Layered in Rannoch Moor

photography, weekly wordpress challenge

rannochrannoch3rannoch3s6 printrannoch5Weekly photo challenge

My take for this weeks photography challenge – living in the layers is inevitable when you’re in the Scottish Highlands. I am here alot at the moment, and see Rannoch Moor in all its epic glory in every weather imaginable.

 

And for your erudition I will give you a bonus read of one of my favourite poems by Stanley Kunitz. He died at 101 , and after reading his obituary in a newspaper , I wrote my own poem inspired by his poetry. You can read that too here.  bit.ly/2jSxJid

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

For the sake of a life.

blogging, Life, poetry, poets, reading

                              The Layers   by Stanley Kunitz

 

layers

I am repeating myself because I sent this poem out into the ether earlier in my blogging life.  It bears repeating. I remind myself from time to time about what I want from this one and precious life.  Nowadays the buzz word is mindfulness, but the concept behind mindfulness is as ancient as time. At least as ancient as man’s consciousness began to reflect upon its self-awareness.  Our lives are different to those that were lived by the peoples of ancient civilizations, but in the perspective of the brain evolution, that span of time is just a nano second, so it is worth reflecting upon how humans in the past have reconciled themselves to the parodoxes that appear in all our lives.  You can choose from the philosophers who all have a different take , or the religious men who all have their differing stories they want to share, or you can listen to the poets.  The poets assume nothing of the reader, do not desire any allegiances, demand no tithes.  They write about the human experience because they are stuck in it. And in that attempt to soothe themselves a line of energy transmits from them to the reader. Sometimes it simply vaporises and never arrives anywhere, it just disappears as a coil of smoke will disappear into the air. Other times it sends an electric current through the reader and the reader is changed forever. As all the food that we eat, the sights that we see, the people we meet all impact on the messages our brains control our minds with, so with words.

savour

Awake; or dead?

earth, Life, poetry, Thoughts, United Kingdom

 

Time less  Anne CorrI was doing an ordinary thing, the same ordinary thing that millions of housewives do, possibly even synchronistically (we”ll never know, and it doesn’t matter does it?), anyway I was just standing moderately still pushing an iron across a board with a shirt draped over it, but mostly I was listening. I was listening to Jeanette Winterson on a morning radio programme, thinking how she articulates so well where my thoughts have been, prods and pushes them to go elsewhere. She was talking about how some of us are dead already, measuring out lives without consciousness, and how important it is to make ourselves take notice now; whilst we can. I remembered a letter I wrote perhaps thirty years ago to a lover, explaining how we commit our own suicides times over. I remembered a favourite poem by Stanley Kunitz, The Layers, and how it burned when I first read it. ‘ I have lived through many lives, some of which have been my own ‘, the feelings of excitement and thrill from sharing visions with people I will never meet. How extra ordinary is this life we inhabit, the one I’m in now, tapping away on a keyboard , aware of a major humanitarian disaster having wreaked its havoc on hundreds of thousands of people in the oceans far away, and feeling such pathos for the victims. How can I live so free, so full, so contentedly amidst this world, which hurtles through space disinterestedly and do nothing? How can I? But I do. I forget to make the awareness count. I don’t live on this planet alone, I share it with you , and with those who have no food, no homes, and no hope.
Jeannette Winterson was not making a political point yesterday morning, the discussion was about the individual coming to terms with him or herself, but it is a political point too. Each individual life is connected to each other individual life. We might not like it, or want to think about it too often. But that doesn’t make it false. So I wonder about what I am going to do today, to take some responsibility for a tiny part of the colossus which makes up humanity. It won’t be big or heroic, I can’t run marathons and I havn’t got much so can’t give much, I am the ordinary, but when lots of ordinaries come together, extraordinary happens.
Serendipitously I read a short poem before I sat down to write, it came through my in-box via Brain Pickings – ostensibly about the companionship of her dog, it is about being alive, by Mary Oliver;

THE SWEETNESS OF DOGS

What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. It’s full tonight.
So we go

and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself

thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.

Beetles, botany and a man for all seasons.

Art, books, illustration, poetry
Alexander Marshalls watercolours 17th century

Alexander Marshalls watercolours 17th century

I have just finished another miniature book, and one that has given me immense pleasure researching and adapting into a further sample for my collection of collectables.

It is based on the engaging watercolour illustrations that Alexander Marshal created over thirty years during the 1600’s.  I am always drawn to the endeavours of creative people from the past, connecting me to a shared experience , a common humanity.  This was a man of private means, and fortunate enough to occupy himself fully in his chosen preoccupation.  Fortunate for him and for us, since the consequent 159 plates were eventually passed from his descendants to the Royal Collection, and rightly so.  A modest man, he refused to sell them to anyone during his lifetime, preferring to share them only with friends.  That highlights for me how the passion he held was for the joy it gave him, and for no other reason, like making a living.  He didn’t produce these exquisite drawings to catalogue , some he barely referred to , he just wanted to see the treasures of nature and record them in his own masterly way. A keen gardener  he collected new species of horticulture and was instrumental in helping to import some from the newly discovered Americas and supplying them to the great gardens across Britain.

I like gardeners in general, they seem to me to have the virtues of patience and consideration,  often combined with a poetic sensibility.  One of my favourite poets was a gardener, Stanley Kunitz.  I think he  would have approved on Marshals lifetime endeavour.  In tribute to both Marshal and Kunitz , here is one of his poems about an insect!

Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation by Stanley Kunitz
Since that first morning when I crawled
into the world, a naked grubby thing,
and found the world unkind,
my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent
my brooding winter underground,
unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
into the air, free as a puff of cloud
to sail over the steaming fields,
alighting anywhere I pleased,
thrusting into deep tubular flowers.It is not so: there may be nectar
in those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back
embedded in my flesh, two rows
of little white cocoons,
so neatly stacked
they look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.

If I can gather strength enough
I’ll try to burrow under a stone
and spin myself a purse
in which to sleep away the cold;
though when the sun kisses the earth
again, I know I won’t be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis
will break, like robbers from a tomb,
a swarm of parasitic flies,
leaving my wasted husk behind.

Sir, you with the red snippers
in your hand, hovering over me,
casting your shadow, I greet you,
whether you come as an angel of death
or of mercy. But tell me,
before you choose to slice me in two:
Who can understand the ways
of the Great Worm in the Sky?

If you are curious to see the resultant book that I have compiled, then you can see it from my Etsy page.  You can even buy it.