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

Monday, 13 May 2013

bones & blossom

This is a vertebra from a dolphin's spinal column. Dominic found it, with many of its fellow vertebrae, washed up on the shore on our Iona week: the dolphin clearly no longer needed it and yet, D said, he almost felt like a grave-robber.

We humans seem to have a special bond with dolphins (though that doesn't seem to stop the brutal massacres). Holding the bone in my hands I am in awe; I experience what some may feel holding a saint's relics.

Now this bone is empty of the transmissions from the brain via the spinal cord that spell the fluidity of every part of dolphin. The hollow in the bone no longer pulses with that quicksilver consciousness.

I think of the self, and how we see it, or want – need – to see it, as solid, unchanging, permanent, as this bone appears to be; and yet we can't point at 'self', at anything enduring, to which we can append a name that will not slip, eventually, into everything and nothing. What made dolphin dolphin was not the skeletal system but that which animated it, consciousness itself, though of course the DNA was present, is present, in flesh, in muscle, in bone.

Walking the long loop today I notice in the hedge an old and wizened apple tree I hadn't seen before. The blossoms are vigorous, vibrant. If you look closely, though, they're almost evenly matched by a proliferation of ivy. Which will win out in the end?

Ivy is not actually a parasite in that it doesn't feed off its host but simply climbs it; nonetheless it can choke and eventually pull down a tree.

Some of the way round the loop I have been mulling over a situation: some upset and minor anger at a friend; unable simply to let it dissolve, my first preference, I had to voice my upset in the end for fear it would choke our friendship if I let it stew. 

No matter how skilfully one voices upset, it's hard. All we can do is take responsibility for our own stuff, checking in with ourselves over and over, facing what we do and how we too are unskilful at times, reclaiming projections, acknowledging what is ours to own, and try to be kind in facing the difficult stuff in love, in work situations, in friendship. 

What's my intention? What's my motivation? Am I clearing the air, or taking an opportunity to hit out? Which will bring the greatest good? Am I going to focus on the blossom or darkly bring down the friendship because my ego demands retaliation, retribution, revenge – or at least an acknowledgement, and apology? Am I going to turn towards the sun and flower, anyway, without indulging the first three and even if I don't receive the latter two?

This is simply how it is, whether or not we like it: life is frail and tenuous, even as it's persistent and strong. Parts of it are tender; parts are made of tougher impenetrable stuff. Sometimes the blossom falls on stone. Stone is part of our reality too, and has its own contribution to make – where would we be if not for bedrock?

In the end, beauty is beauty not despite its fragility, its transience, but because of it. The cherry blossom makes me smile. The cherry blossom falls. The blossom will decay. The gravel is also our reality. 

Creatures of light and dark both, we are.

Life is, as T C McLuhan (I think) has it, 'the little shadow that runs across the field and loses itself in the sunset.'


  1. Have been feeling something similar the last few days, except I'm the one on the receiving end of a friend's anger and am trying to see my part, but hard when you feel the web of someone's projections around you. And indeed it may spell the end of many years of nurturing closeness; painful.

  2. Rachael, sympathy. Yes - unclaimed projections seem to be the root of all interpersonal trouble; but as my teacher used to say, even projections need a hook, so all I can do is stay steady and look at my own part, take responsibility for that. Being kind. All there is to do. Innit, as they say! I hope yours resolves itself; mine I think just needs time. What a hard few days for SO MANY people - going to check out the astro-transits ;-). Love to you and thanks for the comment.

  3. You write such beautiful wise blogs, Roselle...

  4. Satya, how kind of you. Thank you. And I keep meaning to ask: which of your novels is/are still in print - 'hard copy'? x


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