Animals

Celebrating Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

Every year since 1970 this has been annual event designed for us all to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It's grown over the decades and lots of important environmental events have happened on Earth Day.

This year on Earth Day, today, there will be a Global Climate Summit, convened by the US President Joe Biden and held virtually I'm guessing because of coronavirus. Among other things it is designed to be a 'critical stepping stone for the U.S. to re-join the world in combating the climate crisis', having agreed to re-sign the Paris Agreement.  It's just one of the events being planned today and just one example of how Earth Day continues to be a momentous and unifying day every year.  These days it's reckoned that 1 billion people in more than 193 countries will mark Earth Day in some way.

And so to MY contribution.

A couple of years ago, I recorded a series for BBC Radio Jersey with the Jersey artist and iconographer Karen Blampied.

She has created something called The Earthday Icon ... inspired by the ancient nature embedded in the Eastern Orthodox Church Calendar, which each September celebrates Creation and which has a three year cycle, ending every year with the feast of St Francis of Assisi and the Blessing of the Animals. During this liturgical time of Creation, each Sunday is dedicated to a specific aspect of creation and the Earthday icons depicts forests, land, wilderness, rivers, skies, mountains, the universe, animals, storms, oceans and more, all with spiritual significance.

Karen's inspiration is to 'highlight the need of all people to be stewards of the Earth' and this really inspires ME.

I loved working with Karen on this series and the audio we produced is still on the BBC Radio Jersey website.

So today, to mark Earth Day, I'm including the links to the programme features.

You will have to click on each link to listen ... hope you don't mind doing that. But it's really interesting!

Enjoy! And be inspired and blessed!


Earthday icon KBlampiedEarthday Icon #1 - Ocean - Karen chats to me about the role of the sea in the Creation story

Earthday Icon #2 - Flora & Fauna - Karen in conversation with me about her icon

Earthday Icon #3 Storm - Karen chats to me about depicting weather & climate in her icon

Earthday Icon #4 Cosmos - Karen talks to me about depicting God and the heavens in her icon

Earthday Icon #5 Blessing of the Animals - Discovering Karen's inspiration for the animals in her icon

 

*Earthday icon image copyright - Karen Blampied


The Sound of Spring

First week of March and Spring is definitely in the air.

Every morning right now I awake to a lovely sound. In the trees in the garden next to mine ... loads of birds just celebrating the arrival of the day.

Because there are no leaves on the branches yet, you can see them up there singing their hearts out. 

It's glorious ... so let me just share this glorious Sound of Spring with you today.

Hope it brings joy to you hearts!

 


Groundhog Day

Do you have a favourite film? 

Or maybe you have a few movies that would be in your Top Ten? If you were making a list.

Are you an action movie fan, or a sci fi fanatic, or perhaps like me you prefer RomComs, a little light  romance and comedy? 

I have to admit, there are some movies that I can watch over and over and over and over and over... and not get bored. And one of those is linked to today.

February 2nd in North America - the USA and Canada - is Groundhog Day and I love the Bill Murray movie of the same name. More of that in a moment.

GroundhogBut first ... what IS a 'groundhog'

Well, it's a kind of rodent, and apparently belongs to the marmot or ground squirrel family. It's found in the USA, Canada and into Alaska. Among other characteristics, they have big teeth and they live in burrows. When fully grown a groundhog can be as long as 27inches (about 69cm) and can weigh as much as 14pounds (over 6kg). I've been doing my research and all I can say is, that groundhog is not a small squirrel!

One of the important things to know about the groundhog is that are hibernators. They often dig a separate 'winter burrow', which they build below the frost line, which means even when it's frozen up top, the animals can safely sleep away the winter months without fear of freezing to death. Usually, groundhogs hibernate from October to March or April, or thereabouts. 

And that's relevant to the tradition of Groundhog Day (the actual day) which apparently is an old superstition from the Pennsylvania Dutch community in America, which says that if a groundhog emerges early from it's burrow - on February 2 - then it can tell us if Spring is on its way.

So the legend goes, if the groundhog sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will quickly nip back into its burrow, and winter will go on for six more weeks. If, however, the animal does NOT see its shadow because it's too cloudy, Spring will arrive early!

All this predicting the weather is part of ancient 'weather lore' which is found in lots of cultures, including German speaking areas (and the Pennsylvania Dutch people come from Germanic-speaking areas of Europe) where the animal predicting the weather is usually a badger, but sometimes a bear or a fox.

And these weather lore predictions are also linked to the Christian festival of Candlemas, which we also celebrate today. Tradition has it that if the weather is clear on Candlemas, we're in for a long winter!

Now of course there's no scientific evidence for such weather predictions, but it's fun isn't it? 

In North America, February 2nd has taken on a special significance. Groundhog Day ceremonies happen on this day across the USA and Canada, but it's in a place called Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, that the most popular ceremony occurs, where the focus is a groundhog called 'Punxsutawney Phil'.

And that's the link to the 1993 movie that I mentioned at the start.

'Groundhog Day' starring Bill Murray and Andy MacDowell is largely located in Punxsutawney around the iconic ceremony and the film has not only helped to immortalise the seasonal celebration, but the concept of it has also added a new phrase to our dictionary.

