The wind in my wheels has brought me to living for a space in the tower of a former school in Edinburgh – part of which accommodated the headteacher’s study. The building was seconded for military use during the Second World War. Today it houses comfortable homes on the very edge of Holyrood Park beneath a long extinct volcano, close to one of Her Majesty the Queen’s fine residences, and at the heart of one of the most beautiful and beguiling capital cities in the world.
And the staircases echo. The ‘eyes’ of the huge, tall windows have been gazed into and gazed out of by innumerable people before me: schoolchildren who learned here that Edinburgh has survived a history of thousands of years. There’s been wealth and poverty, sickness and strength, vivacity in all forms – and vivid architectural imagination. And there have been soldiers on these stairs. And now there are writers and engineers, students and visionaries, a cosmopolitan mix who, were we all able to assemble in cheerful conference tonight, could tell a million stories of our shared contemporary life to add to the detail – some still sharply remembered, much more lost in the mists of time, of the echoes in this place.
How privileged we are. How very fortunate I am – given serendipitous opportunity to soak it all up as I tramp the cobbled streets with gladness and delight. Sunshine, deep snow, reading, crisp, brisk bracing walks, painting, poetry, watching, meditating and waiting, and an Edinburgh-evening wander likely after supper tonight. In these locked-down times, soon to be absorbed into history, one may hear history’s echoes while we both create, and anticipate making some more …
I never will have time
I never will have time enough
How beautiful it is
The way the moon
Floats in the air
And lightly as a bird
Although she is a world
Made all of stone.
I never will have time enough
The way the stars
Hang glittering in the dark
Of steepest heaven
Their dewy sparks
Their brimming drops of light
So fresh so clear
That when you look at them
It quenches thirst.
Anne Porter Living Things: Collected Poems, 2006
This lovely poem brings forth a question in me, perhaps intentionally. The poet writes ‘I never will have time enough to say …’ – and I understand the poetic gist readily enough. But is it true for me? Have I not time enough to say all that I need or want to say? So I follow Anne Porter’s example and head out for a few moments to look up at the night sky. And in my heart I find it is enough. Indeed it isn’t really necessary to say anything at all. Yes, enough. In this moment there is time. And perhaps tomorrow there’ll be some more.
It was warm and we were ambling. Glorious cloud formations floated in the blue dome above us and I suppose I must have been waxing lyrical a bit! ‘Where does your imagination come from?’ my friend asked. ‘From dust,’ I replied immediately. ‘Or, to be more precise, from dust flecks in my eyes.’
Everyone’s experienced them. Perhaps lying in sunshine, on a freshly mown lawn in August. I didn’t know then, as a very small boy, about the Hebrew vision of Creation formed out of dust. But, in company with summer daydreamers all over the world, I could see – behind closed eyelids – little floating flecks of dust (or whatever it is that floats there) and thus began the habit of a lifetime: ‘watching’ a Creator’s playtimes. The beginnings of meditation, one might say. Knowing with a faith-full certainty that there are colours and causes, glories and great wonders, lights and shades of darkness, silences and sounds, warmth and coolness, profound music and mysteries, that are already ‘accessible’ to us long before we complicate our lives by straining (or training!) to see, or hear, or smell, or touch, or taste.
And in that garden ‘knowing’ I learned that faith is about something deeper and greater than humankind could possibly draw ultimate boundaries around. So, for me, our philosophical, political and religious convulsions, and our loves and hates – important though they be – are situated in a space much larger and freer than we usually inhabit.
And here, and there, in the poetry of eternal creativity, I anticipate, I imagine, and whether my eyes are closed or open, for me and for all of us, I hope. Today’s flecks of dust – ourselves and all created things – will be reshaped for the joy of creation.