surfsensei

Reflections and observations on life in general.

Category: life and memory

Across a border.

Kelpies

The Kelpies.

I have migrated,

crossed a border,

barely visible

but significant,

culture, attitudes, language

and much history.

Celts and Normans,

heart and head,

South and North,

my ancestors make me a bridge.

It is a new beginning,

this land of my birth

and half my blood

is home now.

______________

 

I have moved to Falkirk in Scotland, to take up a new job in Stirling.  It has been a tiring but surprisingly trouble-free move.  There are new opportunities and challenges here, it is a move I have sought for the last three years; now it is time to settle in and explore…

…and catch up on sleep!

Parent Stars

starfield sort of

My father was an interesting, clever, inventive and intelligent man. He combined physical activity and ruggedness with an inquiring mind that was reminescent of the heroic statues of the Greek philosophers of the ancient world, indeed I think he would have rather liked that image. In his later years he simplified his material life, possessions, financial affairs and so on, even his diet, to an almost austere degree in order to free himself from what he had for a long time regarded as irritating distractions from researching, reflecting, thinking and writing. He wrote a number of essays and papers, mostly unpublished as far as I am aware, and one book, printed in a limited run at his own expense, on a wide range of subjects that he saw as part of a greater whole of which the book was intended to be the synthesis. The theme that emerged for him during that twenty to thirty year period was the evolution of the brain and enquiry into the mechanism of consciousness, material for another post perhaps.

When I used to visit him in his simple bedsit in a harbour town in the north east of England – he loved the sea all his life – most of his conversations were on this topic that, really, filled his mind. Other people he knew found him interesting and inspiring company, rich in experience from a life that included active service in World War 2, bomb and mine disposal in the aftermath (for which he was awarded an MBE), a varied career after the Royal Navy that took him to many places.

I thought about all this as I lay awake this morning, it’s a short mid-term holiday just now, of how our experience of the people who are our parents is very different from that of the friends and acquaintances that they have, the sorts of people with whom one has brief conversations after a funeral, illuminating or shocking or unexpected, as if of a different person to the one we knew.

It is a matter of proximity, like stars. Far off, they light up our night skies to varying degrees, the further away, the less of their light and nature we see; only that which reaches us over the distances of space through the filters of dust clouds and the gravitational lenses of other stars in between. In orbit within their solar systems we experience the colour and intensity of their light, their helpful and harmful radiation, the solar flares and storms, the impact and influence of other bodies drawn into their gravitational field, their creative and destructive energies.

So with our parents, like two stars in, for a while at least, close binary orbit around which we emerge from celestial dust into being and find more or less stable paths. Being so close, we cannot see them as more distant observers do, we see both more and, perhaps in some ways, less. We may come to imagine that all stars and systems are like ours, unable to see the light of the rest of the cosmos clearly for the glare of our own nearest stars, at least unless we move away into a more distant and perhaps quieter path around our parent stars and look outwards with clearer and more open minds, like the great telescopes with which we are beginning to find new and surprising world systems.

So I remember my father from a more distant orbit now, his memory an afterglow. My mother’s star shines with a different light, less dazzling, more stable, warmer, nourishing with a gentler radiance that she perhaps does not realise.

Among the many things I learnt from my father was a fascination with the stars, a love of the night skies. I’m glad of that, it’s a beautiful and amazing view.

Steam clean – relief from drowning

I am sitting with my head wrapped in a towel breathing steam in temporary relief from intermittent choking on the aftermath and “collateral damage” of a nasty cold that has filled my upper airways and chest with microscopic battle the last few days. I woke out of a dream of some region of England being used for military practice for the bitter Troubles in Ulster, the dream perhaps arising from the resonance of narrow-minded hate-filled comments I read in passing on Facebook not long but too soon before turning in, too tired and late to meditate and release my mind from things I cannot change.

