One CD in my collection played only at Yuletide, for no more than a week, brings me to tears for all the Winter Festivals gone past in since I was twenty. Music to make me weep. The disc only came to me a quarter of a century ago, but it pulls all the memories from the twenty plus years before, the tears flow blurring vision through which I see like yesterday the Yuletide I became engaged to my first husband, and then the Christmases we shared for a year over a quarter of a century. Music to make me weep. The scene changes to the first Yule after I met my second husband, shared three thousand miles a apart on the phone all Christmas Day the same meal, and the same video after, and the first one we were together a year later after his two young daughters moved this at time to Ireland, after the ten years in England and Orkney, then the Yule alone, after he left me for another. Music to make me weep. Finally, six years ago in Bath, the three cats and I with the man who became husband three, a big house in the city and in then the years since after the big house to our place in the country, a home to share a life to cherish a time of gratitude. Music to make me weep. This CD has taken me through three lifetimes since I became an adult, in such different places all of which the music slips into my memory holding tenderly the remembrances of joy and gladness, gingerly those of loss and pain; for this is the power of music, to elicit emotion, to recall events, to jostle free recollections of times and people past and gone, present and here, into the future and yet to be this CD will take me through those Yuletides as well. Music to make me weep. The CD is Celtic Christmas II: A Windham Hill Collection
So . . .
So . . .
Why is it so difficult to remember the days
before they all began to blur together,
the days before the lockdown,
the days before mandated isolations,
the days before we would not go
out to the beach,
out to the nature reserve,
out to lunch,
out to be with friends?
So . . .
Why is it so difficult to remember the days
when we took freedom of movement for granted,
when we took going to the shop unmasked for grated,
when we took being anywhere at any time for granted?
So . . .
Is this some sort of mental or psychological mechanism
to shield us from the challenges
caused by the abridgement to movement,
caused by the rampant running of an indiscriminate virus,
caused by the wondering what life will look like in the future,
or if it is even possible to imagine future any longer
the way it had been before
the knowledge that Covid-19 will not be the only contagion,
the knowledge that our fruits and vegetables harbour microplastics,
the knowledge that our planet is virtually beyond redemption?
So . . .
I sit and ponder
what it used to be like when so much of this was out there,
but I just didn’t realise how bad some of it was,
and that it is getting worse.
So, it was you – Covid-19
I felt you coming,
months ago long before anyone
dared name you,
before anyone had a hint
of your existence,
but then I did not recognise you,
could not name you,
You slid here
on Brexit’s slipstream
unnoticed and undetected,
perhaps longer than
we will ever know,
until it was too late.
The threat of you,
or you kin,
is always with us,
waiting for the opportunity,
a careless or deliberate action,
not a few have issued warnings
over the years that fell
on deaf ears
and onto eyes blinded
by insensitivity and greed.
How do I know all this now?
I scrolled back in my memory
for experiences presaging occurrences,
major events or incidents
that caused radical alteration
on a large scale,
and going back nineteen years ago
I came to the summer before 9/11.
Here I struck paydirt,
for in reviewing the impressions
and feelings of those unsettling months,
I realised that event most closely
fitted a thing so big and world altering,
and the relief I felt in naming what I knew,
after the shock wore off.
It seems mistakenly,
I thought the dis-ease I had felt
since last autumn was all about
the scrambled energy
present here concerning
the island on which I live
severing ties with its largest neighbour,
about the effects of the
unaccountable arrogant and self-righteous
appeals to former greatness,
evoking by implication if not utterance
the time we ruled the seas
and much more land on every continent,
that we would be greater on our own.
As it turned out,
I was only partially right,
for though those ideas and energies
were surely present they were not enough,
because when the time of parting came
ever closer week by week,
the apprehension grew,
restless, anxious, fretful
energies swirled around me,
doom, fear, panic
for Brexit to be the only cause –
and how in all this I missed
the looming spectre of death
I do not know, except,
it was woven amongst the other
sensations carefully hidden.
All this changed a few days ago,
I knew then it was you,
a wraith stealing in under
the larger shadow
of our insular concerns;
perhaps, in part my confusion
came because the same issues prevail
in your wake as in the wake of Brexit:
food and border security,
international and institutional cooperation,
movement of goods and people,
loss of jobs and livelihoods –
though not the thousands of deaths,
no, they are yours alone.
