I spent the first month fixing things that had been waiting for me to have the time, and clearing away clutter. I got potatoes in the ground and tomatoes in pots and sowed seeds. I did everything I could to keep busy because the real job was writing, something I’ve been working on for two years. The pandemic had to sink in first.
I had another job, to bide my time, recording the natural habitats where I live, in film, photography and paint, with the people of the parish. I’ve photographed hedges, rock pools, meadows and cliff faces, recording wild plants through the seasons and talking to parishioners about what they’ve seen. I’ve been adding to a herbarium, of all the plant species here, which I started two years ago. This year it’s seaweeds. I’ve been alone in Tregona Capel. Early June in the middle of fields, high ground towards the sea, on a hot still evening, I heard a cuckoo, first one for eight years.
I started to write a book while in the middle of Brexit. Tackling the lack of understanding of the trouble we’re in. I live at sea level. The book covers natural processes, history, British history in relation to the rest of the world. What we are as a species, in relation to each other and to non-humans (animals). I hope that a concise, fast tour of all this might be helpful. It’s called Island Mind.
I’m in my 60s and it seemed, for a while, that people were distracted by the speed of life, which I was watching from a slower speed. Everyone knew something was wrong but just carried on. Then, this year, time stopped, and then lurched forward. Covid has provided time to think, but pressure says, ‘get back to normal’.
We want to change but we’ll have to alter everything to address Climate Change. It’s time we called it Global Warming, more to the point. Grow a few vegetables and understand that to feed yourself you’ll have to stop doing everything else. Radical changes are required for my grandchildren to have a future.
This week I’m writing about plate tectonics and photosynthesis, fundamental Earth systems which steered evolution. This chapter, sixteen of thirty, is called Trees.
I flip around the planet and establish our domain, and humans as an animal, to put us in our place and provoke an understanding of how serious our position is, how easy it will be for the human species to be sloughed off.
Interesting how many diseases were already in the book pre-Covid. Every time we, the Europeans, colonised another place, the local population plummeted by 90%, within a few years of the first ship dropping anchor.
– Jane Darke June 2020
Jane Darke (writer/filmmaker/artist) lives in Cornwall. Three of her films have been on BBC Four, including The Wrecking Season (whose screening at CAST, scheduled for late March, was postponed because of lockdown). Another is about the Cornish poet Charles Causley. Work is in progress on a companion documentary about playwright Nick Darke. Her book Held by the Sea was published by Souvenir Press in 2011 and her latest, Island Mind, about the human species and Earth systems, is near completion. She took part in the (ecology-based) Cornwall Workshop led by Andy Holden in 2019, and is working on a Habitats Project with St Eval Community (funded by FEAST). The project records ecologies, in film, photography and paint (with Cornwall Wildlife Trust advice) for exhibition at Cornwall Archives Collection (Kresen Kernow) in 2022. Jane’s base is Tregona Chapel, where she runs workshops and curates St Eval Archive.