Sunday, October 26, 2008

lost in the forest

So the clocks have gone back and the slipping into darkness time has begun. I would like to say something about this that I haven’t said before but the lit candle expresses it. Each year, it seems, the image – the metaphor – becomes more powerful, increasingly necessary. Things need to be quiet, some inner light ignited, found or revealed in order to meet all the darkness, which keeps on coming. On the other hand, one could deal with it effectively by partying hard. At present I choose the first way, or it chooses me and I acquiesce.

I went to Ros Barber’s book launch on Thursday. She read from her new anthology, Material – a fine collection, and she always delivers, speaks her work so well. The launch was at the top of a pub in Brighton and I was driven there by ex-student who is soon to be herself launched as new author. We stayed to buy the book, hear the reading, greet a few people, but when the word Party was mentioned she turned to me and said, “I’m ready to go when you are” – and I was, so off we went.

Last week’s writing plan was scuppered by the ‘electricity’ mentioned in previous post. I would like to get stuck in again because I have a sense of where I might be heading with something – a longer-than-usual project with characters, a beginning, middle and end (though not necessarily in that order) and I want to feel grounded in it before the run up to Christmas when everything gets busy. I want to feel in the middle of something rather than on the edge. Clearly a long walk into the forest is in order. I got lost once – found myself walking along paths that I thought would lead me out and home but none of them did, the sky was getting dark and then my mobile phone battery ran out. But it was ok because just then some kids ran past and I loped off in the direction they were headed and back to familiar ground, which saved me from having to put into practice the David Whyte poem that tells you what to do when you are lost in the forest:

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here
and you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
must ask permission to know it and be known.
The Forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
if you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a branch does is lost on you,
then you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
where you are. You must let it find you.

Now being a contrary type of sign-reader, I have always had to suppress the beginnings of a sneer at this, whenever it has been presented to me by a well-intentioned person as some kind of meaningful signpost on the meandering and sometimes obscured path that we may call life. For I do not easily suffer verse that comes with the deep prophetic boom of all-knowingness.

And things have come to a pretty pass, reader, when I dredge the words up from the recesses of my consciousness and think that perhaps yes, he may have something there. I may need to take a deep breath and have another look, damn and blast. But this is just between you and me, ok? Don’t want people thinking I’m going soft.


Nicola said...

Oh dear, Signs, if you are going soft, then I am softer. And loster, Dante's forest being more where I am at present.

I feel that I meet you more than ever in these autumn months among leaves and candlelight. I, too, sense a call of direction with the writing. It's been there all along, but becoming more insistent and, yes, the need to find the flow of it before Christmas draws me in.

For the first time in thirty years, I have five days entirely alone and the question came up: to
party or retreat? You can guess I chose the latter, making a plan to put more emphasis on the creative side of life - writing, planting bulbs, watching a film no one else wants to - the kind of thing that in 'normal' daily existence one is inclined to see as purely self-indulgent, but which I am discovering, late in life, is absolutely essential.

The David Whyte poem reminds me of Mary Oliver's work. Perhaps it's that 'you' that's a bit off-putting? Still speaks to me though as do hers.

Ros Barber. Hers was one of the first blogs I came across and then she stopped. Does she have a new place?

Thank you for this lovely post.

Collin Kelley said...

It is indeed a lovely post.

I was just thinking back to coming out of a cinema in Leicester Square last year and it was already dusk at 4:30 in the afternoon. I do love winter and those long, dark nights. Not sure what this says about me, but I am indeed a night owl.

Reading the Signs said...

Nicola, I think there is something about autumn - have always felt that this is really the beginning of the new year, rather than January. It's good to know you are sensing a "call of direction with the writing."

Yes, I think you're right - the poem does have a Mary Oliver feel to it. But she is tops for more reasons than I can say.

Ros doesn't really have a blog any more, other than the one you can access via the link I gave, and that's really just to publicise news and events. Thank you for the comment.

And thank you also, Collin. I think for some people the inner light grows much stronger in the dark months, though some suffer terribly. Thankfully I have never been one of those who need light boxes - and I guess you don't either.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

Well I've got a ghost in my room and he paces in the middle of the night and bounces on the bed. I've heard of sexual fantasies but that's just plain silly. I'll take the forest. The word verification is 'nating'. I knew there had to be a word for it.



Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Given that it would appear that I'm schizotypal as it is, I will happily admit to being soft as well. I found myself wandering around the New Forest last year and would that I'd had that poem because it would all have fitted together perfectly well. As it was, being close to the midsummer solstice I could feel the Green Man eye-ing me, asking questions I wasn't sure I really wanted to answer. Saucy old thing he was too.

Natch to being a contrary sort of sign-reader, I have sneaky suspicion you're a whole lot more canny than you're letting on!

Kahless said...

Methinks you are going soft ;-)

Personally I like theses all-knowingness type verse! Am I shallow? !

Reading the Signs said...

That sounds exciting, Pants - perhaps you can take the forest and keep the ghost as well!

Vanilla, I promise you I'm keeping nothing back - well nothing worth identifying at any rate. If a Green Man follows me I'll bash him.

Kahless, I couldn't possibly comment. For as Miss Jean Brodie used to say,
"For those that like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like". And sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't.

Minx said...

There is a time for dancing and a time for sitting and watching the world go by. Alittle of both can feed the soul.