Thursday, January 6, 2011


There are moments when I think I might have said everything that I am ever going to say. As if to give weight to this thought, the sky this morning, when I was writing, grew dimmer and dimmer. Lit candles were not enough, I had to switch lights on. If there is nothing left that I want to say, would that matter so much? Put down the pen, box up the notebooks: will the world take breath, feel the loss of my scribbled or tapped out words? I do not think so. It would not be so terrible. It is a work enough in progress to keep step with the meticulous work of a day's rising and falling.

Outside, the crows have been making their unseemly noise that sounds like heckling complaint from a raw throat. The ice has melted and life is presumably easier for them. What sounds like complaint is probably exultation. They have found sustenance of some kind. My dead butt of Golden Virginia, hidden in the long grass. Not that. They will ignore that. I will ignore it: a blip. I will give it up again, along with the other bad habits. I will give up cream in my porridge, the extra scoop of coffee in the morning, the sugar later in the day, the butter, the biscuits, the negative thoughts that clamber claw around hamster-like on a thin metal wheel, going fast and nowhere.

It isn't true. I have no real intention of giving up my bad habits. To acquire good ones is what I should advise myself to do. But why should I? Shed a little light on the situation, is all. Learn from the click of the switch as the electic light comes on and makes everything clear. The natural light from candles does not shine so brightly but at least one can see to read and write. Learn from the sugar fix and caffeine scoop that get you through the moment, the pain-killing medicine that gives you an hour or two of believing that nothing is going to hurt so much that you can't keep moving forward. Learn from the tin-a-ling of the mobile phone when a text message comes: instant connection to someone or something; the sliding switch of the Kindle - words appear on the screen as if by magic. You can buy a book, or several, by pressing a few buttons. Learn from the jars of spices already ground, labelled and ready to throw into the pot. Who says you must take pestle and mortar, get substance by the sweat of your brow?

We do not need luxury, said someone. We do not need expensive holidays, furnishings, fine wines, boxes of chocolate wrapped in silk. We need light, space and air, an apple and a glass of water. But if we cannot get these, say I, if they are harder to come by than the naming of them suggests, then flicking a switch, opening a can, unwrapping a chocolate from the expensive gift box, are also acceptable and may do one good.

The I Ching says it furthers one to have somewhere to go, and then changes (it is The Book of Changes) to it does not further one to go anywhere. It says that the times are not auspicious for setting out, risking, making oneself too visible. One should rather stay put, hold fast, not draw attention to oneself, lie low. Anything else is unsafe. Learn from the inanimate object that remains itself in all but the most extreme conditions. Learn from the stone that warms when the sun shines and grows cold when it withdraws. Learn from the objects that lie for years under beds, sofas and cupboards, gathering dust but remaining what they are, ready for use when the time comes for them to be uncovered; from the golden angel who did not sit on the Christmas tree this year but stayed in a cardboard box and did not mind. The ultimate Zen attitude.

Learn from the sun and moon that allow themselves to be eclipsed.