Thursday, 27 September 2007
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
It's how you filter, deal with and learn from experience that counts - not just having more and more random experiences. Though personally I love random experience - in a Jack Kerouac kind of way.
To echo Dylan - when younger I felt so much "older" (more pretentious?) than when I read the Beat writers now. Perhaps I'm just journeying towards a profound simplicity? Any thoughts, anyone?
In a Dark Time
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood -
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks - is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is -
Death of the self in a long, tearless night.
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
Monday, 24 September 2007
There's Ted Hughes' blood-and-gutsy description of a stillborn lamb in February 17th from his collection Moortown Diary (1989) and his long poem Sheep from Season Songs (1976).
There's the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa's book of poems The Keeper of Sheep - but this is more about God, nature and metaphysics.
So I fear sheep are still getting an indifferent coverage in these pages. With one notable exception - William Blake's delightful The Lamb from his Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789-94):
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child and thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Final thoughts about sheep. When I walked the Pennine Way in springtime this year I was accompanied throughout by the sight and sound of lambs - which was a continual joy. To watch their protective mothers constantly keeping an eye on them was very touching.
And lastly, let's not forget Black Sheep Ale from the Black Sheep Brewery based at Masham, North Yorkshire - one of the finest of British beers.
Sunday, 23 September 2007
I began my 7 mile route on a minor road at Townhead just north of Hope (OS Outdoor Leisure Map 1, Map Reference 168845). This led north to Oaker Farm Cottages where it became a path. After crossing Bagshaw Bridge the way contoured the hillside overlooking Jaggers Clough then forked right just below Crookstone Barn. Another right turn at a stile and the path doubled back on itself at higher altitude. It was now a rutted old Roman road heading south-east above the conifer slopes of the Woodlands Valley. Lose Hill (476m) was constantly in view across the Vale of Edale; but I was making for its companion, Win Hill (462m). A long, easy ascent took me to the rocky cone on top, two paragliders adding interest along the way. It was here the marauding sheep stepped in.
I'd found a nice, sheltered spot for lunch among the rocks and heather. Everything was laid out - tomatoes, dried apricots, wholemeal rolls stuffed with Camembert... Then they hit. An evil-looking ewe, with her smaller but powerfully built offspring, ambushed me from out of a fortification of ferns. Their eyes were fixed and staring. Only one goal was on their mind. My sandwiches. And my camera, mobile phone, and complete rucksack contents if they were lucky. I was so surprised that I half rose and said something like "Shoo!" They were unimpressed by this resistance tactic and still charged on. It then got physical as they knocked me over. I tried to push them away but they were incredibly hard and strong.
I still don't know how I did it, but I managed in an adrenaline-fuelled rush of speed to gather up lunch and pack and camera into my arms - at one point wresting the nose of one sheep out of my open sack - and beat a hasty retreat off the hill. I decided on reflection that it wasn't really a case for the MRT - after all I was alive and in one piece and had lost only a few mouthfuls of French cheese (haven't Derbyshire sheep got upmarket tastes?)
The photo shows my ancient Karrimor daysack next to the trig point at the summit of Win Hill. Thankfully with not a sheep in sight.
Saturday, 22 September 2007
The first was in the Hope Valley, separated from the Vale of Edale by the lovely Mam Tor - Lose Hill ridge. I simply walked from Castleton to Hope by field paths to the north, and returned by field paths to the south along a tributary of the river Noe, an easy clockwise circular of 4 miles. I stopped for a chat in Hope with the manager of the climbing shop, Hitch n Hike, a small satellite of the much bigger outlet at Mytham Bridge. He'd been a lecturer in electronics and also chef-manager on a steam train restaurant in Matlock (but not at the same time - at least, I don't think so!). How nice to have had such a varied path in life. He was crazy about French cooking and gave me a recipe for pork with prunes marinaded in Vouvray. Sounded good at the time - particularly as I hadn't eaten all day! Nice deli next door to the climbing shop, incidentally.