If you haven't ever seen the movie then sorry for the spoiler. Bill Murray plays a cynical (and rather obnoxious) TV weatherman called Phil who is sent to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony, and then finds himself in a time loop through which he is forced to re-live February 2nd ... Groundhog Day ... over and over and over, until he becomes a better person. He learns to live each moment at a time, rather than always chasing ambition and celebrity.

As a result of the movie which was conceived, co-written and directed by Harold Ramis,  we now use the phrase 'Groundhog Day' for any situation which is monotonous, repetitive and even unpleasant and boring.

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, lots of us feel like we've been living Groundhog Day - don't we?

Working from home, staying in and not being able to go out and mingle with others, not being able to see family members - much of our time during 2020 and into 2021 has felt so repetitive and monotonous. I think 'Groundhog Day' is a great way of describing my pandemic experience.

But just as Weatherman Phil in the movie came out of his Groundhog Day a better person, so I believe we can emerge from the COVID19 experience improved and finer examples of humanity.

Early on in the pandemic, especially, we saw so many acts of kindness and caring. The Thursday 8pm 'Clap for Carers' which some are still doing as they Clap for their Heroes. People checking on their neighbours, delivering food and medicines, thinking of others. 

And although Covid fatigue might have stolen a little of that from us as the months have progressed, I believe this time has shown us what a kinder and more compassionate world can look like. 

I'd like to believe that a memory of that kindness might be part of the legacy of our Pandemic Groundhog Day, along with the realisation that life is short and that, no matter how much status and money and position and ambition we chase, perhaps we just need to take more time to breathe, to enjoy our environment and the beauty of the world around us, to appreciate our loved ones more, and maybe even take pleasure in the simple things - like a walk on a Spring morning - no matter when that might be.

 

 


Follow your Dream

I’ve been a journalist for a long time. I’ve occasionally reinvented myself along the way, from newspaper reporter, to radio and television reporter, presenter and producer, to PR consultant and even to writer and author. Some would say I have a short attention span!

Maybe they’re right.

Down the years I’ve met some very special people, especially in my work as a journalist and presenter, and although I’m not one to name drop – well, not routinely anyway – I am privileged to have been in the same room and even conversed with some of them.

I’m thinking today of someone who I met him a couple of times during his lifetime in a professional capacity and who always left me in awe.

Why I’m mentioning him today? Well, because it was on January 7th 1925 that Gerald Durrell was born.

Writer, naturalist, conservationist, zookeeper, television presenter and a larger than life character, he founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the Jersey Zoo, which is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s no ordinary zoo but rather a place which epitomises Gerald Durrell’s passion for animals and conservation. Here – at its headquarters in the parish of Trinity in my lovely home island, and in its centres around the globe – the Trust is in the business of rescuing, breeding and sometimes reintroducing endangered species into the wild. The animals in its care are not kept in traditional cages and in fact, some of the work in Jersey which champions the cause of endangered species has also helped to change attitudes to 'zoos' and the way animals are kept in captivity.

Durrell statueI first read about ‘Gerry’s’ passion for the ‘little brown jobs’ – the inconspicuous animals which few others cared about – through his books including My Family and Other Animals’ and in recent years I’ve enjoyed the TV series ‘The Durrells’ which documented the Durrell family’s years living in Corfu in Greece.

Gerald Durrell was unorthodox, adventuring and a bit of a rule breaker. He followed his heart, often to the detriment of his wallet and his ambitions. He was a man of perseverance and untold imagination.

But what has resulted from his extraordinary if somewhat unconventional life is an exceptional place and mission, and some astonishing results in conservation. Thanks to Gerald Durrell, his team and legacy, there are dozens of species - many of them small and seemingly inauspicious - that survive today. And as each species is part of a chain, that often means that the saving of that one animal also may ensure the survival of those within its circle of life.

I remember when I was working at Channel TV (now ITVChannel) – the local commercial TV station for the Channel Islands - Durrell was already on the hunt for a strange almost legendary little creature purported to still be existing in the forests of Madagascar. Thought to be extinct, the Aye-Aye is a weird looking little beast  (actually a type of lemur) with bulging eyes and a long middle finger and in 1990, Gerald Durrell departed for that island off the coast of south Africa, to find it. He was accompanied by a Channel TV crew and I remember the excitement surrounding the expedition. And they made a brilliant film on return!

Today you can see some of the offspring of the original Aye-Ayes that were rescued, in the Jersey Zoo, living in a specially designed enclosure which mimics the climate and darkness of the Madagascan forest. It’s one of my favourite places at the Zoo. And if you’re interested you can read about Durrell’s last major animal-collecting expedition  in a book called ‘The Aye-Aye and I’.

We can’t all be internationally renowned conservationists, or even pioneers who change the world. But if we have a passion, perhaps we can determine how much it means to us, and start following it – if we are brave enough?

And so,  the question I ask myself today is – am I really following my dreams?

Gerald Durrell - Wikipedia

Image of statue of Gerald Durrell at the Jersey Zoo .. thanks to Alice & Richard Nunn