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.
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.