I wonder how many conversations you have been engaged in today? How much eye contact, argument, celebration, compassion, healing, helping, hoping, learning, listening, mourning, speaking, tenderness, touch, understanding, writing?
And I wonder how much distance has been lessened by all of the above? How connected we’re able to feel with our fellow pilgrim-explorers on the face of this beautiful and extraordinary – but complex and sometimes tragic – earth?
To my surprise, I’ve had to revisit my count for the day – there’s been far more connection than I at first recalled when my question arose; and the types and variety of connections have been wide – all covering, so to speak, a lot of ground.
This often astonishing array of worldwide connection is the daily stuff of my life – of our lives. And in each connected dew-drop shimmering in the web there are untold depths and reach of reflection and of prospect. Alone but accompanied, I come to the close of another day aware of many levels of gratefulness – and of love.
There are so many colours in the things of the heart. And so much warmth and light. One much loved corner of Edinburgh tonight celebrated a gathering of close-knit souls, some present in person, some physically absent but no less present, in the circle that this colour, warmth and light creates – uniquely – on every such occasion. And in that circle I continually rediscover the meaning of the word ‘awe’ – with profound thankfulness.
Poets, too, are crazed by light, How to capture its changes, How to be accurate in seizing What has been caught by the eye In an instant’s flash – Light through a petal, Iridescence of clouds before sunrise. They, too, are haunted by the need To hold the fleeting still In a design – That vermilion under the haystack, Struck at sunset, Melting into the golden air Yet perfectly defined, An illuminated transience.
Today my house is lost in milk, The milky veils of a blizzard. The trees have turned pale. There are no shadows, That is the problem – no shadows At all.
It is harder to see what one sees Than anyone knows. Monet knew, spent a lifetime Trying to undazzle the light And pin it down.
May Sarton Letters from Maine: New Poems, 1984
They, too, are haunted by the need / To hold the fleeting still / In a design
We cannot hold the fleeting still. That’s why, for us, time so often appears, inexplicably, to fly. And time between the 3rd November 2022 and tonight, the 19th November 2022, appears to me to have passed in the blink of an eye. Of course, I have flashing memories of a flu jab, dental treatment, a Covid vaccine booster, poems read, accounts enumerated, letters written and received, some loving conversations – about life, and about death, about love, and about grief: yes, of course. Yet still there’s a degree of unknowing, an inability to grasp time’s flight, and probably a need to step out, sometimes, for a while, from the paths of routine, simply to breathe ‘illuminated transience.’ Yes: there are times and spaces when It is harder to see what one sees / Than anyone knows.
This blog remains a steady friend to me – sometimes in daily conversations and at others, in much the same way as happens in many other relationships, by way of catch-up. Revisiting. Re-membering. Undazzling the light. This blog reminds me – encourages me – to recognise profound beauty in the daily journey, not just in the destination. This blog slows me down within the continuum, the quiet voice at my shoulder inviting me to love and to life. And with every blink of my eyes, with every breath breathed in and out, with every attempt to catch a fleeting thought, or to let a thought take flight, the view changes. Focus zooms in and out … harder to see what one sees / Than anyone knows …
But – Light through a petal – it’s OK to be moved only ever so slightly in the breeze: to stay awhile, to let all that is, within and beyond, tell us quietly what ungraspable time and life and love are really all about.
This beautiful photograph reminds me very much of one I stopped to capture (below) while visiting San Sebastián de la Gomera in January this year. I’ve been wondering what caught the eye of two photographers, in different places, each looking at weathered boards through a lens? And of course I can only speak for one of us!
What I think beautiful in these images is, precisely, the weathering seen in them. Once upon an unidentified time a painter stood before these shutters and they were beautified and made to look like new with shiny coats of paint. But as surely as the new exists in this world so too does ageing – and I contend that the beauty of the history brought to bear on these shutters – sunshine, wind, rain, heat and cold is shining today.
And further, that’s how it is for us. The rosy cheeked beauty of our human infancy is subject to the weathering of our days, and we must learn to recognise the ageing beauty in our unique stories. My friend Lori and I were conversing about the late, great poet John O’Donohue recently. Apparently, John was fond of posing the question ‘what would some of your unlived lives say to each other?’ We agreed that this would be a super discussion starter for a small group of close friends. Perhaps another question, for the same group of friends, might be ‘what would the lives you have lived say to each other?’
There’s history in these shutters, reaching all the way back to the rootedness of trees in the earth, and to the skills of glaziers, joiners and painters. And there’s history, rootedness, the works of craftspeople, and weathered beauty in each of us, too. Were the shutters to be flung open wide, what of life and love might be celebrated, contemplated, learned from, mourned, or otherwise reflected upon, inside?
Often described as the UK‘s Gateway to the World, Southampton has been the ‘diving board’ from which I’ve launched into many a joyful adventure. At 2 degrees Centigrade it’s a chilly morning here – but a golden sunrise on the horizon speaks of warmth and promise … next stop, the Azores. The ‘shape’ and the sheer variety of life on earth illuminate my days aboard MS Borealis – a few days here and there upon miles and miles of open sea lead to soul-widening new encounters. Edinburgh, Lakeland, family and beloved friends, all – in some sense – travel with me, so the familiar is at the heart of all that I am. But so, too, is the unfamiliar, all that my heart, soul, mind and body unknowingly aspire to, even in the Now-ness of this single moment. And I sometimes find myself imagining even greater ‘Gateways to the World’ and an eternal ‘vessel’ possessed of limitless capacity for Love’s eternal voyaging …
Afternoon update: things are looking hopeful for dinner time 😉
Evolution is divinity at work We are nature made aware of itself Science is the most spiritual pursuit To learn the patchwork of existence Is to understand ourselves
Brianna Wiest Salt Water, p.71
With that thought I set off on my morning walk, in company with millions of others around the world who, in their daily lives, watch their awareness – reaching out into the unknown, glad to know, somewhere deep and primal within, that they are not, and never will be, alone …