On the assumption that we had just come from elsewhere into our universe, who looking at the yolk of a pheasant’s egg would predict pheasant feathers? Who looking at an eight-legged, bald, green cabbage caterpillar would predict a white butterfly? Who looking at an anthropod’s jawbone would predict an acoustic bone that enables us to hear Handel’s ‘Largo’? Who looking at the nebula out of which our solar system condensed would predict a honeybee collecting pollen from a harebell or the Mandukya Upanishad?
We live in an evolving universe, in a surprising universe, and it would be stupid not to predispose ourselves accordingly.
…Reconfiguration whether anatomical or mental or both simultaneously isn’t outlandish to life. Indeed, the entire universe might one day spin a cocoon for itself and who, looking at it now, can say what it will metamorphose into?
From Night Journey to Buddh Gaia by John Moriarty, a wonderful and massive doorstep of profundity which arrived at my own doorstep earlier today.
From Wikipedia: “Wolves were once an integral part of the Irish countryside and culture…
…Wolves feature prominently in Irish mythology…
…The last reliable observation of a wolf in Ireland comes from County Carlow when a wolf was hunted down and killed near Mount Leinster for killing sheep in 1786.”
Excerpt from Wolf-Time:
“Why is it that Irish historians will not talk at this level about Irish history? Why will they not ask the big questions?
Here, for example, is a big question: the shot that rang out one night in Maam Valley in Connemara? What, compared to it, is the sailing away of the Irish chieftains from Ireland?
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea and the destructive sword are portions of eternity to great for the eye of man.
There it is: one night in the Maam Valley we killed a portion of eternity.
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
…Megalithic language, or languages we silenced; Bear language we silenced; Boar language we silenced; Wolf language we silenced.
Our history if the history of our success in making ourselves and our world unreal.
Mostly, it is from unreality that we suffer. From that and from the wrong kind of man-made reality.
…Sadly, we haven’t yet seen that prospering man-made unreality is, if anything, more dangerous to us than prospering, primal reality was.
Better Céol Cúaine(1) than the ever-hungering, ever unhappy, ever-unsatisfied, inaudibly howling vacancy we have replaced it with.
…Better any day our chances with a real wolf than with the Wolf of Vacancy.
In Nordic myth this Wolf of Vacancy is called Fenris Wolf or, as commonly, Fenrir. In order for our world to be at all possible, so the story goes, Tyr, a great and mighty god, had to bind him, had to lay him up in chains in an underworld. But everyone, including Tyr himself, knows full well that Fenrir will one day slip his chains, he will emerge and run free. Opening his mouth, he will advance his lower jaw under the earth and his upper jaw over the sun. Sun and earth and all in between he will swallow, and for Fenrir that is just a mouthful.
Ever since we first set foot in Ireland we have been creating our own Fenrir, our own Wolf of Vacancy, our own Apocalyptic Wolf of Apocalyptic Vacancy.
What we would see if we lifted our eyes from our ledgers is that at this stage there is no binding him, no laying him up in chains, out of sight, in an underworld.
So here it is, Foras Feasa ar Éirinn(2):
Lights gone out in Ireland’s last wolf are lights coming on
in a not inconsiderably larger wolf,
are lights coming on
The Wolf of Vacancy”
From Invoking Ireland: Ailiu Iath n-hErend by John Moriarty, the best book I read last year. Indeed the best book I have read in many years. What is it? It’s a book about landscape, history and myth, but also a book about the hunger we all feel for something more than the shabby world we have created. It is a re-awakening of the world’s soul. Hungering still for more soul-sustenance, I recently ordered this book: Night Journey to Buddh GaiaAnd I am impatiently waiting its arrival.
1. Céol Cúaine = The music of wolves
2. Foras Feasa ar Éirinn = History of Ireland
“In our daily life, we breathe, but we forget we’re breathing. The foundation of all mindfulness practice is to bring our attention to our in-breath and out-breath. This is called mindfulness of breathing, or conscious breathing. It’s very simple, but the effect can be very great. In our daily life, although our body is in one place, our mind is often in another. Paying attention to our in-breath and out-breath brings our mind back to our body. And suddenly we are there, fully present in the here and now…
…I’d like to offer you a practice poem you can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling:
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
As my in-breath grows deep, My out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in, I calm my body, Breathing out, I feel at ease.
