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.
Monday, 30 April 2012
home, posh cars and loss...
Home. Blossom, green lushness, bluebells. Big winds. Much rain – a shock after two weeks of bright sunny weather, mostly, in Scotland. Floods of all the rivers, in almost all the fields (seagull and waterfowl parties, pissed-off sheep and cattle) bordering the railway line, from Trent south to Totnes.
Zigzagging across the country from the Hebrides (boat, bus, boat) to the mainland (Oban), train to Glasgow, train to Carlisle, train along the lovely Tyne valley below Hadrian's Wall in Northumbria – how I love borderlands – to Stocksfield, from where, via two nights with my very dear friends and a fabulous oud-and-percussion concert by Palestinian, Iraqi* and Italian musicians at the Sage concert hall in Gateshead – I took the train again yesterday morning for what should have been a seven-and-a-half-hour journey direct to Totnes.
I think I love the English. A little bit of weather – and you'd think we'd be used to it here in the wet southwest – and all is shambolic panic. The train was stuck at Exeter, after 7 hours – so near! So far! – for quite a long time, with a couple of other trains, while they tried to track down various drivers from various 'wrong' trains in the disruption caused by trees on the line and flooding. I accidentally started a little exodus from our very empty train to another, for similar destinations, nearby, but having dragged my various and heavy bags across to it and finding it stuffed full of people, I dragged my bags off it again – after some indecisiveness, but again followed by the little crowd who seemed to be under the impression I was In The Know – just as the tannoy once again insinuated that this one too was looking for a driver. (The good, if surprising, smells of French cooking and the French accents of the staff had nearly swung it, in terms of my staying anyway, but not quite.) Just as we climbed aboard the first one again the French-maybe one took off... And we were there for a chunk more time. Never mistake impatience for insider knowledge, guys...
'Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is catastrophic', came through on my twitterfeed this morning. I'm thinking too that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is equally dodgy. I'm talking about my Posh Car. (I'm an inverted snob, I admit it; and one thing I'm invertedly-snobbish about is posh cars. Give me old, interesting, quirky, stylish rather than state-of-the-art, any day. I've driven a number of interesting cars in my past; and due to the rarity of their parts and their age they've also normally been quite stress-making when they've gone wrong [not infrequently].)
The last one, in reaction to interesting-but-stressful, wasn't either interesting or posh, but it went and kept going for quite a long time, and it was a good colour. Oh and a decent workhorse that ran on recycled chip oil. And apart from the time it caught fire it was almost stress-free. However, it has to be said that it also issued, latterly, rather a lot of blue smoke – which undid all the good I was doing in running on nearly-zero-emissions chip oil, especially since it required almost as much engine oil as fuel oil. My garage shook its head – well, the garage prop did – at the last service, in regard to whether it would get me to the islands – about a week before I was due to leave. Seemed to me that I needed to buy something trustworthy as a matter of urgency, breaking into my small savings to do so. What I didn't need was more stress.
Seemed to me a new car would work. (Well, ten years old is new to me.) And it's smart. And it's well-engineered ('vorpsrung durch technik'). OK it's Cool Graphite; not my natural choice of colour. (Perhaps if I'd bought a blue or green car things would have been OK?) It's a small engine capacity so economical. Of course I went through the 'shouldn't own a car at all but can't live in the sticks and earn a living without one'/'if diesel I can run on chip oil, but it will blow the seals so then I'll be running on diesel again, with a better mpg than petrol but worse for the planet' dilemmas... (You should see me buying dog food; and yes I know how many Golfs it costs the planet each year for me to keep a dog, but actually I make some and now we have a freezer intend to make a lot more of her grain and veg-based food, with a bit of local free range meat/fish/egg.)
Yellow light on dash that came on 60 miles into my ownership (car bought without warranty) has cost me a few hundred pounds with no diagnosis. At least with the old car with no proper electronic dashboard there were no extra lights to come on and worry me!
Car made, I realise now, dammit, for urban driving, of which I do almost none – so low-slung that it bottomed out continuously on the rough tracks on the Isle of Mull. Hadn't allowed for that. Also strong brake smell all the way up the M6. Since my daughter was bringing it back alone with dogs aboard my stress levels would have been better with the old Peugeot – at least I knew that it would probably just need a few gallons of engine oil on deck...
But I'm happy to say daughter made it safely home – a week before me (intentional, not due to my train delays!).
Am perhaps looking for a different vehicle.
I've just come across this little stream-of-consciousness passage in my journal from Iona. I have no idea when I wrote it, or what it was about – perhaps it was middle-of-the-night automatic writing?
I'm old enough to know now that loss and fear of loss strike as strong a connection as resonance, warmth and love – and that there is a way, too, to make a home in loss. Making it our own can also paradoxically free us. And so I slip this holey limpet – almost more hole than shell – onto my finger – I am married of course also to what's gone, as much as to what's present – and here, now, is a shucked-off husk of the sea, partaker of its tides, its song, its minerals – and a reminder that we need to inhabit the gaps as well as what's solid...
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