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

Saturday, 29 October 2011

getting into bed with

All I knew about Tarifa until yesterday was that a brilliant rootsy band, 'Radio Tarifa', from there was a favourite of mine and my daughter's for dancing. Yesterday I discovered that Tarifa, in southern Spain, marking the point of land departure from Europe for the shortest crossing to Africa, sees tens of thousands of migratory birds passing over in spring and autumn. Oh to spend a day or two there, watching osprey, eagle, crane gliding above on the thermals! Apparently as many as 3000 short-tailed eagles can be counted crossing in a single day. (My friend Johnny in southwest France emails me each year when the cranes fly over his place.)

I've just cleaned and hung up the birdfeeders in the courtyard – somehow the traditional applefest weekend coupled with the clocks going back seems like the right time to start. Two hours in and the tits have discovered the nuts already. I'm looking forward to seeing if the spotted woodpeckers have successfully raised this year's young, to learn about finding a free picnic in the rigours of winter.

Taking The Man to the station this morning a sparrowhawk, mobbed by a magpie, swooped out in front of the car, pigeon in claws. I hate seeing any sentient being suffer, but I recognise that the hawk has to live, too.


OK that's made up for a couple of days not writing about birds!

What good news that the new Irish President is a much-loved poet and peace campaigner and champions an intellectual culture of the arts! How wonderful if a few more Heads of State professed values that weren't driven by pure materialism.


On the Today programme this morning they spoke of a list of the 20 commonest ingredients for happiness. The two they listed were getting into bed with fresh sheets (I admit that that was not what I expected to come after 'getting into bed with'), and finding a £10 note that you'd forgotten in a pair of jeans. I didn't know whether to smile or tear my hair: the former because as I age I realise what pleasure the little joys can bring; the latter because is this all, is this really all, we aspire to? Can't we do better than that, in terms of meaning?


I'm reading inspirational poet David Whyte's book on the three marriages (love, work and self). He says, in effect, forget the work/life balance: that merely increases our sense of pressure to 'get it right' (and I would add buys into the 'either/or' philosophy); and he points out too that the word 'balance' is anathema to a poet and a poet's way of working. What he says we need is to find a new way to relate to each of these 'marriages', and honour their differing strands in our lives each in its own way and to the extent to which it needs honouring; then we might integrate our relational lives, our working lives and our connection with the self via 'conversations' and synthesis. What he's talking about, of course, is making the relationship with each more conscious and less driven.

And talking of consciousness: here in Totnes a Professor of Consciousness offers a 'consciousness cafe' regularly. This last speaker was Jay Lakhani, Hindu philosopher and physicist. He was an inspiring speaker and a lovely and charismatic man, a good raconteur, but didn't take it far enough. The audience in Totnes knows a lot about this stuff already: shaped by Dartington there's been a great deal of cultural, spiritual and ecological innovation here over the last century. I guess a visiting academic from an urban university comes in, glances round the upstairs room of the Barrel House and decides to pitch it easy – ie low. But we're self-selected: if we're there, it's because we already have an interest in the subject on offer. TM was twitching away in suppressed frustration in the corner (actually that's an exaggeration; he was leaning back with his eyes closed, radiating disgruntlement). But out of Lakhani's talk came a wonderful metaphor (this is my paraphrase): 'It's as nonsensical to imagine that consciousness originates in the brain as a small boy imagining that electricity is generated by the light switch.'


And finally:

'We should not feel embarrassed by our difficulties, only by our failure to grow anything beautiful from them.' Alain de Botton

Till next time.

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