Breathing in, I smile, Breathing out, I release.
Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.
You can shorten this to the words below, one word or phrase per breath:
The present moment is the only moment that is real. Your most important task is to be here and now and enjoy the present moment.”
From Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a comprehensive guide to living your daily life with full awareness, whether working, walking, eating, talking, simply sitting or brushing your teeth!
The mind can go
in a thousand directions,
but on this beautiful path,
I walk in peace.
With each step,
a gentle wind blows.
With each step,
a flower blooms.
– Thích Nhất Hạnh
This is the first meditation in a book of 52 daily inspirations entitled Moments of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh. “This book is designed so you can focus on one meditation as your practice for the week. You can carry this meditation with you throughout the whole week… The saying can help you to remain more mindful, aware, and happy even under difficult circumstances. You can read this meditation each morning right after waking up and again before you go to sleep. There are fifty-two meditations, so you can begin at any point in the year and continue with a different meditation each week for a full year.”
“Today one could consider Borges the most important writer of the 20th Century,” says Suzanne Jill Levine, translator and general editor of the Penguin Classics five-volume Borges series. Why? “Because he created a new literary continent between North and South America, between Europe and America, between old worlds and modernity. In creating the most original writing of his time, Borges taught us that nothing is new, that creation is recreation, that we are all one contradictory mind, connected amongst each other and through time and space, that human beings are not only fiction makers but are fictions themselves, that everything we think or perceive is fiction, that every corner of knowledge is a fiction.”
This month’s issue of Kyoto Visitor’s Guide features an interview with me about my ebook, Deep Kyoto: Walks.
…there is something very special about this city, a certain sense of peace and of promise in the air. It really is a pleasure to go for a walk here, for there is so much to see and discover! Not just the famous sites like the great view from the platform of Kiyomizu Temple, or the Zen rock garden of Ryoan-ji, but all those little out-ofthe-way places down the side-streets. Kyoto is packed with craft shops and cafes, galleries and gardens, bakeries, bars and tiny road-side shrines… And you are never far from nature either. The city is encircled on three sides by mountains, which provide wonderful hiking trails, or you can take a gentler stroll along one of the tree-lined rivers and canals that bring cool air deep into the center of the city. Going for a walk here really is a joy.
“Deep Kyoto Walks” edited by Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor is the perfect guide for anyone who wants to get off Kyoto’s beaten tourist track. With personalized views of what to see and do in Kyoto — by people who have lived there for extended periods of time — it essentially offers a curated guide to one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Essays by a host of Kyoto residents (16 authors in all, including renowned travel writer Pico Iyer), cover various fields such as poetry, pottery, butoh dance, tea ceremony, art, travel writing and food writing…
So, I am now officially an editor, and an author too for that matter, as I wrote about 10,000 words in this one. Right up there with Pico Iyer. Yes, Pico Iyer. What do you mean you don’t know who he is? He’s one of the world’s most acclaimed travel writers and essayists! Quite a nice chap as well actually… But I digress. My very first book is up on Amazon. Note my use of the word first. There will be more. Here it is! Please buy it! Review it! Tell your friends!
Authors:Jennifer Louise Teeter, Bridget Scott, Miki Matsumoto, Robert Yellin, Pico Iyer, Chris Rowthorn, John Dougill, John Ashburne, Stephen Henry Gill, Sanborn Brown, Joel Stewart, Izumi Texidor-Hirai, Perrin Lindelauf and Judith Clancy.
Includes: 18 walks 16 photographic illustrations A specially commissioned woodblock print by Richard Steiner 12 detailed maps Links to all locations on Google Maps Cover Art by internationally acclaimed artist Sarah Brayer
It has been 20 years since I last read The Songlines, but how I managed to forget about this passage I have no idea…
On the ferry back from Manly a little old lady heard me talking.
