Birthday wishes

The snow’s almost all gone now. There’s a storm blowing outside and I’m worried about a tarp that’s protecting something precious and beautiful out there.

Tomorrow, the 27th, it’ll be my birthday. I’ll be 40.

I’m well past feeling uncertain about the number – I’m quite ready to be out of my thirties now and not quite ready to settle into my bath chair, regaling patient nurses with implausible lies about my youth, so 40 sounds about right. I’ll be marking the birthday in my own way, and I’ve got the feeling that Rima’s up to something, but that’s not what this post is about.

People keep asking me what I’d like for my birthday and I keep struggling to answer them. I’m in the fortunate position of not really needing anything, or of wanting more stuff (see Rima’s article in the latest EarthLines for more about why that should be, and what the tarp is covering, for that matter.) I really don’t need more books, nor bits of pleasing thingery of whatever happy origin, nor curious foods or beverages. I live well, better than almost all the rest of the world, truth be told, and I’m grateful for it. I’m surrounded by a community of exceptional strength and depth, and I’m blessed with good health and the loving company of an amazing beloved woman and an amusing, big-hearted lurcher. So what do I want? Pretend with me for a while here. What gift would brighten the world for me, for one day, at least?



If you’ve been following the news or my recent posts, you’ll know that Combe Haven in East Sussex is the setting for the beginning of a new round of battles between road-builders and protesters. I won’t go into the background here – do look on the Combe Haven Defenders website if you want to know more. Two of three protest camps there have already been evicted. The third is due to be evicted on Monday 28th Januarythis Monday coming.

If you read my blog, you’ll know how I feel about road-building and road protesters. You’ll know how I feel about the march of the Machine, about the landscape and the wilds and the absurdity of our current ways of living. The way I see it, the turning of old forest into tarmac is wrong. We betray our children’s children if we let these things happen – if we let them happen unopposed, we also betray ourselves: something of our own soul is damaged with every blind, tired eye we turn.

For me, this issue is no longer about climate change, or sustainable transport solutions, or the preservation of the English landscape. It is about honouring our role in what you might call the web of creation. It’s about doing what is right in the face of that which is wrong. You can argue that that’s a fundamentalist position, but I get fundamentalist about the land, without apology. I think we all should.

If we stand aside when there is injustice, are we not complicit in that injustice? If we stand aside when the land is harmed, whether it’s by road-building, by fracking, by tar sands extraction, nuclear-dumping, pipeline-building – by whatever in fact is happening to the world around us, are we not equally implicit? Tell the truth, now.

We may not be able to save our world from the catastrophe that’s already unfolding. We probably won’t know for sure until it’s far too late. These are the realities our generations must face. But we can live to the extent of our souls – we can begin to wake ourselves from the slumber we have fallen into, the infantilised state of submission to our fears and our despair and our inertia. We can resist wrong, risking that our lives may be turned upside down by involvement with that resistance and we can live or die with honour.

So, give me that, this birthday. If you can do one thing that steers your life closer towards courage and away from fear, do that thing. It doesn’t have to be much. For some, it might be making a phone call that you’ve been putting off. It might be standing up to the bully at work, to your belittling partner or those who mock your dreams. For others, it might mean taking one more step towards getting involved in the resistance to the destruction of our world, however that may manifest around you.

If you’re in the UK and can get there, wish me happy birthday by going to Combe Haven. Go there tomorrow, help them in whatever way you can – you don’t have to be an ‘activist’ or an anarchist or an anything-ist, you just have to want to help resist. The resisters there are running buses tomorrow in preparation for Monday’s potential evictions – they will be able to tell you what they need. Help them; help your own soul. Go here or here for more information. If you can’t get there, but would like to support them, consider a donation and/or a message of solidarity – here has details of how to do both. Spread the word, but quickly…

Camp Decoy location

Wherever you are, please gift me this on my 40th: begin to live more as if this weren’t a dress rehearsal or someone else’s life; live as if this were your best shot at showing your most real and vivid self to the world, to your ancestors, to God (if you like, or the Goddess), to your community or to your children. Step away from the stultifying, open the door and run towards your life. Take it in your arms; elope with it. The world needs you now at your fullest; live as if you could look your life in the eye, in love, unflinching, proud.