Thinking of those years in the 1970s and early 80s when unrest and murder and hatreds were at their most intense and active in that uneasy land – for me, fortunately, in the news and not my daily life – I recall the relative simplicity of things. A time of fewer channels, when bigotry and binary views of the world were mostly spread in smaller circles – in the pub, works van, watching TV (4 channels), muttering at the tabloid on the train. Respite, release from the feeling of a need to say something, anything, in response to yet another joy or outrage was a little easier; the Forum closed for rest and cleaning in those days, it didn’t chatter on in your pocket, leaving echoes in your head.

So reading the compassion-free comments that captioned an image of more deluded and hopeful and despairing refugees (other adjectives also available according to your views) arriving with the tide in southern Europe I felt no rage towards the commentator, just a realisation of how widespread and deep the poisons of hatred and division are in every part of the world; most worryingly in those nations with the greatest wealth and actual security and established education. There are real problems to be tackled, many we have collectively failed to collaborate to face, his comments arise from things we need to discuss and deal with for sure. It’s the retreat into a blind trench warfare of beliefs that is so unhelpful, worse in its own way, or at least as bad, as the consensus-free committees that leave everybody outside frustrated and reactive.

I have not “unfriended” him, deliberately, I want to keep open even a silent channel of communication through the rising hedges and walls of a social network that resembles a labyrinth of walled gardens, within which people sit isolated with fellow enthusiasts for their particular flower, be it roses, tulips or poison ivy. I await a moment when, like a sniper with one round left for the enemy general, I can conceive and convey a comment to his rants that may actually make him think and reply with a more open view of the situation, a shift, even briefly, from binary to base-ten view of the world, from “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” to seeing that there are other places to stand and go to. Or perhaps I am, like that metaphorical sniper, already surrounded, the general is not one man but is now manifesting in so many heads that his uniformed body is now redundant to the cause he led; hope and some faith in the benefit of helping even one person see something differently sustain me in my hideout, however hopeless.

And, after all, these pervasive media are themselves neutral, facilitating the spread of joy and hope and healing as well as mental poisons; we need to keep the channels open though, at least let poisoned messages sprout but wither un-nourished, rather than just block them to keep the smell of a different flower out of our own garden, to revert to that metaphor.

I let it go at last, switched off devices, went to bed, “to sleep, perchance to dream…” and now, here I am, my mind and airways a little clearer, weary but no longer drowning from within, steam-cleaned for a short while, while the earliest commuters drive by outside and I lie down to rest a little.

Maybe there is value and a wider benefit in simply sending out basic good wishes, if I can’t think of or lack the present skills to do more effective things, even if that just means that I get a better rest and don’t carry the poison to spread on to others, inadvertently, through careless speech or actions. OK, just that then, for now, starting with you, dear reader, and thanks for reading this.

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(Perhaps a a better metaphor: a guerrilla gardener with one seed of a different plant, the compassion tree, that I would plant surreptitiously in the least dark corner of his garden? Too late, go to bed mate!)

Underground

It’s cold and crisp here today, taking a short walk to Bantock Park on the west side of Wolverhampton. The Rose Garden looks barren, an arrangement of cropped stumps and jagged branches corralled in neat miniature hedges or tied to bare metal frames like forgotten prisoners. There’s not even enough sunlight to power the sundial.

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Winter, above, but underground the slow stirring begins.
I am warm indoors now, in the cafe, enjoying good coffee and delicious cake and free wifi.
On the way here I sent the first of several letters that I hope will begin something new this Spring.

Like the trees. .

Like the trees

I held on to autumn leaves

When they were ready to fall away.

No surprise, then, when they did.

Only in my mind was it still summer.

Fallen gold is turning brown,

Returning to the source.

Sadness to nourish future happiness.

In time, the days are growing longer

And there will be green again

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0-point-double-zilch…

It is one of those days when the institutional disincentives to saving return to my awareness…

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There will be more swans.

