‘Nations are invisible lines that people assign meaning to.’Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher, Season 3
This little nugget of truth dropped in the latest season of The Witcher. Geralt is nobody’s citizen. He waltzes across borders and kingdoms, holding fast to his creed and clan. His people. And where he allies in common cause, he will shed blood and sweat to defend or obtain what he deems as justice. Or what viewers deem as swashbuckling muscled heroics. It says something too that these seemingly reductive tropes of good and evil continue to persist, or even determine the shape of lives. And the geography of our politics does go a long way in encompassing how we think about our relationships with each other and with earth.
During the pandemic, there was a lot more decisive engagement with nature. With everyone on lockdown, going out for a walk was both necessary and also a chance to engage in the relative solitude of nature. Some countries called the lockdown a ‘shelter-in-place.’ I really liked that, because it made me think about this idea of place and what it means to derive shelter from where we are. Shelter is so much more than having a roof over our heads. It is also safety and comfort. But this injunction, born out of necessity and fear, allowed grass to grow wild on sidewalks. Bushes went unpruned. Rewilding became the province of nature, not man. Hardly any cars were on the roads. The air grew fresher. The malls loomed empty like scenes of apocalyptic abandon. And then, a year on, when vaccines had kicked in, we inched our way back to the full-blown consumption that marked our lives before 2020.
But the pandemic had also, for a while, erased those lines that separated us from our neighbours. We were truly vulnerable together as a species. It’s tragic that it took a virus to bind us together. But collectively, we did, for a while, live a little more in sync with the earth, feeling its rhythms over and under the buzz of a silenced city.
The Earth in Our Bones is not a book about being an eco-warrior or a climate change activist. It is a book that sees our essential selves as complicit with the ground beneath our feet, considering skin and sand and glass and concrete as part of the body. It is a book that sees the self, laid bare and offended, but also redeems the self under the aegis of the natural world. Not a call to arms, but a call to link arms, to observe, remind and acknowledge us, and the land we inhabit.
Book launch: 29 July 2023, 5.30pm, Seng Poh Garden, Tiong Bahru.