One thing is certain, and I have always known it – the joys of my life have nothing to do with age. They do not change. Flowers, the morning and evening light, music, poetry, silence, the goldfinches darting about …
Freesias, for me. For my desk. Peppery and colourful. And my best ever morning light? Two best ever! i – Sunrise over Galilee. ii – Normandy. Scented apple orchards and a golden mist hung a few feet above rolling fields, just after sunrise. Evening? In winter when it’s time for firelight. Music? Usually one piece at a time, silence before and aft to hold words, notation, resonance (!) and echo. Poetry? – my way of allowing the Universe to speak to me randomly: close my eyes and take down a volume – pot luck, usually followed by more of good fortune than anticipated. Silence? – why silence? William Stafford’s glorious ‘Listening’ suggests an answer more exquisitely than I’ve ever penned to date. And goldfinches? The ones who seem to enjoy my Japanese Acer as much as I do. Two little tininesses that fly-in disproportionate measures of duty-free joy from wherever they’ve been playing.
My father could hear a little animal step, or a moth in the dark against the screen, and every far sound called the listening out into places where the rest of us had never been.
More spoke to him from the soft wild night than came to our porch for us on the wind; we would watch him look up and his face go keen till the walls of the world flared, widened.
My father heard so much that we still stand inviting the quiet by turning the face, waiting for a time when something in the night will touch us too from that other place.
William Stafford Listening from West of Your City Talisman, 1960
Next to Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is a little oasis of a garden, open to and enjoyed by the public, that, filled with birdsong, looked pretty as a picture this afternoon. It’s hard to imagine or describe the measure of tranquility to be enjoyed in this relatively small space in the heart of a busy city.
The Church (1688) and the Kirkyard are themselves beautiful, and home to a Mercat Cross dated 1128. Calton Hill can be seen from behind the Kirk, and just across the road there’s easy access to Holyrood Park, Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat and – presently – a million Spring blossoms.
Nearby, too, there’s a distinctive meeting between ancient and modern: the ruins of Holyrood Abbey stand next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Abbey Strand and the Queen’s Gallery; all of these opposite the strikingly different modern architecture of the new Scottish Parliament buildings, (link) the walls of which bear tablets inscribed with some of Scottish history’s poetry. Photographers like me wax lyrical about Edinburgh’s ever-changing skyscapes and the city’s distinctive skyline.
The five (clickable / swipeable) galleries in this post, each containing ten photos, are the result of just a couple of hour’s encounter with Edinburgh beauty and history in a single afternoon. And of course, as Jiminy Cricket would say: ‘there’s more!’
A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives.
Wendell Berry The Long-Legged House p.71
I’m grateful today to my dentist, who, along with his excellent team, and his love for philosophy and for poetry, makes the long drive to see them, and even the necessary dental maintenance, always a pleasure.
The butterfly’s loping flight carries it through the country of the leaves, delicately, and well enough to get it where it wants to go, wherever that is …
Mary Oliver From One or Two Things
Reading poetry about butterflies in the same morning as more about neurosculpting has somewhat merged the two in my mind. I imagine neural pathways lighting up in my brain with much the same sort of iridescence we see in a butterfly’s wings. That we do imagine such things is miraculous. That a butterfly emerges from the tight discomforts of the chrysalis towards ‘loping flight … delicately’ is more than miraculous: it is a mystery beyond all adequate explaining. Anil Seth tells me that the colours I see are perceptions created by my own brain; that not every living thing is able to ‘see’ a rainbow as I can. I wonder what a butterfly might experience of itself? How much could a butterfly possibly appreciate about its own beauty? How much do we, about our own?
‘Where nature’s wild forces collide with rugged landscapes, we are inspired to create …’
Honestly – all you need to do is pen a few poetic lines and you can just reel me in! Possessed of a lifetime allergy to alcohol, this may offer a soothing winter’s evening chest-warming. I hope so. I’ve just ordered a (gorgeous looking) bottle. Photos and report-back to follow (obviously 😉). Now to look for some more Scottish poetry …