It had poured down with rain for almost an hour on the walk back to Castleton so I tried drying things out at the Edale campsite. But a 5 o'clock sky promised a fine evening, so I couldn't resist setting out again - this time directly from the tent south-west to Barber Booth; across the railway, road and river; then up, on a reasonably gentle slanting path, to Hollins Cross, the centrepoint of the Mam Tor ridge. I came back down to Edale via Backtor Bridge and Ollerbrook Booth. This had been an anti-clockwise circular of 5 miles.
The photo shows the Vale of Edale from the path up to Hollins Cross.
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
I love sleeping outdoors too - all that fresh air, the rush of the wind and the rain, the shriek of owls, the bark of foxes, gosh it can be noisy out there - but so far it's always been in a tent or some kind of shelter. Except on three occasions long ago. When I was very young.
The first was on the beach at Nice on the French Riviera. Lovely to drift off to sleep with the peaceful, hypnotic sound of waves slapping shingle. Not so good when a gang of opportunistic thieves descend on all the hippy overnighters and steal their valuables.
The second was on a riverside seat by the banks of the Seine in Paris - with a friend, two tramps and several bottles of cheap red wine for company. (No doubt I was pretending to be down and out like George Orwell. All very bohemian.) I woke with a start in the early hours of the morning - and found a rat actually sitting on top of my sleeping bag!
The third was on a street bench next to a tram stop in Frankfurt, Germany. No sleeping bag or bivvy sack involved at all this time - just the clothes I'd been wearing the night before in the Sinkkasten jazz club in Mainzstrasse. I woke to the hostile glares of Frankfurter businessmen on their way to work. I think an excessive amount of lager and wine had something to do with it.
Monday, 17 September 2007
This idea, this state, appeals to me a lot.
The Tao Te Ching says of the hollow space inside a cup or of the empty spaces in a house or room: Without their nothingness they would be nothing.
St John of the Cross writes about The Dark Night of the Soul, the state into which he plunged when he could no longer feel God's presence, and prayer could no longer inspire him.
The Via Negativa of mystical theology approaches God from a position of ignorance rather than one of knowledge.
Perhaps not-knowing is a necessary state of mind for learning.
Song at the Beginning of Autumn
Now watch this autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.
Proust who collected time within
A child's cake would understand
The ambiguity of this -
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that autumn gropes for us.
But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names -
Autumn and summer, winter, spring -
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.
But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marble, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air.
When I said autumn, autumn broke.
Beautifully written. I hadn't read this poem for a long time; it must have been somewhere at the back of my mind waiting to be rediscovered. Strange how yesterday, when discussing the poem by Keats, I drew, as Jennings does, a connection with Proust. My subconscious must have "remembered" her mention of the madeleine cake, for I didn't consciously recall the poem's specific details (except for that wonderfully simple but effective last line) until I took her book from the shelf just now. Perhaps we never really forget anything - we just mislay things.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er brimmed their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
I really enjoyed typing that out. The feel and sound of the words, as I keyed them and repeated them to myself, transported me back 40 years, rather like the taste of Proust's madeleine cake. Keats paints such a vivid and sensual word-picture that you can almost see, hear, smell and taste the autumn.
Saturday, 15 September 2007
Thursday, 13 September 2007
I've been stimulated recently by Loren Webster's discussion of Robert M. Pirsig and the Buddhist concept of Dharmakaya Light.
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
- to conserve and enhance the historic environment
- to broaden public access to our heritage
- to increase our understanding of the past
The National Trust, on the other hand, is a registered charity and is funded entirely from membership and entrance fees, donations, legacies and revenue from its commercial operations such as publishing and gift retail. It has 3.4 million members and 43,000 volunteers.
It was founded in 1895 by 3 Victorian philanthropists: Miss Octavia Hill (a social reformer and one of the most influential women of the era), Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Herdwicke Rawnsley. They were concerned about uncontrolled development and industrialization.
