Monday, 16 September 2019

About Time


Oh do you have time 
to linger
for just a little while 
out of your busy 

and very important day 
for the goldfinches 
that have gathered 
in a field of thistles 

for a musical battle, 
to see who can sing 
the highest note, 
or the lowest, 

or the most expressive of mirth, 
or the most tender? 
Their strong, blunt beaks 
drink the air 

as they strive 
not for your sake 
and not for mine 

and not for the sake of winning 
but for sheer delight and gratitude - 
believe us, they say, 
it is a serious thing 

just to be alive 
on this fresh morning 
in this broken world. 
I beg you, 

do not walk by 
without pausing 
to attend to this 
rather ridiculous performance. 

It could mean something. 
It could mean everything. 
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote; 
You must change your life.

Mary Oliver, From the collection 'Red Bird' 

Once upon a time I had my head in a box of 'to-do' lists; stressed, my mind running from job to job on an internal hamster wheel accelerating exponentially, breathless with my busyness, but also perhaps just a little self satisfied. Busyness surely means business is good? Surely it means I'm doing it right? "Busy" is currently the correct answer to the question "How are you?" - is it not?!

Please don't get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do - and it's not the doing of it that has been the error of my ways: when I'm actually working I'm connected to Life, to the task, to The Spirits. It's glorious. But when I'm thinking about all the things I need to do and have not yet done - then comes tiredness, sadness, stress. When I'm 'busy',  when my thoughts are rampaging around my head, I'm not connected to the delicious abundance of the sensual world. 

Suddenly this weekend, in the midst of far too many cortisol inducing plans, I found myself heading for the sea, and just by lucky chance, towards the sound of small waves lapping against the sides of small boats - which is one of the many sounds of utter tranquillity for me.  It speaks of a time in my childhood when everything was pretty good all things considered - the sun was shining, the sea sparkling, and all those with the power to ruin a day were in a consistently fine mood. 

To be in tranquillity and listen to the waves, the wind, the songs of birds or the whispers of trees, even to engage in conversation with just one very persistent sandpiper - is to step outside of time - or perhaps more accurately it is to step outside of chronological time and into wild time. Anything is possible here. I am present to this moment so utterly that I lose contact with the to-do lists and all the stress slides away. I am not living in my head, or the box of babble around  it (this box mostly contains 'The Inspector' - that one who goes around pecking holes in everything to see if it's been done right and then criticises it for being full of holes!) I simply Am. We Are. Connected. 

Chronos, God of Time, keeper of clocks, eater of days and ravager of beautiful youth, has at his side (in my personal view of him) The White Rabbit; constantly running around with a watch in his hand, terribly sorry - dreadfully late, pursuing a work ethic strict enough to make a sixteenth century puritan proud. He's not very friendly but he's completely reliable. Won't let you down, won't stop ticking by, won't let you out to play. 

When I step fully into presence, in the breath between tick and tock, into the feral - moments can seem like hours and hours pass in a moment. The way a pebble turns and twists and changes colour as the tide pulls it along the beach can be observed in a millisecond, but truly felt only in a now that has no end. This is the place in which I can hear water speak, feel tides turn, know what it is to be wholly holy human. In this timeless time I know myself to be Earth-daughter, air-breather, sister to salt and stone, weed-wife, mother of men, kin to everything with blood, everyone with leaves, all who move, all who are still. I am life-lover, joy-drinker, utterly interwoven, interconnected, interdependent with all else that is. 

Sometimes, the only thing to do is this:

May your day be full of beauty. May you linger a while to listen to the birds sing. 

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