The other

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There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake, listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

R S Thomas (link)
From Destinations, 1985
Collected Poems

Sometimes, in the ‘timeless moments’ of life, particular poets re-enter my heart and mind as counsel and comfort within a season. The late and deeply present R S Thomas has long told of the rising and falling of life’s great ocean, but also of the ‘nights that are so still’ – of an eternal calm. Images of such a calm have been beamed around the globe in recent days, and ears bend to hear the reassuring sound of kind wind – as the Scottish love song* has it – ‘like a bird on the wing’ across water.

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* The Skye Boat Song, Sir Harold Edwin Boulton

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i Only in so far

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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 …

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Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood, Edinburgh. Wednesday 22 June 2022

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Slowly

never ending or beginning …

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Further to last evening’s post, I’ve been thinking again about some of our perceptions of time: ancient, demanding, dreamy, fast, fussed, future, governed, history, idling, loved – or not, making, meandering, measured, medieval, modern, slow, hassled, hurried, 🎵 never ending or beginning, old, wanting, working, worrying, wasting, young = beautiful, old = decrepit – in the windmills of your mind …

Aches come about when we allow our human experience of time to get out of kilter: when we try too hard or for too long to hammer opposition, push growth, finish faster, win hearts, ‘conquer’ nations, security issues or workloads, pump muscles, grind corn or wheat or gears. And sometimes muscles ache, sometimes hearts ache. Sometimes minds and souls crash to a standstill. Sometimes. Often, even.

But the budding trees and flowers in my garden in still-a-bit-wintry-looking early Spring? What’s their perception of time? Have they been resisting winter? Has the apple told the acer ‘I hate cold! Can’t wait for Spring! Wish I was somewhere else’ ? Well, maybe. I can’t know. But I guess not. Frost, gale, sunshine or snow – the movement I observe in my garden is slow. And year-round miracles occur in its quiet state of simply being.

Mind-clearing

… to look out of my window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion

Fleur Adcock
Weathering

Yesterday, 10 degrees Celsius. This morning, a bracing, mind-clearing 2! But bracing and mind-clearing are good things, aren’t they?

It’s good to be awake enough to notice the changes that the passing hours, in every day, in each season, bring. There’s so obviously a ‘designed’ purpose and intent in the innumerable cycles of life and death on earth, and in us – mind, heart, body and soul.

It’s also true that most of us – all of us? – are less keen on the bracing elements and the ‘dyings’ in the midst of life; less keen on the being blown about – sometimes even brought to the ground – by capricious winds; less keen on shock or surprise; less keen on streaming eyes and having forgotten our gloves; less keen on ‘Weathering.’

But the thing about a bracing morning is that our minds are cleared sufficiently to recall that there’s actually extraordinary beauty in the right here and the right now, and – beyond this season – that Spring will come …

Time to say

alarm-clock-2132264_1280
photo at pixabay

Looking at the sky

I never will have time
I never will have time enough
To say
How beautiful it is
The way the moon
Floats in the air
As easily
And lightly as a bird
Although she is a world
Made all of stone.

I never will have time enough
To praise
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.

Daybreak

clock-1274699_1280.jpg
photo at pixabay

The New Song

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

W S Merwin
The Moon Before Morning

Our neighbour brought us a beautiful thrush, stunned after flying directly into her window. ‘You’re good with birds,’ she said.

And it’s true that, sometimes, after an hour or two of warmth and watching, breeze ruffling feathers revivifies, and we have known the joy of tentative flapping giving way again to flight.

But not this time ‘as I had found it the first time’. So there’s been another little burial.

And a flood of metaphors perennial.

And then this morning, at daybreak …

SaveSave

Metamorphosis 

img_4901 Photo at Pixabay

After teachingI am only beginning to know what I was taught
As a child about poetry, about life, about myself;
It takes a long time for words to become thought,
For thought, the slow burner, to burn through
Into life where it can scorch the palm of a hand,
When what was merely beautiful or strange
Suffers the metamorphosis, the blood-change,
Looks out of eyes or walks down the street,
All that was abstract become concrete,
Is part of you like an eyelash or your hair;
You say “Poetry” and mean you have been there.

You are just beginning to understand
What it is all about, the imaginary land,
Say, “I can’t possibly describe the weather.
It’s as if the sky burned, was all on fire,
Ecstasy that makes ash of bodily desire —
But all I have to show is a stone and a blue feather.”

My children, you with whom I have learned so much,
Do not turn back to these hours; go forward,
Look to the fertile days and years ahead
When all that meaning and its implication,
The full tone and the half-tone and the whisper
Will sound together and keep the mind awake,
As after hearing a difficult quartet
The theme comes clear and you listen again

Long after you had thought you heard;
So it is with the deep thought, the deep word.
Now we are able only to graph the flight;
For we never actually rose from the ground,
Imagine a moment when student and teacher
(Long after the day and the lesson are over)
Will soar together to the pure immortal air
And find Yeats, Hopkins, Eliot waiting there.

But you understand, it cannot happen yet.
It takes a long time to live what you learn:
I believe we shall meet again and show each other
These curious marvels, the stone and the blue feather;
And we shall meet again when your own children are
Taught what they will not know for many a year.

May Sarton
Collected Poems, 1930-1993

Long after you had thought you heard; / So it is with the deep thought, the deep word.

Yes. And here in cave-like depths of contemplative silence (all-beyond the initial verbosity) one catches momentary glimpses of invitation, like fireflies, eternally suspended in air: go forward, / look to the fertile days and years ahead.

Not much to report

Not much to report at the end of another day of domestic upheaval – save to say that the interior work is nearly complete. Tomorrow evening the library shelves can be ordered properly again and we’re very delighted that everywhere’s looking wonderfully clean and fresh.

Then again, on that very same domestic front there is some glad news to report. Many years ago we bought an already old marble chiming clock. Suffice to say that it is treasured and that we have been sad that, being much travelled, (an indignity for a venerable clock) it has not functioned beyond the occasional unexplained half-hour’s worth of tick-tocking for the past few years. I know, I know! We ought to have had it round to the horologist’s before now but, well, you know how it is.

Anyway, something about having its environment turned upside down in the name of interior decoration has agreed with our beloved clock. Presently resited, pride of place in our kitchen, I’m contentedly contemplating time’s gentle movement, minute by minute. Of course I can check my wristwatch, my iPhone too. But it’s not the same. I’m an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud dotty about “proper” clocks since childhood. Thirty-six hours restored pendulum-swing to date, and counting. And to celebrate we’ve looked up a friendly home-based horologist to arrange a bit of interior redecoration for the grand old timepiece. About time.