In these moist grey autumn days, it’s time to gather and store conkers to keep me going through the dark cold of winter. What are my resources, my harvest of nuts? Each morning begins with a skin brushing before peeling on thermals. A few minutes of extra moving, stretching or dancing before breakfast cranks up my sluggish circulation. I will walk, breathing in nature with dogs and crows. At the end of the day a salt-water foot soak and self-massage works with sofa hour. In the winter months of ‘Persephone time’ I will sew and make things. I will eat warm winter soups and ginger tea. I will allow time to read, to steep myself in the pile of unread books under the chair by the bookcase as the nights draw in. Regular trips to the sauna with my over 50’s discount card will be a luxury heat top-up. At the end of short days I will inch closer to a lover or snuggle up with a hot water bottle.

We returned to the beach of the Thames to mudlark for bones and shells. We scooped water close to the outlet of the River Fleet. We sat, sensing the slice of history resting in the sediment. Animal bones, and broken clay pipes nestle alongside drift wood and bottle tops. A cross section of time lies in the water. The intersection of culture and faith meets here too – the Globe, Tate Modern and St Paul’s. We trundled then with our loads back along Millbank re-walking the streets walked these last twelve days. Our pilgrimage ended back in Trafalgar Square where we landed to make an altar with our harvest for the closing ceremony. We the Grief Listeners brought a group intention of dropping into the land, of space holding, of pause and reflection. Through all the complexities, imperfections and words, we did our best to “remember our love for this beautiful planet that feeds, nourishes and sustains us.”*
*From Extinction Rebellion’s Solemn Intention Satement.

‘Amazing Grace’ is the moment. Written by former slave trader John Newton (‘who saved a wretch like me’), who then converted to Christianity and subsequently condemned slavery. Voices lift in harmonies, hands flutter up. We sit as insignificant flames in the dark. With a tendency to hypervigilance, I find the scene unsettling. The sound of helicopters competes with churning fountains. The row of fluorescent yellow jackets stand guard. Incense wafts, the bells of St Martin in the Fields toll eight. A giant papier maché curlew stands, wings swaying. I sit on the cold stone floor of Trafalgar Square “touching the earth and allowing the earth to be all of me,” in Brian’s words. The mic is passed between faiths. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, other faiths and the agnostics. Some display their professions on placards to dispel the myth of the jobless and “unwashed” (which someone shouted at me this week). I smile at an ‘unco-operative crusty’ wearing their identity as ‘Compliance Analyst’. This feels like the moment to be here.

My few remaining relatives are spread wide. Instead I have a small chosen family. These are the individuals who encourage me, who will be there through thick and thin. These are the few who know me well enough to tolerate my peculiarities, and who I am willing to give time and energy to. These are also the ones who laugh at me, and help me to laugh at myself. Angus and I laugh too at the memory of his aged Scottish grandmother who asked on first meeting me, “Who are your people?” Now we say to one another in recognition, “I am one of your people.”

Naomi Klein lights the touch paper and sparks of recognition and accord fly. Her arguments – as ever smart and brilliant ignite the quintessential Guardian audience and me. I sit feeling the flame in my mid-fifties with my white face, greying hair and organic veg box deliveries. I feel as though someone who speaks truth to power is delivering my thoughts and also some of my not yet articulated opinions. “We need to raise the collective alarm, to grieve together and to plan together.” She talks passionately about the metaphor of fire both in its negative and positive aspects. “Maybe you’re carrying some trauma that needs to be cleared away. What is the debris that you need to clear away on the inside so that we can clear away the debris on the outside? We have to clear away the deniers, the distracters, the doomers, and most of all we have to clear away the debris of the dividers.” She says, “we will be facing more tests of our humanity,” and asks, “what are we willing to give up?” In praise of hope, “we need to tell better stories about what the world could look like. We need to be on fire”, she asserts. I already am, but her words make me feel more confident in raising my torch.

Mick and Tony walk together in a big circle from their first meeting in 1986. ‘Fascinating chap’ Tony wrote in his journal in Melbourne, Australia. Signs change from one to two walkers. Mick, Tony and I find conversational ‘snaps’ – eldership, podcasts, colonisation, land and place. As Mick describes it, we explore the “zeitgeist connectivity overlaps” in the lines that stretch across the earth between us. Making the shift from I to we, from singularity to synergy, global alliances happen. Artists, travellers, activists are coming together face-to-face and sharing ideas. Like the historical silk-road, London is a thriving centre of creative culture. Right now it is the centre of my Venn diagram. People from many different communities are gathering here and pollinating ideas to seed and grow when they return home.

On the beach at Rottingdean, my eye is drawn to one stone amongst many. I pick it up, notice the faint striations forming a star. It was once some kind of sea urchin. It has been rubbed smooth by the sea’s movement over aeons of time. We lie down on the beach to rest after a cycle of conscious connected breathing. The sea moves in and out with its own pattern of continuous ebb and flow. I lie on the beach holding this survivor of deep time in my hand while I slow down, listen to each wave of my breath moving through my resting body. My computer search suggests it may be a mid-creataceous period Toxaster, around 100 million years old.

The wild has almost been pampered out of Pickle ad Gigi. What remains is territorial barking when a parcel arrives and the chase in the wake of squirrel or fox scent. Gigi’s liberty to roam is temporarily lost post surgery. Her movement is restrained by a cone. Between trips to the vet for their wellbeing, we meander together on the marshes with a pram. The dogs spend the afternoons in soft warm places. There is a mutual bond of love and trust between us. Gigi uses her ‘please’ eyes to ask for cuddles, while Pickle demands treats with his persistent gaze. We all win oxytocin.

For the last thirty years, the British have been schooled in the art of festival culture. We have learned how to sustain ourselves despite the weather, to self-organise, to party, to de-centralise, to entertain, to collaborate and to communicate. This is a significant moment when the old established order meets the new paradigm head on. The new picks up the woolly thread spun in the 60’s, weaves it through the creative practices, spiritual teachings and digital expression we have experienced in recent counter culture and made it child-friendly. In this moment a child sits on top of the lion. This child is the future.

Under the eye of Nelson and the banner of Extinction Rebellion, Dr Emily Grossman comes to the stage in a white lab coat printed with the familiar hour glass logo. She packs a punch with a brief but clear presentation of current peer-reviewed climate science. Thousands of people – of all kinds including scientists – are taking to the streets to draw attention to the facts and predictions that people find it hard to hear, to really comprehend, and that governments fail to act on. Take the facts in, but hold them spaciously to allow room for the feelings they invoke. Let your feelings crack open your heart, but then reach out to connect through love.