Would it have helped
if I had known sooner it was you coming,
though there would have been nothing
I could do to stop you,
for was never in my power
to prevent you
breaking on these shores
any more that I could halt
the sealing of those same shores
from Europe and its misapprehended dangers,
which are nothing compared
to the dangers you brought here?
In all of this there are lessons
I have learned to apply in the future,
and there will be futures like these
for those of us who survived this time,
when individuals and governments
will make misguided choices and decisions,
for surely there will be other
pandemics, viruses and existential threats,
when other energies will crash over me,
portending death and danger,
when I trust I will remember from this time
I need to dig deeper and look farther,
to perhaps understand sooner,
what I know and thus find a way
to prepare myself and hope
I will not again be overwhelmed.
May the cures for Brexit and you
not be worse the dis-ease and disease
you both have already caused me and others,
stealing a half a year of my life,
though thankfully not ending it,
leaving me the rest of it to be
lived out in a world reshaped and unfamiliar.
From an Encounter with a Four-leaf Clover
I have not done a great deal of truly deep thinking lately, but I have done quite a bit of broad sensing. By that I mean extending myself, reaching out the energies around me farther from me. I was aware about not doing the thinking bit, but only realised in the past couple of days about the sensing part. Or at least how the extending part seems to be working for me, with me, in me.
Extending my energy is a way of pushing my boundaries and in moving them incrementally farther beyond my normal edges I have expanded my awareness. This I realised on my walk the other morning. For almost a week I had the sense that I would find a four-leafed clover. It’s not really a big deal, but the sense was quite strong. There is one embankment along a lane I walk down that is covered in clover leaves, many more leaves than clover flowers. I have been walking past and along this section of lane for months now. Only in the past week did I feel that there was a four-leaved clover hiding somewhere in the mass of its three-leaved companions.
Since becoming aware of the treasure hiding in the bank of green I have been scanning as I walked along. For a week I saw nothing. Then a few mornings ago I hardly had to look at all and my eye went right to it. Yes, I did take it with me. It had been there for some time, because its stem was about ten inches long. I was delighted. It is only the second one I’ve found, ever.
It was a reminder to me that I do know things, am aware of them before they happen. This is not a new awareness for me. I’ve seen snatches of the yet, whilst in the now for years. I was delighted with the gift of the clover, but also did not gloat, because it was a sobering reminder for me. There are things I have ‘seen’ upcoming that are not happy things. At a time when I was doubting whether my seeing is ‘true’ or not an experience, seemingly insignificant happens. In the insignificant experience comes the realisation that only in its time will any event unfold, be revealed, occur.
A little over a month ago I was standing with one of the trees I know and heard: It is easy to remember the past; it is not so easy to remember the future.
As those words, a bit enigmatic and certainly profound echoed inside me, I thought about the fact that I am a rememberer, one who lives increasingly in a state of anamnesis, an unforgetter. Unforgetting works two ways for me, in my experience, forward no less than backward. It has made me more aware that time is not one way ever going ahead. Time as I experience it, curves around on itself, it is more of a spiral journey. Time as I use the word here is not about clocks or marking day and night. It is more mysterious than that and maybe time is not the proper word, but it is the one I am used to using when I ponder these phenomena and live into the reality of them.
From where I am now I can perceive then as well as yet, provided I am granted the window or portal to see/sense, at any given place or position I am experiencing/perceiving existence. At some points on my journey what was at a discrete moment is clear, depending on where I am the quality of the memory is stronger or weaker, full or less full of detail, context or conversation. The same is true for what will be. There are moments where I can feel and perceive the context and event more or less vividly, depending on where I am in relation to that fragment of future.
Remembering the future means that in some sense it has already happened in some mysterious way and I am simply on a journey to meet it. It is not deja vu, although I have that experience as well. Remembering the future is when I experience an event I have seen before, in a dream, in a showing, in a vision and often for months or longer before I am in the place where I meet the event. Sometimes I get a sensation or know going past somewhere that the space has a history in the future, and I know the difference between knowing that and that it had a history in the past. My body reacts. My stomach tightens in a certain way. I get nauseous sometimes at the place, or around the people. I will get anxious or feel distressed or sad, if it is a bad thing. If it is not a bad thing I get a deeply settled feeling. For the past and the future these sensations are subtly different and from experience I can discern the difference.
All this becomes more and more refined as I seem to be learning to extend my boundaries. All this more and more as I learn to listen and trust what I see. All this more and more as I come to realise what I know is real, in the yet and the then, as I journey in the now.
