The journals of our lives (like this one) are filled with very ‘ordinary’ chapters aren’t they? – accounts of daily life that quite often – very often – feel a tad mundane, on the surface at any rate. And yet somehow, in many of us, there’s still an impulse to record some of our experience of the hours – aide memoire – a tool for later reflection and remembering. And it’s often the ‘ordinary’ stuff that comes most readily to mind.
Walking home, at nearly 10pm on a balmy Edinburgh summer evening that feels like early afternoon – peaceful, happily aware of surroundings that make me feel good, conscious of other walkers headed home, slightly out of breath after the uphill stride to the bus stop. Thinking of contact with a number of family and friends during the course of the day. And of flowers and gardens. And the Poetry Library. Noting the bright Italian restaurant for future possibilities. Grateful for the interested friendliness of the lady bus driver on the 113 for Pencaitland, and the many familiar repetitions of the ‘Stop’ bell and the phrase ‘Thanks. ‘night …’ And from somewhere unseen come strains of ABBA –
I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore
If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before
🎶 (Thank you for the music …)
– and I smile, recognising the sentiment. Yet blood and energy is coursing through my veins. I’ve been engaged in non-verbal connection with other ‘ordinary’ humans for a couple of hours. There’s nothing mundane about the dancing class, nothing boring about a hall full of people glowing and gliding and laughing and smiling and seeing and hearing and feeling their hearts beating in their chests like drums. Hearing car tyres on the cobbles outside – because the windows are open – I’m reminded in this dancing of the ‘ordinary’ dance of life, and my experience of that ordinariness is lifted here. Transformed. This journal, this record, this reflection, remind me that if I move myself, if I’m engaging with others in all the myriad ways I and they might choose to engage – then I’m alive! And aware of that, grateful. Profoundly, warmly thankful.
click photos to enlarge – a second time to zoom further
… lingers awhile along borders for a translator to savor secretly,
borrowing from both sides, holding
for a moment the smooth round world
in that cool instant of evening before the sun goes down
from Walking the Borders The Way It Is – New and Selected Poems
I write a few lines in my meditation journal each day, and from time to time review what I’ve written – looking for patterns and repetitions. One of the most frequent notes that appears in the ‘I am grateful for …’ sections is what I often describe as ‘nature’s art and light’.
And I realise that the poets I regularly turn to have eyes and ears for the detail in the natural wonders that surround them; some having especial penchant for the sky, or sea, or lakes, or mountains, or sweeping plains, or animals and their particular, chosen, encouraged or given habitats, flora and fauna. I delight in all of these.
But most of all I am entranced by light, always changing, writing, painting, softening, sharpening, defining, reaching, touching, listening – full from earth to sky with metaphor and parable, reaching onwards, upwards, and into the heights and depths of the Universe. And into my soul.
So it was during our after-supper walk this evening. So it was a million aeons ago. So for a million, million more. Meditating in and upon light I stand time and again in awe.
May Sarton, cheerful, reflective, and just back in the US from a happy trip to London, smelled the earth and again took possession of her life there. The very next day she was afflicted by an old trouble, that of believing her life was a chaos!
The affliction is probably chief reason so many love her journals: just like them! – or me.
I want to abide for a moment with the notion of the earth’s scent, and repeatedly taking ‘possession of my life here’. It’s not a once and for all thing. ‘Chaos’ in its many forms is part and parcel of everyone’s life. Great potential rests in our ability, contemplatively and daily, to sense ‘slight lifting of the air’ and come to our senses again, and then again, and again.
Family and friends, and sometimes that quiet old friend the journal, help us to do that.
We’re just back from a whirlwind tour of old friends – North to South down one side of the country, and South to North up the other side again. And by way of the miracle of the iPad I was in touch with another treasured friend in the US via our car’s front passenger seat, whilst in a traffic queue on the M1!
Old friends have the patience of Job. One recently gave me a beautiful greeting card with the message
The best mirror is an old friend …
And I’m immeasurably grateful to friends old and new, and often wonder whether they know what a life sustaining presence they have been and are in my life. The travelling to meet with friends becomes mirrored by the travelling through shared history. And writing, for me, is an old friend too. Reflecting this evening upon a happy couple of days away I turned again to another journal …
Talking to paper is talking to the divine. Paper is infinitely patient. Each time you scratch on it, you trace part of yourself, and thus part of the world, and thus part of the grammar of the universe. It is a huge language, but each of us tracks his or her particular understanding of it.
That’s absolutely it! Whether talking or listening to persons or to paper (and I do both) – we’re engaged in dialogue with the divine – and enriched again and again by another’s “particular understanding of it”.
Fourteen quietly beating hearts – each possessed of a lifetime’s strength and quiet perseverance. How can we not love the courage that mines and ferries the marvellous and extraordinary giftedness that gathers around the reaching, scented, aspiring tree of life?
Ours is to honour and to cherish the spirit that illuminates kind eyes, the interested, generous leaning inwards to charism-in-otherness. Ours is to marvel – and long to reflect – upon the always-surprised joy of finding one’s own heart amongst these fourteen life-sustaining pilgrims.
Acer unfolding in the poet’s garden above the lake. The learned and earthy experience of our guide visibly quickening response in all of us up there on the Mount. Open air glory, up and down and down and up and on to encounter with intimacy inside. Robert Burns meets again the hearth of Wordsworth, and Nepalese earthquake features in poetry beneath his study. Precisely. And as David would have it – serendipitously …