These are hard times to live with your soul awake. We are standing in the midst of a bloody field with a beast that shows no signs of weakening. There are layers of pain, grief and despair that are hard to stay with. I myself rebound constantly into patterns of avoidance and anaesthesia. Long periods go by during which I feel myself to be asleep, dulled and distracted. But something is happening to my life these days, something I can’t – despite my best attempts – avoid. As I teeter here on the edge of 40, my courage is growing, my resolve is strengthening and my soul’s voice is more and more distinct. It will, no doubt, get me into all sorts of trouble. Life’s like that. These are troubled times and time indeed for all manner of troubles. Life lived to avoid trouble is life half-lived…

So, don’t send me birthday wishes – send me word from the front-line of your life. Have 40 days of honeymoon with your soul, on me. Go wild. Live free. Become the life-loving resistance we’ve been waiting for.

Here are some links to articles of inspiration, just to get you started:

Now, forgive me – it’s time to stoke up the fire. I shall resist the urge to get into my bath-chair and put the tartan blanket over my knees, and I’ll wait out the storm until tomorrow comes, bringing my forties with it. Maybe, I’ll see you somewhere soon, shoulder to shoulder in the fields…

Two oaks on the lane, 24.1.13


14 thoughts on “Birthday wishes

  1. Happy Birthday to you, although you have given the gift to us with that challenge. Sadly am too far for the Combe Martin protests. But take the small gift of standing by the side of my son, trying to give him the strength to face his fears (Although I consider him normal he has Aspergers and some of his peers think this makes him an easy target). Take the small gift of the younger brother who loves his brother and stands up for him at school. Take the gift of a walk to work each day to lessen the car journeys one by one.

    I wish you and Rima a joyous day in the rite of passage for each passing year you have. Happy Birthday.

  2. Blessings on your birthday, and may we come to our senses and STOP killing our ancient forests… I’m hoping for a miracle for the protest. But, I think, if two horses can show up so magically and be obviously SOOOO concerned and the trees are STILL cut, then how in the world do we get people to see the magic when it is right in front of them?

  3. A very happy birthday Tom.

    Your words are a continuous source of encouragement to those, like me, who are making an effort to live more closely to the natural world and within the deep parts of ourselves that are connected to that world. Thank you for being a favourite read on my feed reader.

    I’ve been brave this past week and opened an Etsy shop to sell my paintings. I haven’t had the nerve to before, I still can hardly believe I’ve done it, but I’m very glad that I have.

  4. Happy birthday,Tom. You are just, almost , old enough to begin your life. I know that you will spend it well. I am so happy that young people like you are waking up to what is important in this life. Your writings have certainly enriched and inspired my life. Happy and the best of health to you Tom….

  5. Tom @coyopa Happy Birthday. What a great article and way to celebrate! You really are fortunate.
    I seems such a hard line is being drawn between interests over land, air and water – a real divide appears. Ii say, if there is anyone around to care about something, they should have precedence in the final say so. That’s us – we who love the woods, lands, water and air, finding so much magic and sustenance there.
    Theories about the divide abound – the latest I have heard is that there is a conspiracy to calcify our pineal glands with fluoride and other neurotoxins. This gland plays a part in our spiritual development being related to the third eye. And because I can’t understand how people can make some of the choices they do, I am almost ready to believe anything. Greed is hard to fathom, and ignorance an ever-present affliction. What else can we do, but continue in good works, not flagging, hoping for results.
    Best to you and Rima, and all.

  6. I turned 38 on the 28th, just a few leaps behind you ’round the mountain… Very similar skin celebration, an inky gesture toward magic and wonder and whole heartedness, a ritual between your body mind and the rest of things…mediated via the needle in anothers hand…endlessly fascinating. Good luck with yours. Here’s to another year of heart courage and deep wonder and wild rich joy x

    1. Yes indeed! And a belated happy birthday to you, Rosie. I haven’t managed the ink yet, for one reason or another, but soon… Good luck with yours too. T x

  7. Thank you belatedly for your comments and your news.

    I was truly touched to read of your triumphs of courage over fear. These are surely the flickering flames we must nurture into fires if we’re going to stand in a chance in this crazy century!

    In solidarity,

  8. Yes, there’s something about entering that 5th decade that makes you really start to feel the passing of time… and every day that you haven’t told the difficult truths or lived the dangerous trusts continues to gnaw on your conscience in the small hours.

    but shit yes, celebrate with a tattoo… I got my first one in the summer — and I’m 3 years 3 days older than you so none too soon, but never too late.

    Can’t make it to the front lines since I’m imprisoned/exiled in the bosom of a respectable family, alas…

  9. Sometimes I leave compassion and say how I really am. Sometimes I leave independence and ask for help. Sometimes I leave the washing up and cry in my bed while my daughter sleeps. Sometimes I leave grief and dance up a storm. Sometimes I leave the jostle of my fears and pull a thread down my pen. Sometimes I leave good sense and grasp at a strong friend’s hand when I know he is heading for trouble. Sometimes I’m so fucking smart.

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