one can find many varieties of wildlife settled around the lake, or on the island in the middle of it, from swans to other families of various water birds busily getting on with their tasks. While on the other hand when walking around its surrounding greenery and bog meadows you can explore the numerous types of foliage abundant with many forms of life - some of which I had not been aware having even existed. For example blue and lilac luminous flies that hover above the bog meadows are a wonderment in themselves, before one even attempts to study their ‘work patterns’ Yet either sitting on our chairs over looking the lake, or simply walking around the reserve talking about life, the world, and why and how it needs changed. We are always given extra inspiration by such tranquil surroundings – even though being amongst a frenzy of activity that often had went unacknowledged to oneself. The nature reserve is a place where one can just chill out and take in the pleasure of nature static or in motion - or to actively study it closer at hand. Indeed such is our regularity there, that the swans now feed on the titbits out of our hands while other specific birds at times land on our arms or shoulders.

Even back at our home {which has enclosed garden at the front} an occasional seagull now makes its way lazily along at times in early morning to find titbits. Again sometimes we just chill in the garden to the neighbourness of hello Davy, hello Marie from all who pass, whatever the age. This with ourselves and the dog under the shade of the trees if the sun gets to hot, but usually basking in it – but still, as ever, under the watchful and inspirational shadow of Black Mountain which recalls aspects of both our childhoods like many from the surrounding area. Indeed even today when I have friends from elsewhere visiting, the view driving up the Springfield road and seeing Black mountain coming into view always rise’s comments of admiration from whomever views it. --------

Yet it is not only a situation where I have realised in a real way my senses in respect to nature, but in tandem with this I have found a growing interest in structures, architecture and history {in an artistic and thoughtful sense} ------. So across the road from the reserve’s entrance is, as stated, the Falls Park, while on each side of the road holds cemeteries, These cemeteries indeed hold an immense history and both of us {without seeming morbid} finding pleasure and intrigue touring them through seeing and discovering a whole local history emerging. Again much of what was hidden amongst overgrowth is now starting to be unveiled due to work being done. Seeing some of the masonry and the monuments from yesteryear tells of yet other stories. Over time I have found that if one lifts their heads above head level another whole history emerges through the architecture and buildings all around and above us. Indeed as with nature and the environment my interest has been drawn to such Since my late teens I have been fortunate enough to having been able to travel a lot. Indeed I have travelled to many countries in the world, including to virtually every ‘Party spot’ in Western Europe since then.

Yet again such has shifted and Marie and my travels now incorporate all those aspects as raised above. Over the last decade or so my whole outlook on life, my thoughts and understanding of the world have changed to an extent that those that I had known then would no longer {in a sense} know me now. It is said that people change; people mellow, as they grow older. Yet I have changed, although not mellowed, as there is a fire that burns ever stronger as a Revolutionary Socialist within my heart and within my mind.I had once thought though that such feelings of appreciation for such things where deemed ‘unmanly’ amongst my peer groups. Indeed at best I may have been isolated as a tree hugging hippie or may even have been warranted a kicking in youth {by some} if I had went around smelling flowers or sitting in admiration watching the sun set at the height of the conflict. Anyways, apart from that such things where the furthest from my mind and only over time have I been drawn to them, or indeed them to me.Yet in my own understanding - ever developing - there is no contradiction of being an outspoken Revolutionary and being outspoken in the appreciation of such aspects of nature. Indeed I believe to be a Revolutionary Socialist one should be at the forefront in the defence of the environment and all that goes with it.
As my interest develops and indeed as it is drawn to nature, to the environment, to architecture, to structures, to monuments and ‘artistic’ history I feel it is part of me that was always there but has been long held back. This like so many other things pushed to the back of the mind, like many other people, during those childhood and youth days living within the war.
On this issue though, my appreciation grows. And now when sitting on Black Mountain or when focusing on the hive of plant, bird and insect activity in the nature reserve with my partner, or when looking upon wondrous architecture or upon historical monuments - my senses come alive.

And with it brings both a feeling of being alive and a certain sense of freedom never before felt.Indeed when I am immersed in such it creates a growing feeling of being able to breathe – I mean – to now really really being able to breathe, from the tip of my toe to the very core of my mind. .

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