I was once told: Remembering the past is easy, it’s remembering the future that’s difficult. Those words have haunted and challenged me for many years now, during which time I have struggled to come to terms with the gift of triple vision – of seeing the now, but always in the light and in the shadow of the then and the yet. There is no written guide passed down, passed along, merely stumbling along as best as possible hoping this technique is adequate, knowing that it is not. How is it that I arrive at these places of semi-understanding, quasi-comprehension out of my depth, facing the breadth of clear perception and shaded sight, opening like a giant maw of uncertainty before me? Questions unanswerable, barely asked as I move beyond the mist held past and toward the fog shrouded future.
I have been reading a great many books lately that seem to be spinning around a theme, though to my conscious awareness in no way intentionally.
Books on: The Soul; The Self; Time; Quantum Physics; The Daemon; The Gods; Space and our place in it; Healing in its broadest sense to include Soul Wounds, the Mother Wound, Illness; Life and Death; Loss; Belonging; Becoming; Aging; Elderhood; Wild Life and Rewilding Life; History and Natural History; Sentience; Myth,Mythology and Mystery. To me these are all dealing with the same issues at a deep and profoundly basic level. They all are questioning the trajectory of movement and momentum Life and what shape it actually takes: linear, cyclical, circular, or some form we have no way currently to conceive in our three dimensionality. They are all asking questions about what it means to be human and animal, to be alive. Why we are here. Why is there a here at all. What’s it all about.
This is the stuff that has exercised philosophers and theologians, mystics and musers for millennia. This is the stuff of tortured prose and elegant poetry. This is the stuff worth thinking about, mulling over, pondering on a walk in the woods, when drifting off to sleep and in the drowsy groggy minutes upon waking in the morning.
There are no right answers here. There are perhaps better phrased answers and more or less convincing ones. But ultimately right ones? Sorry.
I have found this reading and the matters it has raised mind bending and soul expanding. It has taught me that what I was taught as a child was not the Truth, but one narrowly perceived and conceived version of truth as an originally small group of people understood and elaborated it. It is not my Truth any longer and certainly not The Truth in any sense of my current understanding nearly six and a half decades along on my present journey.
Nevertheless, I am awash in wonder. Knowing how things work from the isolated scientific perspective, another limited truth, has in no way made me less able to look at the night sky and think about all the galaxies and suns and planets out there resting and spinning and dancing in the darkness that is hidden from us during the day and that we flee from into artificial light during the night. It does not make me any less awe-struck when we found a frog in our garden a couple of days ago and moved it to a safer place, a small delicate creature with wondrous bulging eyes, and I wondered what it saw of or ‘thought’ of us. I live in a state of gratitude for birds and animal, the trees and flowers, the insects and ferns, the fronds and the flowers all around me.
At the same time, I worry about the loss of our current megafauna and our pollinators. I worry about the manipulation of our food sources, of being in a position where the only food available to us will be sterile, both unable to reproduce itself and so germ free that we never build up any resistance to what is out there surrounding us in our environment. I worry about the young people who never get to climb a tree or to paddle in the sea, or to bake a cake or whittle a spoon – all now considered too dangerous, potentially injury causing, life threatening.
That said, my worry never out paces nor overwhelms my wonder. My ability to wonder, to engage in wondering remains intact. I have no answers myself, none that encompass everything. Nor do I want one. Living with questions is not a bad thing; but having all the answers certainly would be. I remain restless. I remain curious. I continue to read which feeds my restless curiosity. I continue to write which is how I play with the ideas I read about and how I best assimilate them, it is how I frame a way to comprehend and apprehend my place in all the great swirling Mystery of Being.
Give me the questions any day, any night.
I went on a walk this morning with a great deal on my mind. I have a job application to do this week. My desk looks like a whirlwind blew through. I work by shoving stuff around, sometimes with one of the cats sitting on top of the pile. Nonetheless, I went forth to move in the sunshine, listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze tangle my hair and take some photos of the progressing summer.
I went further along one track than I’d ever been. Previously, it was awash in mud and standing with water. At a point I felt was right, I found a place to sit and reflect. Had it not been for the tractor two fields away, all I would have heard were the songs of the birds and the buzzing of the bees. I haven’t sat down at the edge of a field for a long time. The late morning sun was warm. The clouds were broken, mountainous, slow moving. I was on the far side of a field I had been walking along from the other side separated by a stream and long gatherings of trees along the footpath.
Settled down, I pondered. My mind went in time to asking the question, partially rhetorical: Who is the goddess of the Somerset Levels? I figured with all the water and willows it was unlikely to be a god in this instance. I asked as I don’t live all that far from them and am familiar with the places that were so badly flooded over the winter. I figured that the deity would be pretty much for the area where I live as well. I asked and just sat, open, listening. It was hard not to have other things interfering and distracting, but the heavy drone of the tractor and the chirping and calling of the birds did help me to hold my focus. I didn’t need to travel. I waited.
In time I sensed an answer and it was not the one I was expecting. Well, quite frankly I wasn’t expecting anything, but had I been what I was gathering was not what it would have been.
Do you really think it wise to wake up the old gods? Do you think it appropriate to call me forth? You do not know what I demanded of those who followed me in the past. You have no idea if I am merciful to be reverenced or fierce to be placated. You do not know if I am who or what your world needs.
This was a bit of a shock. I don’t think I wanted to wake her up or call her forth . . . or maybe I did, though unwilling or unable to admit it. I acknowledge I thought it might be helpful or inspiring to be able to call on a local goddess. But in this case I was wrong. She made it very clear she did not want to come back. That she is there still is not in question for me. It is a matter of letting sleeping gods lie.
The experience did present me with a poem though. Unfortunately since I can’t get lines of poetry to work in the drafting space here, I’ve put forward slashes between lines in each stanza.
Don’t waken the gods,/sleeping under that tree.
Why do you want me,/ignored for so long?/My voice too faint/for modern ears ever to hear.
Don’t question the gods,/resting under that tree.
Why do you tempt me,/ignored for so long? My answers too harsh/for modern minds ever to cope.
Don’t test the gods,/restless under that tree.
Why do you chase me,/ignored for so long? My presence too strange/ for modern sensibilities ever to bear.
Don’t seek the gods,/concealed under that tree.
I wasn’t chasing her. I was merely musing on a possibility. The answer, however is quite clear, totally unambiguous. Am I disappointed? No. It is enough to know that such a Presence was once a part of the lives and practises of the people who lived here, near here, the ancestors of this area. No written record. No name to call. Vanished and traceless. In this instance, as it should stay.