Dark only in so far as a little international company were close-gathered beneath the firmament – huddled – half way up a volcano that last erupted here 350 million years ago.
Dark only in so far as midnight arrived before any of us expected her to, amid the silent music of the sun’s solstice-reluctance to leave us through the hours of our night.
Dark only in so far as we needed to scrunch our eyes a bit to focus in the twilight, taking care not to spill hot herbal tea or sit on a plate of grapes or another of fresh mango.
All else was light. Is light. Will be light. The light that – come what may – is irrepressibly present within, and in life-dancing … sometimes silent, sometimes heard(link), as though on a slight breeze …
Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood, Edinburgh. Wednesday 22 June 2022
Dunbar’s Close Garden, off Edinburgh’s Canongate, was designed ‘to give an idea of what gardens in this area might have been like in the seventeenth century. The garden is divided into 8 distinct areas or garden rooms, see A-H on map’ (and further information) here (pdf). In 1978, the Mushroom Trust donated the garden to the City of Edinburgh Council. The City’s Parks Department look after the space today.
Many enjoy the gardens in all four seasons. Some sit on the benches in quiet conversation, some bring their workday lunch, others read, while others, like me, contemplate the processions of people who have come here down the centuries: their dress, their work, their conversations and their leisure. And I celebrate the visionary provision of such a place of beauty and of peace.
Speaking of benches: Edinburgh is aware of its place in the annals of greatness. It’s a city that knows there are aeons of history, together with a rich present to be encountered here – and a slowing down to take stock is encouraged and welcomed. Featuring in almost all lists of fine places in the UK that are offering ‘best quality of life’ the unspoken invitation, all around the city, to ‘sit and stay awhile’ is something – among so many things – that I appreciate here deeply.
My lovely friend and poet Julie Carter came for supper tonight. We’ve laughed a lot, been thankful for a lot, and cried too. Most of all we’ve talked about our human need to hang on to hope whilst noticing the indomitable insistence on peace and the fundamental goodness of life in some of the most unlikely, hurting places. May I commend this video, and Julie’s ‘Songs of Springtime’ (link) … ?
Dozens of lambs cheerfully cavorting like mini jump jets – many of them calling ‘mmmaaaaaam’ – have added to the sunshiny beauty of this Mothering Sunday. I’ve been chatting on the phone with my 86 year old mum while out walking this afternoon. Were I still to have her energy, enthusiasm and zest for life at that age I shall be a happy man! Meanwhile ‘happy is how I look / and that is all …’ – be it in Lakeland, in Edinburgh, or in dozens of other wonderful places, all around the world. And happier? – yes, when I think of the peace that must come for Ukraine and other war-torn nations – sooner, rather than later.
First lawn mowing and raised-bed weeding of the season today. Satisfaction paradoxically coupled with prayer for peace in Ukraine – with every weed pulled and every blade of grass trimmed.
Every glass of water, cup of coffee, conversation, good book, meal, news bulletin, sleep or walk brings Kyiv to mind. Yaroslava wrote in her Twitter war diary yesterday
I dream come back home. Drink my delicious coffee. Read my books.
Break for #warcoffee. I write this diary for 20 days. Sometimes it feels like 20 years. During these ‘years’ I’ve been changing. Values, beliefs, thoughts. So the diary is not only about ordinary woman living through the war. It’s about new me being born.
Digging my garden, mowing my lawn, thinking of you and of all your fellow Ukranians, Yaroslava, my prayer is for a new and peace-loving inter-national ‘we’ being born.
Today we’ve enjoyed the company of a friend who sought a day’s peace and quiet. ‘Just a little bit of stillness.’ And I knew just the place, close by, to find some stillness – the kind that facilitates the quietest sort of conversation, unrushed, with plenty of silence between words and sentences (if we don’t count the racket created by three hugely enthusiastic woodpeckers!)
So we headed uphill. On foot. The drystone wall pictured here was chief among the features of the landscape that my friend alighted upon quickly. This landscape helps people breathe life deep. And I recalled a poem I penned, on a similar walk, in the autumn of last year. A friend’s quiet seeking led me too, once again, into ‘a little bit of stillness’.
What of vast realities do I see,
gazing on lake and fell and drystone wall?
What do I hear here, deep in my soul in
this present, and my soul’s memory hall?
What calms and settles my undue haste and
whence the touch, smell and taste on the breeze?
What in wide and expansive openness
places me thankfully, deeply at ease?
What about this being here restores me
to an ancient and forgotten knowing?
Here in high magnificence I now breathe
life deep and am both come and going.