I've submitted this, and a couple of other recent efforts, to the latest Festival of the Trees, at Via Negativa.
Going to a buddhist workshop on death and lucid dreaming, scheduled for this weekend, I imagine, with a smile.
How Fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greennesse? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an houre;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell,
We say amisse,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.
O that I once past changing were;
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offring at heav’n, growing and groning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-showre,
My sinnes and I joining together;
But while I grow to a straight line;
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can finde and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
What happens when you stop?, I’d been wondering, and thinking: nothing good - and it wasn’t. Yesterday was TOIL (who invented that bloody acronym?), and I slept and walked and cried and slept a lot more, twelve, fifteen hours, with needy, disturbing dreams. Cathartic, I suppose, but wretched.
Working like this, I plod on, losing myself in work, losing myself in expanding flesh (that horrible Spanish expression, entrada en carnes - encased in meat), the small spark of self threatening to be squeezed and squeezed until it snuffs out. I wonder why I mind so much, since I can’t but view this ‘self’ as a cumulative disaster. But I do, I do.
Lately, on the bus, I’ve been reading books about the brain, about neurological damage (Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia; Claire Morrall: The Language of Others), reading with a chill of recognition and wondering if some of my deficits are neurological as well as psychological (does it matter?). Painful thoughts, but the will not to be snuffed out is strong for all that.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
"The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."
From Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize for Literature Acceptance Speech.
I read the passage that follows on the bus to work. From this weary, shaky anxiety, from this abraded, aching body that needs more sleep, a kick of spirit in response. I felt addressed, reached. This is it. The storyteller. The meeting. Why writing matters.
"Buzby... was small and neat and wore - I swear it - pince-nez glasses. I could see at a glance that he was a city man dropped, like a seed, by the wind. He had been there a long time, certainly. He knew the corn talk and the heat talk, but he would never learn how to come forward in that secure, heavy-shouldered country way, to lean on a car door and talk to strangers while the horizon stayed in his eyes.
In the midst of all this work, when I can spare five minutes I try to check out a few blogs that I know will refresh and divert my mind, and yes, something catches my eye. Wood s Lot had links this week to Miguel de Unamuno! Oh my god. The horror and hatred of my first year as a university student. Who ever put this man on the curriculum for 18-year-old foreign students of Spanish literature has a lot to answer for. His pessimistic, difficult, anguished, existentialist philosophy, novels and poetry… how I hated them. Of course he was interesting and brilliant. Of course his deep, post-end-of-Spanish-colonialism questioning got to me. I was so lost in life and had so little idea of what I was doing, in this new intellectual environment so out of my social class and so far from all my previous experience - it wasn’t what I needed! And to cap it all, once he’d got me all upset and depressed... oh no, this stuff was all about the male psyche, he said. Women were warm, simple, creatures, earth-mothers, not subject to any of this anguish. How I hated him.
Well, I find I like his poem, and I suspect I’d have quite a lot of time for him these days (though not for his views on women). The Tragic Sense of Life – which 18-year-old wants or needs to hear about that? Now, of course, it’s always with me. His face in the photo, the quizzical expression, the very Spanish beard, makes me smile, and yes his desk looks just like mine! How things do come full circle.