Musings

Speeding time

February 19, 2014

The calendar on the wall states clearly the succession of days. Wherever one lives, the sun comes up, then goes down in an orderly, well-timed fashion. However one’s culture might name and count these days, their cyclical progression through light and dark is a daily-yearly constant.

If there has been any change, the science of geologic evolution tells us that the world’s spin is slower now than 100 million years ago when us mammals were first getting a toe-hold on this planet.

mask 2No, this is not a fossil of any ancestor I know, but rather the facial characteristics of a bogeyman; more specifically, a Bogeyman-of-Time,

You see, a bogeyman can reverse the natural order of time and, whereas, science shows us that the world’s rotation is slowing down — giving us an additional three free minutes to the day every 10,000 years — the bogeyman is speeding it up just to spite us humans.

For the truth of this, who among us does not understand that our clocks move ever faster? Who does not know that the years just keep flying by faster and faster where nobody has any time for anything.

People do attempt through meditation, yoga and slow-cooking courses to get some time back into their lives, but the bogeyman keeps undoing their valiant efforts.

More parenting requirements to raise a perfect child, more work hours to pay for a moment’s happiness briskly pushing a trolley down an aisle of stylish products made by people working faster and faster in a country where the sun is rarely ever glimpsed through polluted skies to give their ever speeding hands a sense of time of day.

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Oh, well. Time for me to walk barefoot out into the garden, contemplate my navel and watch the bees happily gather their honey at a pace that hasn’t ever changed,

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Duende

February 5, 2014

“A god can do it. But tell me how
a person can flow like that through the slender lyre.”

Rilke

I have a young friend visiting who is studying cello at university. During a conversation on creativity, the word “duende” surfaced as I tried to explain the need for an artist, any artist whether musician or sculptor, to be as intimate with their instrument or block of wood as with a lover. Only then, I told her, could the deeper essence of what they were trying to coax out into the world be revealed with the rich, darkly passionate complexity it deserved.

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“The brightness of her hair was like a sun-filled hall.”
Rilke

Later, while my guest was practicing her cello, a glint of light off her hair reminded me of Rilke’s poem “The Lute” where he reverses the human-object duality, takes on the voice of the lute and speaks from a cradled position on the courtesan Tullia’s lap.

This forging of two seemingly separate “bodies” is when duende is present and sends electricity down one’s spine. It is the marriage of earth and sky; of flesh and spirit.

And no sculpture captures this melding more erotically or beautifully than Rodin’s “The Lovers”. It is a visual song of earthy love that soars high and low. There is no grasping, no seeking some final consummation. It is pregnant with temptation, tender lust, vulnerability, trust and power. Seeds of enlightenment.The feminine and masculine in balanced embrace.

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May my young friend someday play music of this quality. Music that goes beyond technical virtuosity. Music where even the gods stop to listen and tremble.

The Lute

I am the lute. When you describe my body,
its beautiful curving lines,
speak as if speaking of a ripely
curving fruit. Exaggerate the darkness you glimpse in me.

It was Tullia’s darkness, which at first was hidden
in her most secret place. The brightness of her hair
was like a sun-filled hall. At moments
some tone from within me

was reflected in her face
and she would sing to me.
Then I arched myself against her softness
and what was within me entered her at last.

Rilke

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Revisiting

November 18, 2013

Monday morning and, as I sit with the first coffee in hand, I read, by chance, from an “older” book of poems from Mary Oliver and not her latest. ‘West Wind’ was published in 1997, possibly now out-of-print. Yet, within the dog-eared pages are words as powerful today as they were when I first read them seventeen years ago.

What I’m trying to say is that, if there are books in your house sitting lonely and gathering dust, re-open them and re-discover some magic once held.

Read this poem slowly. Read it more than once. Read it out loud.

What stanzas speak to you? What images come forth? What feelings?

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Am I Not Among the Early Risers

Am I not among the early risers
and the long-distance walkers?

Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider
the perfection of the morning star
above the peaks of the houses, and the crowns of the trees,
blue in the first light?

Do I not see how the trees tremble, as though
sheets of water flowed over them
though it is only wind, that common thing,
free to everyone, and everything?

Have I not thought, for years, what it would be
worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,
to gather blueberries,
thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?

What will ambition do for me that the fox, appearing suddenly
at the top of the field,
her eyes sharp and confident as she stared into mine,
has not already done?

What countries, what visitations,
what pomp
would satishy me as thoroughly as [Windgrove]
on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?

Here is an amazement — once I was twenty years old and in
every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

Above the modest house and the palace — the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.
Above the child who will recover and the child who will
not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

I bow down.

Have I not loved as though the beloved could vanishing at any moment,
or become preoccupied, or whisper a name other than mine
in the stretched curvatures of lust, or over the dinner table?
Have I ever taken good fortune for granted?

Have I not, every spring, befriended the swarm that pours forth?
Have I not summoned the honey-man to come, to hurry,
to bring with him the white and comfortable hive?

And, while I waited, have I not leaned close, to see everything?
Have I not been stung as I watched their milling and gleaming,
and stung hard?

Have I not been ready always at the iron door,
not knowing to what country it opens — to death or to more life?

Have I ever said that the day was too hot or too cold
or the night too long and as black as oil anyway,
or the morning, washed blue and emptied entirely
of the second-rate, less that happiness

as I stepped down from the porch and set out along
the green paths of the world?

Mary Oliver

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Sermon on rice

September 2, 2013

It is Sunday and for the past week I’ve been observing my pot of cooked rice.

“Why?” you might ask. Well, it came about because of a poem.

