Contemplating life: the good, the bad, and the stuff that just doesn’t make sense

I am going to do something I haven´t really done in the two years or so that I have been blogging here at Food Governance: I am going to get personal.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that for a variety of reasons I have been a bit distracted and have not been able to dedicate any time to blogging. Some of the stuff keeping me busy has been really interesting and enriching. I have continued working with colleagues in India to support pastoralist women and we have put a lot of effort into designing a programme to support knowledge exchange and capacity building between pastoralist communities in India, Mongolia and Nepal.

I have been working with a consortium of academics from across Europe to develop a 5-year research project looking at authenticity of food products. I have been applying for post-docs (urg, that’s an arduous process) and looking at other post-PhD options. I have been developing new papers and conference presentations and continuing work on my thesis. I have also been teaching an excellent cohort of students in the Master’s Programme in the Department of Food Systems, Culture and Society at the UOC in Barcelona.

As part of a personal commitment to use less plastic, buy less, and avoid chemicals, I have made a new year’s resolution to use only home-made and natural beauty and health products, which means I have had to learn how to make soap and moisturizer. It’s been a fun distraction and has meant that I have a supply of homemade gifts to pass out to friends. I also smell like lavender and coconut oil which is never a negative, if you ask me. I have also not shampooed my hair in over a month, which is less than ideal, if I am being honest. It’s really not a good look.

So, things were going well, and I was being semi-productive, but December and January have sent me some stark reminders of the preciousness of life and the implications of actions.

A dear friend and mentor, Ken Hatt, passed away before Christmas. He has been my main academic crutch, confidant, inspiration, and a major part of my personal support system and it has been really hard coming to terms with the fact he is no longer there to plough through the complexity of neoliberalism and historic blocs, to share a laugh and a croissant, or to give frank advice. His thinking has had such a deep influence on me and is woven through my own work. Alongside the sadness is a feeling of being blessed that he was in my life.

ken

Beyond being an excellent academic and a dear friend, he was a supreme teacher (seriously awesome). I have been tasked with taking over teaching his class this year and I know I can never will his shoes, but I will work hard to do him justice. The passion and commitment he had for his students was second to none. I wasn´t sure what it would be like taking over his course but it has proven rather therapeutic: it’s comforting to be working through his ideas with new students. His legacy will live on.

By way of a rather crass segue, Ken always thought I was silly to rock climb. He would have preferred I stuck with yoga, or reading, maybe knitting like his wonderful wife (who did patiently try to teach me and I am pretty terrible).  This weekend, I had a harsh reminder of his concern.

Ridge walk after curved Legdes
Ridge walk

My partner and I worked through the holidays so that we could take a week off to go ice climbing in Scotland. It was my first time heading up a mountain with axes and crampons and I loved it. We had amazing weather, pretty decent snow and ice and a lot of options. We headed up Ledge Route on Ben Nevis and summited to clear skies!

Summit after curved ridge
On the summit after climbing  Curved Ridge

After Ben Nevis, we headed to Glencoe.  We wandered up Curved Ridge one day and then up and over the Dorsal Arête. On our last day, another climber joined us. We headed over to the base of Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe) and played on a frozen river near the North Buttress. Tom and I had plans to have dinner with family that night so we started heading back to the car around 14:30. As we started to abseil down over a steep, tricky, slick bit of terrain we saw a helicopter pass. We assumed it was a training mission and carried on. Once in the car, we were passed by an ambulance and saw a rather large number of cars parked with another ambulance and a police car. Another helicopter was circling the area.

We dropped off our new friend at his car and carried on. And then my phone rang: it was a friend confirming that I was ok. The news was reporting that 4 climbers were missing and at least one was a woman.  Our hearts sank. News kept coming in and 4 young climbers, with much more experience than us, had been killed in an avalanche.  I went numb and have stayed that way. So many thoughts keep rushing through my mind. I have been contemplating the very real risks associated with a sport I had just started to love. More than putting myself at risk, the fear and concern that this caused friends and family members was a heavy weight to bear. And then there is the sense of guilt for having had such a wonderful experience in the calm before this tragedy.

Speaking to some friends with far more mountain experience than I have, I have been able to start to work through the sadness and the confusion. This was a terrible accident. My heart and most sincere condolences go out to the friends and families of these young climbers.  By all accounts, the world has lost 4 bright lights. My heart and healing wishes are now directed at the young woman who was taken to hospital.

I am getting back into the grove of things now that I am back. I will start posting again on food governance soon and I thank you for allowing me to indulge in this personal post.

Send out love and light. Be patient. Be grateful.

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