To date the Trust has 300 historic houses in its care, plus 49 industrial monuments and mills; also castles and islands, gardens and nature reserves, and other countryside areas including forest, fen, woodland, moorland, farmland, downland and the coast. Its aim is:
- to preserve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland
It acquired its first building - Alfriston House (Sussex) - in 1896, and created its first nature reserve - Wicken Fen (Cambridgshire) - in 1899. Blakeney Point (Norfolk) became its first coastal nature reserve in 1912. During the 1930s the children's author Beatrix Potter gave the Trust much financial support; and she left the Trust farms, land and flocks of Herdwick sheep in her will. More recently in 2002 Sutton Hoo was placed under its stewardship, and William Morris's Red House in 2003.
The National Trust for Scotland was set up in 1931.
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
We walked north from Orford Quay along the western bank of the Alde and Ore river - the river with 2 names. It was very peaceful, with only the terns and the occasional sailing boat for company. Across the river lay Orford Ness, a National Nature Reserve and the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe. It was a secret military test site until the mid-1980s - when the National Trust bought it from the Ministry of Defence. It's a wild and fascinating 10 mile coastal strip formed of rivers, mud flats, lagoons, saltmarsh, grass, shingle and abandoned wartime buildings. Someone once called it "half wilderness, half military junkyard".
Later we explored another National Trust site nearby: the mounds at Sutton Hoo, the burial ground of Anglo-Saxon kings. The most heralded excavation here in 1939 (Mound 1) revealed a ship burial site containing many priceless treasures - including the famous iron helmet which probably belonged to King Raedwald of East Anglia. Many of these beautifully crafted artefacts are housed in the British Museum.
Friday, 7 September 2007
And when we fail to transmit life, life fails to flow through us.
That is part of the mystery of sex, it is a flow onwards.
Sexless people transmit nothing.
And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready
and we ripple with life through the days.
Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.
Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn't mean handing it out to some mean fool, or letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it's only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.
D. H. LAWRENCE
But I suppose this subconscious process, often active while we are sleep, is the basis of much creative thought. Artists, writers, many creative people often feel their work comes from a source "out there" - or, conversely, from somewhere "deep within" - which they are powerless to control. They are simply agents being channelled by a greater force. D. H. Lawrence, in his poem Song Of A Man Who Has Come Through, writes of the wind that blows through me. I've just looked up the poem, reminded myself of it. In it he mentions three strange angels. 3 again!
The human mind is an extraordinary thing. I always like the idea that the mind is a limitless place, that you can travel forever its depths and infinities. That you can go much further "inwards" than the physical body can ever journey "outwards".
But back to the poem Denial by Seferis. Does it mean we are living our lives somehow in the wrong way - though we can't help it since we are human and nature is a force over which we have no control - but we have the power to change? That our passion and desire are somehow misdirected - so the water tastes bad? The poem seems on the surface easy to understand. In fact it's quite mysterious.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
On the secret seashore
white like a pigeon
we thirsted at noon;
but the water was brackish.
On the golden sand
we wrote her name;
but the sea-breeze blew
and the writing vanished.
With what spirit, what heart,
what desire and passion
we lived our life! a mistake!
so we changed our life...
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Something is the matter, baby, there's smoke in your hair
BOB DYLAN Something's Burning, Baby from Empire Burlesque
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Monday, 3 September 2007
Sunday, 2 September 2007
Saturday, 1 September 2007
Trust yourself to do things that only you know best
Trust yourself to do what's right and not be second-guessed
Don't trust me to show you beauty
When beauty may only turn to rust
If you need somebody you can trust, trust yourself
Trust yourself to know the way that will prove true in the end
Trust yourself to find the path where there is no if and when
Don't trust me to show you the truth
When the truth may only be ashes and dust
If you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself
Well, you're on your own, you always were
In a land of wolves and thieves
Don't put your hope in ungodly man
Or be a slave to what somebody else believes
And you won't be disappointed when vain people let you down
And look not for answers where no answers can be found
Don't trust me to show you love
When my love may be only lust
If you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself
BOB DYLAN Trust Yourself from Empire Burlesque