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver

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So recently, I’ve been paying attention to how life — as exemplified by the slow dissolution of rice — is nothing more than one grand circuitous digestive factory and how wonderful it is that I have been honoured to be a participant in its well oiled functioning.

Look at how the rice transforms itself into a new way of being. White stringy tendrils more complicated and more intricate than all the interconnections of the internet are working their micro magic to take “waste” and transform it into food for “their” survival which ultimately means “our” survival.

Yes, those white strings and tiny black bits enveloping the rice are a form of fungus or bacteria that might appear, at first glance, a bit yucky. But by paying attention, one’s squeamishness turns into astonishment. Everyday we should be marveling at the exquisite mystery and exquisite beauty of every facet (every grain) of life.

It is not blasphemy to speak of the sacredness of what rots because ultimately what rots is food for another’s life. Recent studies have shown that when bears eat salmon what they poo out is vital for the whole forest ecosystem: no fish means no fertilizer and essential nutriments for the trees; without the breakdown of poo by microbes, the system collapses.

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My lemon and lime trees receive a daily urinary blessing. For all his wise words, for all his thirty-three years, even Jesus would daily squat, shit and wipe his butt; a necessary ritual in the continuation of life. Or, stand next to his donkey on the side of a dusty road and pee out what was “waste” to him but nourishment to something else.

Shall I tell you what praying is? It is nothing more than giving thanks that we each are alive today, right now. It is gratitude swelling our voice in song for being our animal selves at this time on this earth with our warming sun floating majestically in the spinning of our Milky Way galaxy, while all the while, mitochondria and photosynthesis, bacteria and fungi power us along.

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Mad Man digging

July 30, 2013

“….. to get strength
for the things we have to do that frighten me
I go and dig my hands into the ground.”

Marge Piercy, from “The queen of pentacles”,

Along with the gravity of our precarious place on this earth, I also believe that a bit of levity can buoy the heaviness of our daily lives. Last week on FaceBook I, therefore, posted a bit of humour that was accompanied with a photo of my neighbour and I digging in the tennis court.

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My neighbour Stan and I were digging in the tennis court yesterday when I turned to Stan and said: “Stan, I’m really feeling my age today. I just hurt all over, how are you feeling?”

Stan replied: “I feel just like a new born babe.”

I put my shovel down and looked at him startled: “A new born babe! Really?”

“Yep, I have no hair, no teeth, and I think I just wet my pants.”

I was surprised when a friend left the comment: “Are you mad?” I know she meant to be kindly towards my aging body by questioning the wisdom of doing something so physically demanding.

But besides wanting to ask whether or not she found it funny, I also want to ask: “Are you not mad? If not, why not?”

Whether in our personal lives or around us locally/globally, there is every reason to be mad. Instead, we spend most of our time trying to be nice and don’t allow a flush of anger to be voiced when our boundaries are trampled upon.

At an Anger Expression workshop I attended over the weekend (not anger management workshop), these two quotes made a lot of sense:

“We can’t set a boundary and take care of someone else at the same time. It’s impossible.”

“Anger is a connection to our spirituality and creativity.”

A good anger acted upon
is beautiful as lightning
and swift with power.
A good anger swallowed,
a good anger swallowed
clots the blood
to slime.

Marge Piercy, from “A just anger”

Digging is an act of faith for me. Only when my body, soul and spirit are being soiled do I best understand the feral song of cock and cunt that is my/our animal birthright. A birthright I will defend with every tired sinew of my body. I refuse the comfort of a deadening “sensible” job and a life in a sterile world. Whenever the Machine attempts to seduce, silence and strangle the world and myself, I will dig in to maintain an anger necessary to do what, at times, does frighten me.

Paraphrasing the Finnish epic the Kalevala:
“Of what use are we artists…
If no fire spurts from our mouths…
… and no smoke from our words.”

Below is a short, funny video of one and a half hours digging reduced to 25 seconds. Enjoy.

Digging from Peter Adams on Vimeo.

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Dirty old man

June 10, 2013

I have chosen to become a dirty old man.

Now, I soil myself.

Since February I have chosen to walk the land at Windgrove bare footed and by end of day have feet looking as though they could grow broccoli.

This has everything to do with finding a new story in an old language to tell me how to live out my remaining days.

Poet W.S. Merwin was correct when he wrote these lines for “Witness”:

I want to tell what the forests
were like

I will have to speak
in a forgotten language

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The only way that will bring me back into hearing and speaking Earth’s voice is to bring my body to her. Walking prayers on winter damp dark soil is a lesson in remembering. Toes come alive, sensing something. Just maybe a new beginning.

Wherever you live, I’m sure the readers of this blog “Life on the Edge” have noticed big changes to their local weather. To begin to interpret what’s happening, take off your shoes and sense from the ground up what message is being told.

Let’s discard the unexamined myths behind our use of the date 2013 and begin afresh.

As poet Kathleen Jones writes, let this year be the first year of a new beginning.

The Year Zero

It was the year there was no summer
when winter drizzled and froze
through a reluctant spring
into a cloud-shrouded August
snowdrops in April and
February Fill-dyke in July.
We had no name for these new seasons
or the year that refused to turn
in its old rhythms.

It was the year that our mythologies lost
meaning and the oracles were dumb.
Hawberries glutted the warm winter
red skies at night brought only storm.
We had no signs to warn us of the plague
beetle in the bark, no animal or bird
to augur the weirding weather – 
geese stopped migrating and
the swallows stayed.

It was the year we found that we no longer
spoke the language of the land.  The year
science had no answer to the big question.
The year we knew we needed a new story
to tell us how to live.

Kathleen Jones

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