Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

It had been a long and tiring day. For a moment I sat in the drivers seat of my parked car, with the window down I could feel the cool night air against the side of my face and off in the distance I could hear the calls of a male tawny owl as if summoning me to the quiet of night.

I cast my mind over the day. A series of "can you just" tasks had been given to me by a client. Strange how those three words are so quick to utter but can end up taking hours to complete. Todays "can you just" had left me working flat out for the best part of nine hours in front of a computer. On finishing the task and sending the files off for scrutiny I clambered out of my chair and into the kitchen to find something to eat. I found the cupboards bare and was left with no option but to drive off to a supermarket to stock up on what I could before they closed for the night. To be brutally honest I am not a fan of the supermarkets but the need for food and the unfortunate fact that the septic tank for the hovel was blocked up and left me in need of the facilities pushed me that way.

It was not long before I found myself beneath the blue lights of the supermarket gents wash room. The supermarket has a problem with drug users shooting up in the toilets so they had the lighting installed to ensure veins were hard to find. Unfortunately it also left the wet areas on the tiled floor hard to see and footing was just as treacherous as an iced up winter road. I ventured out into the sales floor in the hope of picking up a bargain loaf of bread or a end of date item, a young couple crowded over the bargain bucket area of the bakery isle. They took almost everything! I can only deduce that they have vast freezer at home or a huge amount of mouths to feed. There was no chance all the bread they had crammed into their trolley could be eaten before it could go bad. As luck would have it I found a loaf someone had misplaced on another rack and decided it would be just fine.

The check outs held their usual charm. There were far too few tills on and it was only when the store staff realised we were queuing four deep that they decided to open another. I walked towards the new till just in time to see a man race past me and bang down a box of beer on the conveyor. "Wow that guy must be desperate to have a pint," I thought. It was only when I noticed his girlfriend trot by me with a full trolley of produce I understood he was just trying to ensure he was not held up by me and my few items. He smirked at his beer, clearly pleased with his little trick, his girlfriend was a little more open about it and just laughed. An all too familiar feeling of annoyance began to build up in me. It seems to be the relentless ignorance and constant niggles & digs from all sides that push a normal sane person to breaking point. I made up my mind to try and learn from it not to worry about it, I could allow a couple of minutes in my day to learn from people who are clearly masters at their art. One day they may learn something from me.

Mercifully the traffic around the town was quiet at that time of night and I was soon back on the country lanes heading back to the hovel and a few minutes to sit within the darkness. My mind ticked from thought to thought, from building a composting loo to the works on the garden to allow me to grow herbs and some food. It seems a far more enjoyable way of getting to food than the commercial twenty first century foraging I had just been through. The call of the tawny brought me back to my place and time from the realm of thought, it carried a clarity and simplicity of existence sadly missing in the commercial heart of town.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Fathers Choice

A few moments within a shop revealed a great deal to me. I stood trying to mind my own business at the back while other customers were waiting for orders. To the side of me was a young couple with their daughter. The little girl seemed a bight soul and was questioning her father about his work and was clearly concerned about the fact that might well be spending some time away.

She asked him "Why do you have to work away?". He bent down to he and replied "Daddy WANTS to work at sites up and down the country so daddy can make lots of money". For a moment she was quiet as she thought over his words "Why do you want earn more money?" she said drawing out her words as if carefully considering her question.

"Thats because mummy & daddy WANT a better life when you are older," he replied quickly.

"I don't want you to be away, can I come with you?" she asked looking a little upset. "No you can't come with me," was his quick response.

Glancing over to the family I decided to draw on the unsaid and finish a fuller picture. They were all wearing good quality or even designer clothes and adornments. In many ways I would expect the mother & daughter to take time & pride in their appearance, but the father was also well groomed with neatly trimmed and gelled hair and a silver stud earring to match the shining frames of his modern spectacles. To complete the image of the family I was aware of the aroma of perfume & deodorant, nothing overpowering but clearly the prospect of body odour was not considered acceptable with them. Perhaps the family were as affluent as they appeared to be or perhaps like so many they desired to be seen as affluent and created the look by spending more than they should.

The fathers words sat uncomfortably with me and I wondered what meanings his daughter would take from them, from the conversation I caught it gave the impression they were not fully satisfied with what they had and that the need of money was more important than a father spending time with his daughter. Doubtless there is a bigger picture to this brief snap shot of early twenty first century family life, but I have seen such scenes before and I am inclined to think that it is normal within society to be like this.

Yet again I am left as the barbarian wandering off into the darkness feeling enlightened but also a bystander to aspects I find awkward.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Look Out

As I wander the lanes and tracks of the east midlands I am sometimes blessed with a sighting of a barn owl. There are often images to conjure the very essence of a place. Usually they are reduced to the level of sports teams or a flag of some kind, but for me the presence of this bird captures the spirit of the lands I walk. From the Fens to the east to the rolling fields and hedgerows between woodlands I have seen the distinctive whites of the barn owl and every time I have been close to one in flight I have not caught the sound of the wing beats.

