‘Thaw’ by Edward Thomas
Over the land freckled with snow, half-thawed, The speculating rooks at their nests cawed And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass What we below could not see, Winter pass.
When I read ‘Thaw’, I smiled at the realisation that I’d spent a lot of my consulting career as a cawing crow. I got paid to help people create strategies for using technology to drive change. I was good at it because I was an outsider, untouched by the pressures my clients lived with on a daily basis, who could turn data into patterns, predict consequences and propose actions to make the best of things.
All of which was fine when I could sit on my consultant’s elm top and see what those below could not.
It doesn’t work so well when the change is happening to me. Then, I’m just another person at ground level, shivering in the cold and wondering if winter will ever really pass.
Change is a hard thing to see clearly when it’s happening to you. A lot of it creeps up on you, stealthily making small alterations that you absorb unnoticed until, one day, you realise that things aren’t as they were but you’re not sure how and when that happened. Some changes strike so hard and so fast that you focus on the shock and pain and not on the change itself, leaving you unable to assess its impact for months or years. Most of the time, I find I can’t see the change only the changed, like seeing my life in my rearview mirror.
From time to time, I climb a metaphorical elm and take a look around. It doesn’t help me much. I see things coming but I don’t know what to do about them or how to make them real to me and to other people. How do I convince myself of a thaw when, each morning, I’m greeted by frost?
From the top of the elm, I can see the storm fronts heading my way with at least as much precision as the Met Office predicts weather: how Brexit has made everyone poorer, how the politics that spawned it feed hate and division and selfishness, how unsustainable our ‘normal’ lives are in the face of climate change. how I’m getting older and have less energy and fewer choices and less time to change anything.
When I come back down to the ground, what is see is tidal waves of change heading for me over which I have no control and from which I can’t protect myself. It’s too overwhelming to think about day to day.
So I do what all of us ground dwellers do: I huddle up against the cold, shiver through a thaw that still feels like winter and hope that I’ll be here in Spring.
2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on ‘Thaw’ by Edward Thomas and on not being a cawing crow any more”
Poignant thoughts Mike and the rook’s-eye view so much more compelling than the helicopter perspective so beloved of contemporary management speak. Still, there’s potential also in the discourse enabled by those huddling up, awaiting the thaw, listening for those higher voices.
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Thank you. I’m definately a groundling these days but I wouldn’t mind some hints on direction from those who can see the horizon.
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