Friday, September 21, 2012

Being still...

It's an enforced stillness...somehow I managed to twist a muscle in my back (doing something as utterly inane as cleaning the bathroom basin), and have been doing not very much at all since Monday, apart from sitting propped up with cushions.  It's temporary I know, nothing seriously damaged, just painful and will take time to heal.  I'm certainly not the most go-getting, active, out there person, but enforced stillness is hard even for me.  It's made me aware of how little we ever allow ourselves to be still.  To listen.  To notice.  I like to think I am a fairly observant person, but there is something about not choosing the time or place to be still that seems to make you more acutely aware of...the squeaking of the tree branches on the roof of the courtyard, the sound of the wind in the tall palm in the backyard a few blocks down from mine, the sound of the wind chimes, a plane going over right now, the pattern of shadow falling across the couch I'm sitting on.  A bird chirping (not a dove this time, though there are plenty of them around now it's Spring).  On Monday I watched and listened, and wrote a short poem, not very good, but a true response.
This morning
I watched.
As the wind chimes turned slowly, silently
evidence of something I cannot see
nor hear. 
The leaves gently bowed and shadows
to a breath of warm air, slow and
And I marvel as if at something 
I have not seen
or heard 
For indeed, I think that I
have not.
The other thing I have done is to finally finish a book I started reading almost two years ago.  "The Spell of the Sensuous" by David Abram.  It's a difficult book to summarise, but it is profound and thought provoking.  It offers an alternate way of seeing and experiencing the world.  Not as some kind of new age spirituality, rather more as an extremely old way of experiencing the world. Simply that, the world around us is not inanimate and silent, but rather that we humans have become deaf to the conversations going on all around us, because we have forgotten how to listen, how to hear, and how to speak to, the rest of creation.  And that this forgetting, this terrible loss, is what has led us to be able to treat not only the natural world and other species with contempt, but even other humans.  We no longer know intimately the changes of the seasons, we don't understand the birdsong we hear (if we hear it at all) so we have no idea what kind of birds might be making it, or why, so we don't know that the songs they are singing would tell us they are nesting and bringing up young so we go ahead and cut down the tree they are living in without a second thought, without understanding of the impact we are having.  And that this knowledge and understanding is something our ancestors took for granted.  It's not that we can speak the same language as a bird, it's that an intimate knowledge of our place, and all the creatures we share it with, teaches us what different birdsong means.  And we've lost this completely.  This is just one small example.  It is everywhere and permeates everything we do.  I've had conversations with people who do not know which direction the moon rises in.  People who are utterly unaware of the fact that the the position of the sun (well, the earth actually!) changes with the seasons.  How can we be so divorced from reality?  And yet, I think so many of us feel a deep, deep sense of yearning, of loss, for this knowledge.  Yet so cut off are we, that we don't even understand what it is we are grieving for.

Just after I started reading the book, I found myself watching "Narnia: Prince Caspian" with my girls one evening, and as often happens, the two collided and created a question, a thought.  I scribbled it on the inside cover so I wouldn't forget.  

"It's the 14 Jan 2011 and I'm on page 95.  But I wanted to write this down while I'm still thinking about it.  We all watched "Narnia: Prince Caspian" last night, and watching it after reading this was fascinating...I must go back and re-read the book to see how much of it is original.  The four Pevensie children come back to Narnia, but hundreds of years have passed.  Cair Paravel is in ruins, and Narnia has been invaded and taken over by a warlike race of humans who attempted to (and believed they had) 'eradicated' all the Narnian 'savages'.  The world of Narnia has changed dramatically.  Where previously all the animals spoke, the trees were inhabited by animate spirits, dryads, and could move and speak, the land itself was in many ways, SENTIENT; now the trees, according to DLF (the dwarf the children rescue), have retreated so far into the earth they no longer CAN move or speak, they are 'just trees', and many (if not most) animals have forgotten how to speak and 'gone wild'.  As DLF says, "get treated like a dumb animal long enough, and that's what you become.". The children are perplexed when a bear attacks Lucy, they don't understand why it wouldn't talk to her.  Lucy is saddened to find the trees silent and unresponsive.  Narnia has become like our world.  When Aslan comes, he reawakens the land, calling the trees up from their sleep, and summoning the river spirit to destroy the invading army.  Watching the movie after reading this, it's like a vision of how our world might once have been (well, slightly less 'Disney'!).  As if we have a memory of how things once were, how they SHOULD BE, and though we might think it's just imagination, the longing for that is there deep within us.  I can't remember how much, how obvious this might have been in C.S. Lewis' original vision, but it doesn't actually matter, that yearning is tangible in this modern re-telling, retold for OUR time.  When we envision Utopia, it is a SENTIENT Utopia, where we live in harmony with plants and animals, rivers and rocks, and can speak to them."

If we think a little further along these lines, we have the Ents in Lord of the Rings, we have Avatar.  We have Harry Potter showing us there is magic all around us, but we are too blind to see the mermaids in the lake.  There is much more I could write, but this is awfully long already.  I'll leave you with a couple of links to other blogs that have informed and influenced my thinking on this.

Terri Windling, of course.  So many of her posts are utterly inspiring.  She has lately written several posts that have made me stop and think more and more about this.  And over at the Earthlines blog, Sharon Blackie has written eloquently herself, and included the writings of others, about belonging to a place, learning it's language and coming to an understanding of it that can only come from being a PART of it, not APART from it.


Charlotte said...

Amen to this.

Best wishes for an improvement in your back pain, although it seems to have given you some unexpected gifts. Such is the way.

Mo Crow said...

oh what a beautiful post Christina and yes this week a lot of us are feeling this strongly the need to listen to the land, I have been wanting to record the beautiful magpie song just before dawn here in the middle of a city of 4 million to share & this poem over on Whiskey River How to See Deer
rings true as well and Grace has responded beautifully over in Windthread

A mermaid in the attic said...

I feel a feast coming on!

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Christina, great post... and so interesting that my last post was on this very subject. Maybe we are indeed listening, and what the Earth is saying is - SPEAK of this SPREAD THE WORD, REMEMBER!

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