In my youth in the 1970’s bisexual meant being sexually attracted to both women and men. Radical feminists saw it as a betrayal of lesbian identity so I came out as a lesbian which was a betrayal of myself. Roots and squirrels take me away from B for binary opposition towards a better ecological balance in my sense of self.
- What Binary means to the red squirrel in me
- A Donegal hedgerow
- Search for a sense of self
Binary and the red squirrel: As I cocooned alone on a Donegal hillside during COVID, I fretted over aging, vulnerability and whether our plans to plant a native woodland could be realised during a pandemic. . When would I be able to visit Schorse in Berlin? Would he ever come to live in Ireland? Will my novel Michel-Michelle sell? Covid puts my plans for promotion of my novels on hold but doesn’t stop the bats of transgender wars between feminists flitting through the darkness in my mind. The visit of a red squirrel outside my back door in Donegal when I breakfasted alone on my 72nd birthday in 2021 brought reflection on ECO opposition to EGO. I dig up buried memories of 1970s feminism and Gay Liberation, squirrelled away in my non-binary nature.
My ego feeds on pride, pretence and feeling sorry for myself but the red squirrel, my private Avatar helps me to take a look at myself from another perspective. Red squirrels scramble above our heads Berlin when the household breakfasts in the garden. The squirrel invites me into the garden where I don’t need acknowledgement of success and where my sense of self emerges. 20 years ago my friend since schooldays (who looks through the window of memory even though I am anxious about friends appearing here) watched me when I said I’m going out to play while she and Schorse watched football. She remarked how I seemed to be moving mud from one place to another. She now remarks on how those mud-pies have produced plants, trees and flowers which in turn bring birds, bees and butterflies. The garden demands continuous attention and helps me bury my nutty ego and focus on my long-term survival self.
A Donegal hedgerow: A couple of decades ago, the neglected ditch helped me step back from the field of battle against the bulldozing of our environment a couple of decades ago. Along the road beside our home here in Donegal, there’s a hedgerow where ash, sycamore, blackthorn, briar, wild rose grew through the neglected stone ditch long before my dream of a refuge here. I had the opportunity to build a house on land behind them once farmed by my grandfather and my uncle who died at 91 having never used fertilizer. The original plan for the ditch was to bulldoze the hedgerow and pipe the water running along in front of it. Before the bulldozers went into action, I adjusted the plan. My aim was to keep the hedgerow and have an open water course rather than remove the trees and hedgerow and pipe the water running through the ditch. I hired a digger to divert the ditch into the rough land on the inside of the hedgerow and left it open. This meant the one-track public road was wider and there was no need to remove the stone ditch. The internal stream can take the intermittent creases in heavy rain better than a pipe.
We planted a small copse of trees between the stream and the drive with snowdrops from my godmother’s garden, daffodils, bluebells and whatever turns up. We mow a path through it a couple of times a year. When an alder grown from a seed of a tree planted by brothers for my father, died after 20 years, I felt the loss. There’s comfort as apparently alders can be short lived pioneers. I had it cut down and replaced it with a tree which appeared on the door-step on the squirrel birthday. The trees free me from the pretence and pride of my ego, which measures itself against the achievements of others. Compared to an oak, I am a sapling. The diversity in trees reproduction challenges our binary opposition of male and female.
Search for a sense of self: In my search for a sense of self, I am inspired by nature where the potential of a bud or a seed or a chrysalis or a sapling can be realised in the form it is meant to be if the conditions for this realisation are right. During the 5km limit on my movements during Covid, I take a secret trip on back roads to plan the native woodland by Durnesh lagoon. The loch can be glimpsed from a few vantage points around Rossnowlagh, but its totality can only be seen from above. The whooper swans quieten the aggression of my ego. A patch of a pink ragged robin calls me to learn more about wild plants and flowers. I want to be a friend to nature and its diversity.
While planning the native woodland in 2021, I was preoccupied with the frustrations of bureaucracy and the failures of politicians to act on their policies. In the efforts expended to plant a native woodland, there were times when the social, economic, environmental pressures bulldozed my ego into despair. Slowly I realised that Eco and Ego are not a good mix. Ego needs to win in a battle against opposing forces. Eco needs interconnectedness – a network of interdependence and resolution of conflict. The Gay Community News magazine through the letterbox brought ghosts from my past to help me delve into my underground networks to reconnect my roots to the passionate commitment of my youth.
In Spring 2021, Eric Carle, author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” died and took me back to the 1970’s when the image of emerging from a cocoon to spread butterfly wings was popular with lesbians. In my youth I was attracted to both men and women. Stereotypes of masculinity and femininity made no sense to me. For decades I needed to explore what is natural and what is normal. I needed to explore sex and gender identity to find a sense of self. When the search for equality brings out the competitive instinct or polarisation, I know it is not equality but a place in ego-system dominated by hierarchy, elebrity status and the binary opposition of Us and Them. If my sense of self choses the eco-system, it finds we are all as interdependent as the stars in the galaxy. My A to Z of gender became entangled with climate change and capitalism. Will climate challenges help us to recognise we must connect and co-operate to create a future for today’s children?