from BARDO

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.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 23 December 2011

winter ghosts, synchronicity & David Whyte

When I wake the clouds are dirty and piled outside the window. I'm feeling uneasy and bereft – in my dreams I'd lost my mobile (means of communication), my purse with my bank card (means/currency of exchange), and my mum. The only one literally true is the last, and with the bereavement fresh and Christmas nearly upon us the clouds are like my grief piling up behind a nearly-closed door.

Christmas, like the winter solstice, I think, may be about the joy of the Light returning but is also about absences and loss: in order for the new to be born something of the old order has to die. These absences, private sorrows, are an undercurrent for many I think at such times of collective celebration – they may not affect our ability to 'have a good time', outwardly, anyway, but they are like the Bad Fairy in folk-tales: they too need acknowledgement, a little space to themselves, or they wreak revenge, these Winter Ghosts. I think we should each of us have a little solo time built in, for reflection, between now and the early New Year.

The Man and I have worked well together the last couple of days towards this, our first Christmas together. Nonetheless, as we stand together against the radiator near the Christmas Tree (a lopped top from an evergreen in our little woodland margin), I'm aware of how people pull away from each other as well as together, and aware of his sadness – his children, who usually join him for a huge family Christmas in London, are in Australia this Christmas, where they live. Instead we will have my father, distraught, short on memory and grieving, and needing a lot of support. My lovely daughter will be here in between trekking back across the moor to feed animals. My mum won't.


So I stand here reasonably warm at the kitchen window, watching the woodpecker at the feeder, and instead of focusing on my loss make a decision to return to a moment of gratitude that I'm not sleeping under a bridge, holed up in Guantanamo, looking for missing relatives in flood zones, scared for my life in a war zone. How easy I have it, and how easy to let a sense of disgruntlement or sadness take over all perspective. How blessed, how fortunate, how loved I am.


Poetry is a small consolation for myself, with this first cup of tea, now alone in the treelit kitchen. I pick up David Whyte's book The House of Belonging, and turn to the prefacing poem, a favourite of mine, by David Wagoner. Exactly as I read the line 'No two trees are the same to Raven' a pair of said birds swoop low over the roof of the house and flip towards the valley, jostling, jouncing, mock-fighting, all the time uttering that wonderful deep-throat cronk.

Do you know what I mean if I say there are times when we are really in tune with everything, when synchronicities abound, when harmony is what shows itself, we're in 'the universe zone'? I mean when you know what's going to happen next, what someone's going to say next, who it is telephoning before you answer (even though you've not thought of or spoken with them in months or even years); when you know that conjunction of event is going to follow conjunction of event.

My belief is that truly living in accord with essential nature, given sufficient mindfulness practice, we could more or less dwell in this zone; but who of us is sufficiently alert/aware all the time? I'm aware though that there are periods when I notice this more than at other times: it's a mirroring of that quantum reality, perhaps, where photons – do I mean photons? Electrons? Neither? Linked particles? Anyway, sub-atomic particles – have an instantaneous/simultaneous effect on each other, ultimately indivisible.

This is C G Jung's 'acausal connecting principle' ('synchronicity'); so my waking dead on the dot of the moment of exact solstice yesterday morning, coupled with, for me, an unusually high level of telepathy alerts me to recognising the frequency of such experiences. I notice that for me these periods where conjunct events tumble over each other in my awareness happen for between 3 weeks and 3 months at a stretch, and I am not sure what it is that creates that heightened sensitivity in me (I say that as I imagine these events are happening synchronously anyway; sometimes we simply don't notice them, though of course we can train ourselves to).


But I wasn't going to talk about that, but about poetry. In fact I was going to let the poetry speak for itself, so here are a couple of stanzas from David Whyte's 'What I Must Tell Myself'.

Watching the geese
go south I find
even in silence
and even in stillness
even in my home
without a thought
or a movement
I am part
of a great migration
that will take me to another place...

When one thing dies all things
die together, and must live again
in a different way,
when one thing
is missing everything is missing,
and must be found again
in a new whole
and everything wants to be complete,
everything wants to go home
and the geese travelling south
are like the shadow of my breath
flying into the darkness
on great heart-beats
to an unknown land
where I belong...

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