‘On a hill above the valley there was a wood.
In the wood there was a huge tree.
Under the tree there was a hole.
In the hole lived Mr Fox and Mrs Fox and their four Small Foxes.’
These are the opening lines of Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl. It’s July 2020, and age 35, I find myself in the woods I read about as a child.
The woods where Fantastic Mr Fox lived, not far from London, are now inhabited by humans. These people live simply, and are working together to protect the wildlife, and prevent a high speed train from taking away some of this country’s last, precious ancient woodlands.
I’m putting extra energy into dreaded screen time, to write for Writers Rebel in the hope that the Roald Dahl connection to UK deforestation will stir some hearts. I want to strengthen our collective awareness of what is being lost, how the powerful are acting during this time of absolute global crisis, and what we can embody our objection. You are needed.
Roald Dahl’s stories have a special place in my childhood, and I am moved by the memory, the familiar inspiration. I feel it in my body. So much of being in the woods is about the body, I’ve realised how much of a full body sensory experience it is to be there. The light, colours, sounds, the feeling on my skin of the distinct environment created by the trees and plants as I step in from the fields outside. It feels essential for my resistance, to be as embodied as possible. I can no longer spend so much time in my head.
The thought of the loss of these woods seems a madness. Jones’ Hill Woods are particularly spectacular, full of very tall beech trees, a high canopy with almost no lower limbs. I feel an extreme peace and beauty walking here and being in these woods.
Opposing HS2 Ltd, who are essentially the Government, is not about a train. It represents and exemplifies so much of what is damaging us all, destroying life on earth, and what cannot be perpetuated if we are to change course from our terrifying trajectory.
Fighting can feel futile at times, but this is also about building. The embodied experience of often being in the woods, the intimacy with nature and fellow humans, united in our focus, whilst learning practical skills, is a source of nurture in an increasingly inhospitable world.
Protecting these trees we are doing seems part of an appropriate response to life in an age of ‘biological annihilation and collapse. I also want to acknowledge that I often also think, ‘What the fuck am I doing with my life?’
Three women wonder together, whilst building a tree house, how many of the thousands willing to be arrested for sitting in the road with Extinction Rebellion, might get arrested blocking machines cutting majestic ancient trees? Or visit the camps to witness the destruction and provide much needed general support on the ground? What are the barriers to people entering these spaces of resistance? How can we connect this campaign with the wider social challenges and global oppression and domination which it is absolutely a part of?
Eating food cooked communally on the fire, the mental torment and pain of decades of self loathing and disordered and anguished eating, which may never go completely, fades into the background.
Self hatred comes in less regular surges than before, rather than being the main story. The surges are also softer than the intensity I remember. Again a physical and embodied change, I think this is partly because of finding myself regularly of use to those around me. I remember that in a world where dissatisfaction is manufactured so that we consume, self acceptance is a radical act.
I feel more than ever the importance of the skills that I have dismissed as having less value – listening, caring, nurturing. I see and feel every day how much they are needed. I also see how vital basic tasks are, how the most simple skills are profound. These concepts around contributions are not new to me, but I have frequently forgotten.
I worry about being in a bubble here, with our plentiful supplies of cake from the surrounding wealthy villages. I feel disconnected from the urban spaces where spending time in the woods is not an option. I often feel confusion about how to best contribute to changing the power dynamics in the world, and I want to utilise my many life privileges as best I can, but I’m not sure how.
For the last two days I have been digging, and I’ve realised that, like Mr Fox (and eventually all his children), is digging for his survival, I think I’m digging for mine too. It’s a relief to smash the mattock down, to put my full body’s energy into something for the collective. I am aware that in a different version of the world I could be putting this energy towards child rearing, but instead I smash out my fears and anxieties, my terror at the thought of potentially billions of deaths around the world in my lifetime, the injustice calling from every direction, my grief which has few outlets.
What I’m doing feels like a small part of one solution for now, and I hope there is a ripple effect of what we are doing, that benefits others far and wide. You are invited and very welcome to come to the Roald Dahl woods, or to another protection camp. Please take some time to read deeper into the HS2 story and how all oppressions are woven together and connected.
Amy Caitlin is an anxious human, who chose lock down in an HS2 protest camp. The seed was sown when she saw a protester up a tree when she was a child. She likes wrestling and is looking for a date : )
If Amy’s blog has inspired you, click here to find out how to visit one of the HS2 protest camps, make a donation, or raise awareness through online actions.