I would gently suggest we all bother. Every time you collect that item of rubbish you find in the woods, or every time you check whether your apple came from fifty or five thousand miles away, you need to remember you are doing it not only for future generations, your family, and your friends — you are also doing it for yourself.
This is a key and crucial point, and one which seems to be rarely mentioned. If enough of us create a pattern, a swirl of idea through a populace, it will spiral outwards, intersecting with, for example, the corporate world — just look at those eco-businesses which spring up to fill gaps, or, more cynically, look at those established names who greenwash their products, desperate to take a slice of the market.
The crux of this is that there is nothing wrong with feeling like you are trying your best to make a difference. Accept the dopamine hit, accept that it is not selfish to derive pleasure from knowing that you are trying. Take that pleasure and multiply it — dopamine is as dopamine does — the more you lock in a habit which gives you that small buzz of joy-chemicals, the more you want it. Revel in that. Doing good for your own selfish reasons is still doing good — how is that a bad thing? Make it a game, make it petty revenge against those who do bad — it all works.
Look for patterns, look for what makes you feel good while doing good, then reinforce these neural pathways.
This morning, as I walked back from that third vaccine, the air crisp, frosty, sub-zero, the sky so blue and clear it made me ache, I felt like I could walk a thousand miles, out into the woods, out into the mountains, follow tracks and trails laid down by others before me, human and otherwise, from across time itself.
Lately, as I walk to the crèche, or anywhere else, I keep looking at these views and thinking. Echirolles and Grenoble are not pretty. Or, more accurately, the architecture is not really special. It does not need to be — each turn in my path simply frames yet another stupendous view, here a low line of wooded hills, with the towering, snow-streaked face of a cliff behind, there mountains parading north, jagged, white and brilliant with deep snow, wisps of cloud blowing from their peaks, pink as the sun sets, then that cold subtle blue after.
At each turn, past one unremarkable modern building after another, a new natural landscape portrait is framed, presenting itself as though for me to walk into the picture, rather like Cole Hawlings in John Masefield’s The Box Of Delights. Windows reflect other views, distorting reality and ensuring I turn around to check what is real.
This idea, of walking out into the natural world for adventure and discovery — discovery of the self, and of the places I encounter — is not something new to me. I have done it before, more than once. Recently, however, I have also included Aurélie and Ailsa in these little thoughts, pondering how long it would take us to walk over the mountains from our new home to St. Julien, for example. What would we need to carry, how would we carry it with Ailsa? Is four months old too young for a pack of your own?
Time and her patterns interweave strands of everything around you, sometimes so tightly as to be invisible — unless we make a real effort to see. Watch for the patterns, follow the numbers, find solace and joy in the buds and the slow count of petals. Sometimes ask yourself why, at others let the why go free, simply bask in the delight and wonder instead. Find the frames and enjoy the pictures — a different view might just change your life.