Ah, sunshine – sweet, sweet January sunshine. The battery monitor has gone from straight-mouthed to smiley for the first time in days. Storm Brendan, it seems, has passed. The sea got fantastically choppy back there, and the winds, well, they got properly stormy too. Such a joy to watch a tempestuous sea from a distance – wave after wave thrashing the shore – and such a thrill to stand on the moonlit beach and to feel its force up close and impersonal.
Was going to write this blog yesterday, but felt flat and grumpy and disengaged, which doesn’t make for great copy. But that’s giving up ciggies for ya – for the one hundred and twenty-seventh time...
A tad perkier today, although if someone offered me a ciggie right now I’d casually go, “Oh, go on then,” and proceed to suck its very soul out. Stupidest drug ever. And such a sacred herb too. Typical Whitie behaviour: take something sacred and turn it into an addictive, cancerous source of taxes.
I’ve been back at the Cabin a week now, and have settled in quite well. Something is shifting quite deep inside me, and whatever it is, I’m enjoying the occasional taste and smell of it. Fuck knows, I deserve some sweetness in my life. All the good habits I’ve haphazardly developed during my wilderness years – prayer, meditation, chi kung, frugality, gratitude, presence, immersion in the natural world – well, it now feels as if they are beginning to bud.
[superstitiously looks over shoulder to see if the gods are listening in]
It’s taken Cyril/Cecily the squirrel a whole week to rediscover the bird table and its easy pickings. We locked eyes today – and seemed to understand our different roles in the ensuing drama, nothing personal, I’d do the same as you if I were you.
A rook has been checking out the bird table too. I stood stock still yesterday for a good ten minutes and observed her/him suspiciously contemplating the whole scene from a variety of angles, before flying off without even a compensatory sunflower seed. “If in doubt,” seems to be the rookish wisdom, “leave it out, and live to fly another day.” I’d love to have a corvid for a friend.
Yesterday some sheep managed to find their way into the Cabin garden. I was about to usher them off the property, when I realised that the shaggy winter lawn could actually do with a good mowing – so, it was win-win, with some fresh sheep shit thrown in to seal the deal.
All these details fill my wintered belly with springlike warmth.
One of the drawbacks of solitude, though, is that I find it really hard to make myself laugh. I can induce the occasional smirk, or the odd wry smile, but rarely any proper laughter. I have to surprise myself in order to make myself laugh. So, this morning, at the beginning of my morning practice, when I heard myself saying out loud, “I’ve always wanted to be a monk,” I didn’t half chortle out loud. Oh my, it’s true: part of me has always wanted to me a monk, and here I am, leading a rather monkish life, hoodie and crocs and celibate socks included.
During my teenage years I cross-faded from a rather right-wing evangelical public school Christian into a nonviolent revolutionary evangelical Christian – but, in both guises, I was quite pious. I was serious about following Jesus and discerning God’s will – fair play to teenage me. And I remember when I first saw Zeffirelli’s film about St Francis – Brother Sun, Sister Moon – and what an impact it had on me. Here was a rich young man responding to the gospels in a way that made sense to me – and there was the beautiful Clare too, close yet chaste, which was a combination that suited me at the time, terrified as I was of both women and sex.
I’ve had a fondness for the Franciscans ever since. The only time I've done a "past life regression", when I looked down at my feet they were clad in leather sandals, and I was clothed in a rough brown robe – I was a Franciscan, some time in the fourteenth century...
Maybe if I’d remained a Christian, I’d have followed my predecessor. I’m not too sure how that would have worked out, although in my twenties I would have looked very cute in a full Franciscan robe.
But here I am, thirty-five years on, most days talking to animals more than I talk to humans, pondering the mysteries of Life, living simply enough, in daily gratitude, in love with Brother Sun and Sister Moon, still half terrified of... Ha!
Time to go feed Maggie the Generaly Indifferent Mare.
Ah, the sun has begun its afternoon descent, and a wave of loneliness has just washed through me. A desire, perhaps, to be held and to hold. The sight of a friend’s smile, the brightness of a friend’s eyes, the inimitable warmth of fleshy human company – someone to make me laugh out loud. And yet, and yet – this is my choice right now, to live like this, to be intimate with solitude and with myself and with my experience, whatever the weather. To be intimate with Life as it moves through me – sea waves and lonely waves and funny waves and all.
That’s new in my life: this sense of choice. This inhabiting the choices I make. On the whole, I'm not feeling like a victim at the mercy of forces I don't really understand – which is how I've felt for years. Is the worst behind me? Who knows?
But there is some peace percolating around my veins right now, and I give thanks.
One day at a time, and all that sensible jazz.
Wednesday 15th January
My heart sings
Like an open book
that gently rises and falls
upon the chest of its dozing reader
is my love for Thee, oh Lord
Who art the ink of every word
and the very heart of the sun
that gave the light
that fed the tree
that made the page
upon which each word is printed.
Paper and skin and ink art Thou.
Intimate with all things.
Like the sweetness
of the salt
of the tears that mark the end of suffering
is my gratitude to Thee, my Lady
Who art the very iron in my blood
and the pulse
of the heart
of the moon
that pulls the earth
that tugs the tide
that makes the waves
that lap about my feet.
Sea and flesh and iron art Thou.
Intimate with all things.
Like the song
of the petals
of the flower
that opens each morning
to the grace and the hum
of the humble bumble bee
is my praise for Thee
oh Creator and Creation.
Nectar and pollen art Thou
honey and taste and tongue.
Intimate with all things.