The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Saturday, 17 September 2011
cricket, satori and the Baie de Morlaix
TM takes me to the pub on Bow Creek for supper. He's not a pub man, but is beginning to get that I like to go out sometimes in the evenings, and it doesn't always have to be cultural or worthy.
The Maltsters is right on the creek (we ended our canoe trip there in July; I wrote about that; and it's where I go when I want to treat myself to water, walking, solitary away-from-home-and-emails writing, and a snack – they do a generous, excellent and cheap vegetarian mezze platter).
Tide's high and in the dusky light the water coming up from the English Channel's storminess is murky. A single swan, struck mythical by moonlight, floats hopefully towards the swaying pontoon where my shadow falls.
Inside there's no window table to watch the changing face of the river as dark falls. TM tries hard and fails not to look delighted that the only table is in the rather downbeat unambient back room – where a large screen is relaying the cricket. (A number of men during the evening sidle this way, briefly, abandoning partners to watch other men on adrenalin getting excited about balls, wooden sticks and much running and falling over – each to his own, I guess...) I try for a minute or two to take an interest, but my qs are clearly so obtuse that TM's patience is stretched at the thought that anyone could be so ignorant about the arcania of such a noble sport. He laughs at me and I laugh at him and secretly I'm pleased, too, that he'd rather watch the cricket than explain it to me (of course): there is a poem straining at the birth canal somewhere in me; I can feel a little kicking.
I've learned enough about my creative process to help it along by not focusing on it during this phase. Instead I let it unroll under its own momentum, unmediated by the conscious ordering intellect, and distract my 'surface' mind.
I stand up and look at the framed navigational charts on the room's walls. Lyme Bay. And its opposite number in Brittany: the Baie de Morlaix, Ile de Batz.
Something, an old memory, blasts through my surface thoughts and through the birth process of the poem, too; and I'm arriving late at night with my then lover (and his cello) in Roscoff, fresh off the ferry, and we're needing a room for the night.
We find one. It's dark, obviously. So standing up to open the shutters in the morning I am totally unprepared for the blast of sunlight, the intensest most blue-cobalty-blue stretch of sea right outside the window, and punctuated only by the white dots of egrets and a handful of small islands. There's a sudden almost-painful moment of entry into pure essence, where 'I' am 'not'. This is the depth beneath that cliché of losing oneself. Something of me steps through that window, never coming back.
'To save your life you must first destroy it,' declares the Zenrin. Those words over which I puzzled years, whole decades even, until suddenly I got it. What I take to be real is not. The view of 'self' and 'other' as being essentially separate is false. The eternal hides in the cracks of the transient. Dragging out the hard way that all that I perceive is both essential nature – and not. At once.
Zen is specifically about moving beyond the dualistic nature of our Western rational mind that sees in terms of either/or. And in the Zen way, contrariwise, paradoxical, there is nothing to get, no 'I' to strive to get it. This is the shadow-self flickering on the walls of Plato's cave, this illusion of separate ego nature.
Hard, yes? And so simple, too.
For long years a bird in a cage, says the Zenrin. Today, flying along with the clouds.
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