For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Monday, 6 July 2009

Listening To The Silence


A long time ago someone told me that 'silent' has the same letters as 'listen'. From am's blog.

This land is your land, this land is my land/From California, to the New York Island/From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters/This land was made for you and me. Woody Guthrie.

I'm lounging here, half-way through my Ur-walk, among the flowers and tall grasses of the railway bank, listening to the silence. I've dallied briefly with the agricultural history of the Isle of Axholme - which is also its social and political history - and reflected on why this open landscape looks the way it does. Thinking of my own, small, inherited field, I consider such questions as: who owns the land, and why do they own it? Is it our land any more? Are we alienated from the land, or do we still feel a connection with it, in some primitive, instinctive way? What common land is left? Certainly this rambling railway embankment - once owned by British Railways - is now shared land, for the enjoyment of all: a physical, recreational walkway, a valuable spiritual resource.

I lie on the grass, stretched out like a cat in the hot sun. I listen to the silence, trying to recall what I heard, what I experienced (or what I imagined I heard and experienced) all those years ago, when I was young and easy under the apple boughs about the lilting house and happy as the grass was green. But all I get are distant echoes, shards of memory, disjointed fragments of meaning, little signs and pointers like the yellow arrows on the Camino: a wilted spray of elderberry blossom fallen onto the path; a rampant bed of nettles over a rubble of bricks - all that's left, forty years later, of the derelict station-master's cottage a gang of us used to explore; a dead fox, legs splayed out, a bullet wound to the head, and a spent shotgun cartridge, 'Trapshooter No 8', lying discarded in the grass.

The pain I once felt so piercingly as an adolescent is now but a mere shadow of this former suffering; the ecstasies I once felt so blindingly are now but faded rags of joy.

It didn't amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects. (Bob Dylan. Up To Me.) Is this correct?

No one else could play that tune; you know it was up to me. (Bob Dylan. Up To Me.) Or is this correct?

I guess it's 'up to me' to decide - whether to leave the shattered glass of memory in meaningless fragments, or whether to say: yes, it's my life, my unique childhood, my individual world, my 'tune'. Let me stitch it together and make a coherent tapestry out of it!

The sun slips behind cloud, and I stand up, drunk with the heat, my neck red and tender, almost painful to the touch. A mild case of sunburn. Feeling sweetly, and sweatily, melancholic, I carry on slowly up the trail...

To be continued...

5 comments:

Dominic Rivron said...

Doh! I'm forever reading/quoting John Cage et al and somehow I never noticed the silent-listen anagram!

Timecheck said...

At some time, yes, stitch it all together, but not now. The movement towards those childhood fragments is a movement out of the present, a resigning oneself to a world of the past, perhaps at some time, the only one you can remember. But not now.

Mister Roy said...

Wow, these Ur-posts are great - for me hey have a deep resonance and are studded with synchronicity. I wonder if anything can stitch it all together beyond the walking itself and the telling of it.

am said...

A song is something that walks by itself.
(Bob Dylan)

La canzone è qualcosa che cammini da sè:
(The song is something that you walk from oneself.)

A song is a solitary walker.

With much gratitude for your recent posts.

The Solitary Walker said...

And 'John Cage' is an anagram of 'Change, Jo!'. (Cryptic message to my sister -in-law and your cousin, Dom?)

Timecheck - probably wise, Ralph. I'm reluctant to probe too deeply into my childhood past for fear of stiring up too much unhappiness I'd rather kepp buried at the moment.

Only the Great God(dess), Roy. (S)he will weave it all together when our time is done. Meanwhile all we have is Art.

'Alone again, naturally'. (But not necessarily by choice.) 'May your song always be sung', am.