‘You’re English, aren’t you?’ she said, in an English North Country accent. ‘I can tell you’re English.’
‘So am I!’
She was wearing thick, steel-framed spectacles and a nice felt hat with a wisp of blue net above the brim.
‘Are you visiting Sydney?’ I asked her.
‘Lord, love, no!’ she said, ‘I’ve lived here since 1946. I came out to live with my son, but a very strange thing happened. By the time the ship got here, he’d died. Imagine! I’d given up my home in Doncaster, so I thought I might as well stay! So I asked my second son to come out and live with me. So he came out… emigrated… and do you know what?’
‘He died. He had a heart attack, and died.’
‘That’s terrible,’ I said.
‘I had a third son,’ she went on. ‘He was my favourite, but he died in the war. Dunkirk, you know! He was very brave. I had a letter from his officer. Very brave, he was! He was on the deck… covered in blazing oil… and he threw himself into the sea. Oooh! He was a sheet of living flame!’
‘But that is terrible!’
‘But it’s a lovely day,’ she smiled. ‘Isn’t it a lovely day?’
It was a bright sunny day with high white clouds and breeze coming in off the ocean. Some yachts were beating out towards The Heads, and other yachts were running under spinnaker. The old ferry ran before the whitecaps, towards the Opera Hous and the Bridge.
‘And it’s so lovely out at Manly!’ she said. ‘I loved to go out to Manly with my son… before he died! But I haven’t been for twenty years!’
‘But it’s so near,’ I said.
‘But I haven’t been out of the house for sixteen. I was blind, love. My eyes was covered with cataracts, and I couldn’t see a thing. The eye surgeon said it was hopeless, so I sat there. Think of it! Sixteen years in the dark! Then along comes this nice social worker the other week and says, “We’d better get those cataracts looked at.” And look at me now!’
I looked through the spectacles at a pair of twinkling – that is the word for them – twinkling blue eyes.
‘They took me to hospital,’ she said. ‘And they cut out the cataracts! And isn’t it lovely? I can see!’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It’s wonderful!’
‘It’s my first time out alone,’ she confided. ‘I didn’t tell a soul. I said to myself at breakfast, “It’s a lovely day. I’ll take the bus to Circular Quay, and go over on the ferry to Manly… just like we did in the old days.” I had a fish lunch. Oh, it was lovely!’
She hunched her shoulders mischievously, and giggled.
‘How old would you say I was?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Let me look at you. I’d say you were eighty.’
‘No. No. No,’ she laughed. ‘I’m ninety-three… and I can see!’
You can’t fail to be touched by that really, can you? Just reading that made my day, so I hope wherever you may be, that you have a lovely day too.
I’m rereading Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines after an interval of two decades. The great thing about rereading this book in the 21st century is that whenever I come across something I am unfamiliar with, instead of skipping over it as I would have 20 years ago, I can instantly look it up on my i-phone or computer – whichever is to hand. It has greatly enriched my reading experience! Towards the end of the book Chatwin describes hiking through the Austrian alps,
The days were cloudless. I spent each night in a different Alpine hut, and had sausages and beer for supper. The mountainsides were in flower: gentians and edelweiss, columbines and the turk’s cap lily. The pinewoods were blue-green in the sunlight, and streaks of snow still lingered on the screes…
Isn’t it nice to be able to see what the flowers look like? Chatwin also describes how everyone called “Grüß Gott” as they passed.
Grüß Gott (literally ‘Greet God’) is a greeting, less often a farewell, in the Upper German Sprachraum especially in Switzerland, Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia and Austria. The greeting was publicized in the 19th century by the Catholic clergy and along with its variants has long been the most common greeting form in Southern Germany and Austria. The salutation often receives a good-natured sarcastic response from Northern (and thus mainly Protestant) Germans such as “When I see him” (“Wenn ich ihn sehe”) or “Hopefully not too soon” (“Hoffentlich nicht so bald”). [LINK]