Clouds and simple things . . .

I like clouds, trees and grass. They help reconnect with my primitive self, which has no care for fashion, technology or politics. So we went to Saunderton Lee, where I photographed flat-bottomed clouds, the sort you get on a day of sunshine and rain, and which first struck me as worthy of note one August day in 2006. Sometimes they rise gigantic and monolithic as on that day. On Sunday they were delicate and gregarious as in my snapshot below.

Two years ago after harvest time I took this picture at almost the same spot:

The photos were taken on different sides of the same fence, and show the same tree and shrub of ivy leaves. I wrote a piece featuring that walk called “England Have My Bones“. It started with these words:

I suppose we all have an idea of what constitutes real living. It’s not all those compromises we endure while we bridge the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. Real living is when we can say “this is it!” asking nothing from tomorrow at all. By this criterion, my real life has lately begun.

“This is it” meant “I am happy in this moment”. But if you ask someone “what would make you happy?” you’ll get an abstract notion based on hopes and dreams. In a post called “Muddy Boots” I distinguished this from what I called embodied happiness:

the state of not wanting anything to be changed, in this moment now. Here is . . . my sole aspiration: to be seduced by the moment. As to how this can take place for others, I don’t take . . . a judgemental view . . .

And then I added:

The most reliable way I know to be seduced by the moment is to step outside for no other aim than aimless wayfaring. It starts when I sniff the air. If this blog has a unifying theme, if it has an actual purpose, it’s to celebrate the moment and remind myself; and then—by some sympathetic magic—the reader too, if possible.

It’s harder these days, now that “Aimless wayfaring” is no longer an option. My blood cells don’t quite pass muster, it may be the white ones gone haywire for reasons unknown, or the red, which were fine till they suffered collateral damage from deliberate culling of the rogue whites. I have a role to play in this, no doubt, as well as submitting to the drastic invasion. But it’s hard to know what that role is.

My epigraph above, from the Tao Te Ching, says Practise not-doing, and everything will fall into place. I don’t know what this means. Doing is exactly what I want to do: that’s why I’m writing this. Not-doing is forced upon my unwilling frame as a way to pass the hours. I haven’t quite learned to embrace it.

It was good to hang out washing in the backyard, then take a nap.

Earlier, at 6:30, I went down Ledborough Road for a newspaper. Our online subscription to the Telegraph cryptic crossword had glitched. The air was crisp and cool. The people I passed were focused, as if they were acting out their moves, like extras on a studio lot going back and forth in period costume. Everyone you saw was intent on getting to work.

I don’t know if they took note of trees, grass and clouds, or heard birds sing. But I felt the sacredness of their ritual: doing what one has to do, carrying out one’s essential mission, meeting one’s obligations, not asking big questions of life. This was the honest performance, everyone in accordance with their given script, intent on the mechanical process of shifting themselves from home to work, or vice versa in the case of my neighbours on permanent night shift,who seem to blink like unaccustomed owls when you see them sometimes at midday.

That was a bracing little trip, felt good, reminded me of all those years of “noble toil”, doing the same. How many? Lots.

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3 thoughts on “Clouds and simple things . . .

  1. I was thinking about something today, prompted by my own post that I wrote, and I saw the title of your post and followed your meandering train of thought down to the bottom here, and I had the feeling that we may (as we often seem to do) have been thinking along similar lines, but in different ways and from different angles, which is usually the best time to compare notes and learn something from each other and gain a fresh perspective.

    I was thinking about how I have this thing with books and movies and sonetimes even music and maybe even life in general. In some cases I’ll see, say, a movie and I’ll get it right away. I’ll find it exciting or engrossing. I’ll be flush will all the emotions that are to be had from the thing. I’ll like it right off. And then, over time my enthusiasm diminishes with repeat viewing or repeat encounters until sometimes it even reaches a point where the thing becomes dated in a personal way. Then, other times, I’ll see a movie or read something, and right off I just won’t like it, and I won’t want anything more to do with it, and that will be the end of it.

    But THEN, there are other times, when I’ll read or hear or see something and my first impression might be to feel like there’s nothing to it. It’s too slow or it’s too boring or whatever. But yet, I’ll keep coming back to it, WANTING to find something there. It’s like this faith that I don’t like it YET, but I know that there’s greatness there. And more and more, it’s that feeling, that response not that something had made me like it or has entertained me in a comfortably familiar or even a cheap way, but rather that response that something has made me want to chase after it, to like it despite myself, it’s that feeling that I’ve really put the most stock in. Because it’s those things that I’ve been driven to chase after that I really end up loving, because I feel like I had to grow and expand as a person to really appreciate them.

    This is something I’ve been aware of for a long time, but I never really put it into words until yesterday, and never wrote it down until just now. And it comes back to this same idea of simple things. In my dream I dreamt of a movie pared down to its most basic, its most “boring”, and yet still creating that place that you can’t help but keep returning to.

  2. Yes, your movie/ dream/post has a magic quality to it. And I envy it, because I’m conscious of writing jerky difficult prose these days that could be designed to repel the kind of reader that grazes on social media for snippets that give you an instant kick, perhaps an inspiration to lift the spirits but not demand deep attention. And as I’ve said, it repelled me too. And then this morning after looking at your “Home Movie” & your comment, or i think trying to write another new post, I suddenly thought of a single word, that unlocked the difficulty I’d been having: narrative. Not just with my writing, which is a kind of doing that jostles with all the other doing in one’s day.

    When I saw that I’d let my life drift free of narrative, like a ship with no crew that slips its moorings, I felt grief, of the self-pitying kind. Till I realized that I am the crew, I never slipped my moorings but set sail on purpose; and mid-course correction is possible any time.

    Not necessary to stuff our hours with doing. We can be observers, like everyone in your home movie—grandfather, grandson, moviemaker, audience. We all join together in watching the scene. But then there is meaning. It’s not laid down by an expert in the field, for the ignoramus to unravel, and be rewarded for a correct answer. The meaning is what we put in, whether it comes naturally or takes effort. Which is enough doing.

  3. I did though enjoy your twitter feed or retweets . . . those things . . . and little thoughts about writing found within

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