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

Sunday 23 December 2012

a solitary raven

It is midnight on the 21st, and my sister and I are walking back the couple of miles on the long lane to where the car is parked. We both have reasonable night vision, and it's good to go torchless to appreciate the dark, to allow ourselves to moonbathe in the diffuse half-moon's bleariness behind cloud. We've celebrated the solstice with friends, fire, music, food at my daughter's little cottage in the deep and ancient heart of the moor.

I'm loving spending time with my sister, who's moved down to be close to my dad. It's not such a happy time for her, however: she's given up her remote cottage in the highlands of Scotland facing the sea and surrounded by mountains to be down here, and is suffering huge homesickness. Plus this intrepid traveller who spent so many months backpacking solo up through Britain badly broke and dislocated her shoulder, tearing sinews and tendons and muscles (disastrous if you earn your living as a walker/writer, and are a musician too); and to add insult to injury in a most literal way, she did it not climbing a Scottish peak but slipping on mud in soft Devon.

Suddenly the rain, which has held off this evening so far except as a querulous drizzle, begins in earnest. There is a kind of relief, for me, unhooded as I am, to be drenched so in this midwinter rain. The pounding of water on the crown of my head feels like a baptism, and drowns the deep sense of loss I'm feeling at the moment; the incessancy of thought and its attendant pain. I've been finding out lately that there is a point where one is so saturated – with whatever of the human experience – that 'more' simply cannot enter, and this is how it is now too with the rain. I allow myself to relish this saturation rather than resist it, to encompass the 'all' of the world, whether or not it's to my 'taste'. Saying yes to how it is; simply that.

I love the wet drive back alone, just me and the wild moor, scudding cloud and flooded tarmac, fog reducing visibility to a few yards. I drive slowly, filled with sorrow for how things are, as well as simultaneously a wild joy that both Dartmoor and human attributes like love, kinship and kindness can still exist.


The BBC announcer at news time on the 21st said: 'A few followers of the Mayan cult around the world were expecting the world to end at 11am this morning. It didn't.' I like the simplicity of this. And I think how the 'few' followers of the Mayan cult included mass panic buying (particularly in Russia and the East), stocking up on emergency supplies. This human need to ballast ourselves against future calamity – some of which of course never happens.

And as I write this I think of the many zones of the world in which calamity is a daily occurrence, in actuality. I don't need to mention the war zones, the killings, the gross examples of 'man's inhumanity to man'. I don't need to mention our inhumanity to the non-human. I don't need to mention that while I am revelling in a bit of rain, the consequences of anthropogenic climate change cause severe hardship and death for so many, whether as a result of floods, droughts or the severe zero minus 30 that is killing people in Russia.


On the zendotstudio blog I found this lovely offering from a Tibetan teacher:

'Imagine craving absolutely nothing from the world. Imagine cutting the invisible strings that so painfully bind us: what would that be like? Imagine the freedoms that come from the ability to enjoy things without having to acquire them, own them, possess them. Try to envision a relationship based on acceptance and genuine care rather than expectation. Imagine feeling completely satisfied and content with your life just as it is. Who wouldn’t want this? This is the enjoyment of non-attachment.'

(Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche)


And from a friend, Jo, a Quaker who spends a lot of time in Palestine as a witness, there arrived in the post this week a book of Gillian Allnut's inspiring poetry: How The Bicycle Shone – new and selected poems (Bloodaxe).

I love this poem:

What you need to know for praying

You need to know that no one has been here before,
not even you, though you are as ever

kneeling on the oblong Indian rug, its faded
tree, its dry blue birds.

You may imagine that
they sing. You need to know that

anyone who was or is or will be's
here with you in your always

unswept room. You may imagine it's an ark, the first or last,
and that the earth spins scattering dust.

You need to know your heart
will beat

its wings,
and will not berate you for imagining

you've sent it out,
a solitary raven, on its way from Ararat.

© Gillian Allnutt

1 comment:

  1. Comment from Miriam via email (thank you, Miriam): '...have tried to respond to your blog with the following message. Would like to sign up to comment but can't see how to. Here it is, anyway.

    'Blog Response: 24.12.12

    'As always, Roselle, I find much here that comforts and offers a strange sort of companionship. Especially the rain – incessant, thoughts – incessant. The poem by Gillian Allnut is, for me, disturbing but apt.

    'Thanks and love, Miriam.'


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