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.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
dipping into the ragbag
Internet down for days, due to storm (and no doubt the wrong kind of wind in the lines!). We're at the very edge of the exchange, and in rain and wind our poor less-than-half-a-megabyte whimpers and dies. I hope those of you in more exposed places – thinking here of friends in the Hebrides – survived unscathed.
So where was I? – In the interests of opening a little breathing space, I think I'll just offer a small collage here today.
On the high lane the wind was delicious in my hair, and had cleared the clouds, temporarily, from the moor. Between Haytor and Houndtor a splay of watery wintry light picked out the last-of-upland-pasture edging the moor in that bright lime green against the greyishness. And now at last the snowdrops are out, and it almost feels, today, like near-spring.
I think, as I so often do, of these last lines from Seamus Heaney's poem 'Postscript':
'... You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And find the heart unlatched and blow it open.'
(NB this is a slightly different version from the one that closes the wonderful Bloodaxe anthology Staying Alive)
I love radio 4. I caught a couple of snatches yesterday, driving to the post office – we live about 5 miles away from one, so it's not usually possible to walk during a working day, and there's an extremely long hill - miles of it – back up to cycle, miserable in horrendous storms.
First was Rachel Denton being interviewed by John McCarthy. This little snippet caught my attention and occupied much of my mind on the journey there and back: 'I think we're always on the edge of ourselves.'
Later, just as I was about to get out of the car, I heard a couple of snippets from 'Saving Species'. Did you know this, for instance, about the little pretty dark brown leathery 'mermaid's purses' that are washed up on our shores: they once housed a shark embryo. Shark as predators use electrical impulses to track their prey. The embryo does it the other way round: even 'in uterus' (ie the mermaid's purse), the developing embryo can detect electrical impulses emitted by predators and respond by ceasing all movement, even of its gills.
I also learned that dung beetles, in order not to go round in circles and end up tottering into the same dung heap, navigate by the Milky Way, apparently – how astonishing is that?
I've been rereading Coleman Barks' human, insightful and inspired translation of the ecstatic poems of Rumi, a Sufi dervish from the early C13th. The Sufi mystics saw our search as being for union with the Divine, and the Divine as inhabiting all. If you buy any Rumi, do make sure (unless of course you can read the original!) that it's Barks' translation – far and away the best.
Here are a few fragments:
Why should I seek? I am the same as
he. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!
Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.
Gone, inner and outer,
no moon, no ground or sky.
The wine we really drink is our own blood.
Our bodies ferment in these barrels.
We give everything for a glass of this.
We give our minds for a sip.
Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everything is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.
Here's the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall towards the glassblower's breath.
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