15 March 2012
Near Capel Curig, Thursday 16 February 2012
Tonight, I am burning diaries, steadily, in the wood-burning stove at a friend’s house. It is a dark, drizzly night and I am alone here, at the end of a steep track that branches off a narrow side road. I have no music nor radio nor television playing to distract me from the process of burning old papers, no alcohol to cloud my thoughts or allow maudlin emotions and memories to clutter my awareness of what is happening, now.
Here goes one, the pages rolled tightly so they burn more slowly, more usefully, in the stove, giving warmth to the teapot on top and heating a chilled room; memories become tongues of flame and delicate grey ash. That was the year I took a change of direction, a new career began, full of trepidation and optimism, only to change again. These are not detailed accounts, but short notes, appointments, reminders of things to do, bills to pay, brief notes and smiley face cartoons from parties and pub sessions and gigs and days when the surf was good – two stars for New Year’s Day, that was a good start to the year! Shame the good old faithful car met its end and had to be replaced, another hole in the bank account!
And in this one is the year of lots of small, amazing things. A year when, despite uncertain times, enough work came up at just the right time. A lot of good days on the beach, I caught some good waves that season. One time, I even had a little razorbill come and swim underneath me, catching fishes while I waited for the next wave. Another day, a pod of dolphins cruised by, two hundred yards further out, as I floated there, the only one out on a pristine morning. That was the year, too, when I fell in love again, another time of brief hope and moments of joy; the scribbled notes and shorthand for your name, detonators for memories and emotions that burst back into my mind like bright fireworks in a winter night. I murmur a brief farewell as I put the roll of pages into the glowing pile of cinders.
I notice, in this meditative state, the tugs of attachment to these papers, these tangible records of rememberences, as though small hands were reaching out to cling to my fingers and prevent me throwing them into the fire. Small voices pleading to “keep me for a little longer”, amidst the clutter of my life so far.
A monk in India, over two thousand years ago, had four profound insights, in the second of which he understood that the root cause of all our suffering and discontent is desire and craving for something different or something fixed, dependable, permanent; an object, a person, a situation, a quality, a state of being, an emotion, a belief. He realised that this craving leads to attachment, emotional clinging to “things”, including memories, and that this only results in sadness, discontent, frustration, desire and many other negative emotions and actions. He taught that, only by releasing oneself from this attachment could one attain lasting happiness, equanimity and contentment.
The delicate leaves and petals of what was once paper, ink, graphite, now glow and sparkle along their edges, the shapes changing as the remnants dissolve into gases, water vapour, soot, grey ash. There is no memory in that, only elements returning to air, water, earth, by way of fire.
Releasing the papers into their dissolution and transformation, I enjoy the heat and light and soft sounds, memories fading a little, the clinging hands and small voices losing their grip. But I am still here, releasing small burdens.
Tonight, I am burning diaries.