Monday, 19 November 2012

Long Shadow

After the dark mornings of mist and rain a frost has arrived. The silvered landscape of grasses and leaves, crisp in the new sunlight, cannot escape the oncoming winter. Across this cold earth I silently move, reaching over ploughed furrows and emerging corn. A glossy backbird on scarlet hawthorn watches me from above as the golden light brings brilliance to the fiery colours of tree and hedgerow. I reach out to the wary pheasants, the chattering fieldfares and hunting buzzard. Beneath the cloudless blue sky I belong with the sunrise for a few minutes before I gradually retreat back to hold the frost in the hollows and shade.

I am Long Shadow.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Inspiring Writing

I have just finished reading "The Spell of the Sensuous" by David Abram (Vintage Books/Random House, 1996). An interesting book though rather a heavy read. It looks at the disconnection humans have from the natural world. This is partly due to the development of language and the written word which has enabled us to somewhat dissociate ourselves from active natural experiences.

Here are three passages I liked. They have been slightly paraphrased and edited.
As the technology of writing encounters and spreads through a previously oral culture, the felt power and personality of particular places begins to fade. For the stories that express and embody that power are gradually recorded in writing ...this renders them separable, for the first time, from the actual places where the events in those stories occurred. The tales can now be carried everywhere...
Once the stories are written down, however, the visible text become the primary mnemonic activator of the spoken stories - the inked traces left by then pen ... replacing the earthly traces left by animals, and by one's ancestors, in their interactions with the local land. ... The stories and myth, as they loose their oral, performative character, forfeit as well their intimate links with the more-the-human earth. And the land itself, stripped of the particularizing stories that once sprouted from every cave and streambed and cluster of trees on its surface, begins to loose its multiplicitious power. The human senses, intercepted by the written word, are no longer gripped and fascinated by the expressive shapes and sounds of particular places. The spirits fall silent. Gradually, the felt supremacy of place is forgotten, superseded by a new, abstract notion of "space" as a homogenous and placeless void.

 ... The new recognition of nonmythological, nonrepeating time by the Hebrew scribes can only be comprehended with reference to alphabetic writing itself. Recording cultural stories in writing ... fixed the storied events in their particularity, providing them with a new and unchanging permanence while inscribing them in a steadily accreting sequence of similarly unique occurrences. A new sense of time as a non-repeating sequence begins to make itself felt over and against the cycling of the cosmos. The variously scribed layers of the Hebrew Bible are the first sustained record of the new sensibility.

In the interior of the island, in the depths of the forest, things are quieter. Huge and towering powers stand there, unperturbed by the winds, their crusty bark fissured with splitting seems and crossed by lines of ants, caterpillars and beetles of various shapes and hues. A single woodpecker is thwacking a trunk somewhere, the percussive rhythm reaching my ears without any echo, absorbed by the mosses and the needles heavy with water drops that have taken hours to slide down the trunks from the upper canopy (each drop lodging itself in successive cracks and crevasses, gathering weight from subsequent drips, then slipping down, past lichens and tiny spiders, to the next protruding ridge or branch). Fallen firs and hemlocks, and an old spruce tree tunneled by termites, lie dank and rotting in the ferns, the jumbled branches of the spruce blocking the faint deer trail I follow.