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It has been a beautiful day, here in Wolverhampton, cool but with hints of Spring beginning in the bright, hazy sunshine. It’s a Sunday to bring the families out and, sure enough, as I write this later in the day, the park is crowded with people of all sorts, their dogs, bikes and other toys, enjoying themselves in a relaxed way with a feeling of ease and relief after a chilly Winter.
As I sat on a fallen branch, making quick sketches, the air was full of scents of cut grass, ground coffee (I had just bought some from a stall), cool air. Cries and barks of children and dogs, above the hiss of passing traffic, were interspersed with a periodic distant roar of football fans in the Molineux Stadium.
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Early this morning, I went to the Central Baths to have a swim while the pool would normally be used only by a handful of distance swimmers. There was a Gala on today, so it was closed. So I cycled slowly around the green calm of West Park, watching the birds on the lakes.
The swans were gliding, displaying and courting, a pair was deeply engaged in a graceful dance of dipping their heads in the water and crossing each other’s necks. They mated, quickly and quietly, the male submerging the female briefly, then both surfaced and together made a grunting honking sound I have not heard before; I think they were mutually satisfied!
I returned to the flat for breakfast before deciding it was too good outside to stay indoors. It has been a lovely day, and there will be more swans this year.

After-shopping

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Saturday afternoon shopping for gifts, tiring but improved by the weather front passing quickly,  today, to give us a fine windy clear afternoon.
It’s been a busy week, during and after work, so I was happy to take it slow and explore alternative routes today. I tried following a cycle route, incomplete and poorly-marked as is the poor norm in UK. With some local knowledge I found a reasonably direct and pleasant way through, out of the speeding and impatiently-driven traffic.
I was even able to find gifts for my sister and girlfriend, so a mission accomplished.
Now I’m enjoying a reward of good coffee, tasty cake and the human ambience of a crowded cafe. I am surrounded by stories of lives I will never know. All I can do is appreciate their presence, like being in a library of books in many covers.

When the sea’s too far away.

I felt suddenly much taller, this morning. It was a strange and strong experience a few minutes after stepping out from the revitalising shock of a cold shower.
I had slept deeply and, in the physical sense, well but my mind felt stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and detatched, almost indifferent to any emotional aspects of those thoughts. I felt as if my emotions had been wrapped in a thick wadding of grey and slightly greasy wool, insulation against both hot passionate joy and the piercing hungry cold of sadness and loss.
Some inner janitor had been at work, for sure, without any conscious decisions on “my” part; that could be a theme for another post, not now. There are reasons I am aware of, I am taking constructive action, enough said.
There is a fine line between the positive state of Equanimity and its “near enemy” Indifference; I was drifting into the latter, it feels subtly and uncomfortably different.
I was about to dress in a routine, weary way, when I had a little flash of inspiration, an echo from a surf-related dream in the early hours, the urge for the shock of cold water on my skin. The sea is too far away, here, my ideal medicine, but the shower is good. Sharp, cold and, in the full sense of the word, re-vitalising, I let the water flow until I was no longer panting with reaction, letting the imagined danger of cold pass as I focused on the reality of my sensations – just cold, energising, pleasant.
Drying quickly with a nicely rough towel, I felt awakened and clear in heart and mind, un-wadded, in a way.
I feel more optimistic and clearer in my mind now. The day seems brighter and more full of interesting things.
Have a good, “vitalised” day !

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Of moles and stars

You lie beside me, breathing softly in your sleep.
I trace the patterns there,
Small brown moles on your back,
Sprinkled by vagaries of genes
And little errors in your cells.
I think of constellations,
A map of another sky,
Seen from another world,
Another star.

Scientists say that all elements,
After hydrogen,
Were made in ageing stars,
Each atom hammered into form
On the anvils of supernovas
And scattered on the solar winds,
Condensing in icy minerals
In nebulae that became,
In the immensity of time,
Our Earth, Ourselves.

I wonder if these constellations are a memory,
A distant history maybe,
Of your origin, a map of
The star that made you.

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