All of this from a four-leaved clover found on a morning walk on a late summer morning.
The day the War began
When I first went outside this morning I could feel something different. A different energy. A false calm, and artificial pausing of the frantic energy in all the life forms around me. My walk was a challenge this morning. Too much was seeping into my awareness, to many images began to flood my interior vision, to many sounds assaulted my internal ears. I seemed to be walking in a daze, walking here and walking somewhere far away, in an alien landscape. My soul ached
Yes, the birds sang – muted songs.
Yes, the butterflies danced, but it was not the same sort of dance they danced yesterday.
Or maybe I perceived them differently . . . for though this morning was glorious, memory makes it harsh. Remembrance makes it terrible.
I watched the clouds tower up, rehearsing, remembering the rising storm clouds of the early morning of this day a century ago, that broke before midnight.
It is not possible for me to think back and not feel, feel things I shouldn’t possibly be able to feel. Not to know things I can’t possibly know. Perhaps because I have touched some to the history, lived and worked in the shadow of the energy of this day for many years, three decades ago. . .
In San Diego I worked for a woman whose stepmother was Helen Hayes Gleason Johnson, whose first husband (who died of typhoid in the 20’s or 30’s) was Arthur Gleason. He was a reporter of Colliers Magazine during the WWI and she was an ambulance driver behind the lines in Belgium. I worked for her step-daughter in the house Helen’s second husband built for them and that was their home in the 30’s to the 60’s by which time both my employer had inherited after the deaths her father and Helen.
Helen drove for the Red Cross. She was decorated by the King of Belgium after the war, being the first woman to be decorated as a Chevalier. I was privileged to have read all of Helen’s letters from the war and was supposed to get them to do something with prime source materials — an historian’s holy grail, but only a week before I had arranged to take them, the water heater blew up in the basement and flooded where the trunk was kept. The whole lot was soaked beyond retrieval.
But, several months before the water ruined everything, I spent a week going through the material. Two things stand out for me to this day, clear and in sharp relief. One was the letter I read that Helen wrote on a train going through France the day the war was declared and second was the piece of shrapnel, a chunk of metal the size of the palm of my hand that nearly killed her. I can’t remember the words Helen wrote, but I remember the feeling I had as I held the letter in my hands. I recall the sense of despair and the fear the leaked through time to me as I read the words — that letter opened a portal for me that has never really closed.
As others have commented there is no such thing as a glorious war, nor glorious warrior. The propaganda used to get young men to sign up and the fury unleashed on those who for conscience sake could not take up arms were both skillfully wielded to manipulate the masses.
I feel all this more keenly here, living in the UK, so much closer to the places where this frightful conflict unfolded and stalled and was pressed on. Trenches and gas and barbed wire and no man’s lands, and mayhem and palpable fear and bitter resentment.
What was lost to the world, to families and the sciences to literature, to medicine, to music — these are also things I think about. Also that without WWI and the misery and loss there might not have been the fictions of Tolkien; a terrible price to pay for Gandalf and Frodo and Aragorn, the Elves and the Orcs, Fangorn and Rivendell, Minas Tirith and Mordor. We might by now have a cure for some dreadful disease that threatens us. Would the Spanish flu have taken so many, wearied by war and weeping, bereft and unable to find hope and a reason to go on.
There is so much we might elect to conjecture and so much more we might wish we never had to consider, including that the so called peace at the end of WWI sowed the seeds for the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War. For, not one bit of this happens or happened in a vacuum. Not one little bit of that could have occurred without lots of other little bits that seemingly might, on the face of it, appear completely disconnected.
What is it then that I remember today? I am a rememberer. I am one who is called to live in a state and in the reality of anamnesis, of unforgetting. Today there is much to process. There are many threads to untangle. There are wide vistas to take in and the small sheet of paper, written with a pencil in a train carriage chugging through the French countryside, as the harvest was about be taken in, which landscape was soon to be altered beyond recognition. The ensuing conflict ruined lives and reshaped the entire social and political structure of Europe. This conflict toppled monarchies. This conflict bequeathed us Fascisms in Germany, Spain and Italy, and the rule of the Proletariat in what was at the time still Russia that in time transmuted into global Communisms.
What do I remember today? The weeping mother and the sobbing wife, the orphaned children and childless parents — on both sides of that War that did not end anything but our innocence.