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.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance take two
I look up from the story. I know this almost as well as I know my hands. Well, OK, maybe my shoulder blades. Is this his, or Zen/Taoist/Confucian? I smile. Oh yes – I remember.
I know almost nothing about motorcycle maintenance. I did, sort of, learn to ride a BSA Bantam belonging to my first boyfriend when I was a student; one of the few bikes which allowed my feet to touch the ground at a junction. A later non-boyfriend stripped his motorbike down, oil and all, on my bed – luckily I was away at the time, having lent him my room in the long vac, as a student. Having wrecked my bedding, he paid me a very small amount of compensation – I don't know, £20 maybe? – enough, in those days, to buy me a second-hand guitar (and I didn't worry too much about sheets and bed-throws). I'd just learnt to fingerpick the best Donovan songs when my not-yet-husband decided to take my guitar on an extended tour of Europe, neglecting to tell me. The things we did in the name of being laid-back, man, in the late seventies...
Anyway, my friend Bridget, who (no doubt illegally) stuffed my dog between the two of us on the back of her motorbike in Dorset one summer – she knew how to strip down a motorbike, too. Our friends used the universal joint she took out of her Honda as an ashtray for their – errr – joints.
I did know a bit about how to fix my Citroen deux chevaux, though. A memorable incident on Totnes High Street, which is quite steep, when my fan-belt went (I was mid-twenties I guess), had me tearing a narrow strip from the all-round hem of my much-loved green and blue and cerise skirt to makeshift a fan-belt. It worked. And here's a story: another deux chevaux of mine caught fire on the motorway. I have a memory of attempting to douse the flames using my wooden clog and a neighbouring puddle. Turned out a mouse had eaten through the corrugated card – not kidding – heating duct under the bonnet, and the tube had dropped on the exhaust manifold and ignited.
So here I am. I haven't met him for 30 years. Now I pick him up on impulse from the bookshelf, settle on the sofa beneath the skylight in the lovely room with the French window and huge woodburner, and – hesitate. You can't always revisit. I open him.
We haven't forgotten each other. I grin. I know him.
The truth comes knocking at our door. What does it take to answer it, say YES?
Another grin. My girl knows him too: in between last time and this time, at round about the age I was when I first met him, she too found him, read him, got him. Thumbs up to you, beautiful daughter, she-who's-learning-to-answer-the-door-to-the-truth.
And a bow to you, Mr Pirsig.
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