My latest sighting was during the week. I decided to take a short drive to a nearby woodland to wander for a couple of hours. It seemed fortune was smiling on me as I had the darkness of the country lanes to myself, unlike most motorists I take the opportunity to drive more slowly when there is no need to keep with the flow of the traffic. I find I am able to relax and take in more of my surroundings. The headlights picked out an occasional aging rural home among the hedgerows and fields as I rolled down the country lanes. In the distance was the dark bank of woodland trees sitting below a clear night sky where the call of the tawny owl would be there to greet me on my arrival. Rounding a gentle corner I noticed a familiar white shape within the naked branches of a winter tree. The barn owl barely cast a glance at me, but remained still aside from a turning of the head to survey the land around us, no doubt keeping a look out for the next mouse of vole to break cover. I slowed as much as I could by dipping the clutch and coasting to reduce the engine noise as well as prolonging the sighting but I had no wish to stop and disturb the bird.

Once I had passed beneath the owl I lifted the clutch and regained a little speed. My thoughts passed to other bloggers who seem to enjoy the sights and sounds of an owl within the night. From Casey at the Snapping Twigs blog , to Earthen Magic down in the southern hemisphere and Lloyd Kahn over in California. It seems the humble owl holds a special place and a certain company for those who are willing to wander and perceive in the darkness. I have added the links for their blogs below should you wish to visit. I should also pass on a thank you to my friend Dan's daughters Ella & Rosa who accidentally gave me the nickname I write this blog under.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Cage of Gargoyles

In the early evening of the city I found myself walking downhill towards the victorian splendour of the railway station. To the side of me lay queues of traffic, headlights, horns and a sea of miserable looking faces staring at the tail lights of the car infront. Some vehicles were pristine examples of german engineering snobbery, others were more modest affairs but all stood still only shaking occasionally when a bus sped by in the adjacent lane. I have no desire to sit within the atmosphere of urban impatience and instead opted for the train service hoping for a less stressful journey home.

I left the streets and made my way onto the platforms to see a majestic long train waiting, gazing through the windows I could see seats a plenty and looked forward to a most comfortable journey. When I reached the door I noticed the train was destined for London and was not my service. I trotted along past the train to the end of the platform. There stood the chariot to take me home. A single travel worn carriage, filled to bursting with evening commuters.
"You must be kidding me," I muttered under my breath as I chose the less crowded of the 2 doors to try and gain access.

The man in front of me had no intentions of letting me on. He stood stubbornly in the doorway and after a moment I realised I would have to either play chicken with the closing carriage doors or push past him. I excused myself and stepped around him being treated to a tut and a look of utter contempt as I went by. The other passengers in front of him carried the same expression and refusal to move down into the seating area. I managed to get by and was just beginning to make my way down to a standing space further along when the train guard shouted at me "WOULD YOU MIND MOVING DOWN THE TRAIN...PLEASE!" he barked as he glared at me. I could feel my temper getting a little frayed around the edges but decided it was not worth pointing out the obvious to him. No doubt he would take it as aggressive behaviour and call on the intellectual genius of the security guards to solve all his problems and get me ejected from the train.

After a few minutes of standing within the center of the train the engine roared into life and the heaters were promptly tuned up to full, it was only another few minutes before I stood sweating and shifting awkwardly as the train moved off. I looked about me to the other passengers, most were plugged into iphones and submerged themselves in whatever digital world took their attention away from their environment. The others bore a look of discomfort and general misery. Only one man carried a smile and that was chemically induced from the half finished can of strong larger he clutched in his hand, it was without doubt the ugliest train I had ever been upon. As we stopped at a station or two, some spaces started to appear among the standing passengers. Finally a man left his seat and cautiously made his way towards the doors, the business man sitting in the seat next to him promptly spread out to take over both seats and stared angrily at the floor to avoid making eye contact with anyone left standing.

When we finally reached my station I was out of the doors like a greyhound from a trap, the cool night air was a blessing and helped wash away the stress of the confinement. I found my lantern, sidestepped a vehicle being driven erratically by another passenger and stepped away into the darkness of the country lanes to head back to the hovel.

Within the space of an hour I had been witness to many of the attitudes and trappings typical of modern western life. If this is civilisation I am glad to say I am a barbarian and will go my own way.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Travellers Rest

The hard packed ice of the country lane made for treacherous steps as I made my way towards the quieter green lane for my evening wanders. The clear night and cold air pulled the heat from my face and I was left fumbling for my scarf to shield my bare skin from the chill. Well away from the towns and villages the landscape was frozen solid and the silent force of the winter temperatures could fully take hold. It was a relief to reach the green lane. The deeper snow and rough surface made for better grip underfoot and the dogs could be released from their leashes. After a moment or two of an excited cacophony of barking they began to run, leaping the deep ditch exploring the fallow field alongside for signs of rabbit.

With my arms free from restraining the dogs I could adjust my coats, hood and scarf to better effect and move more freely, enjoying the sights and sounds of the frozen landscape and allowing my thoughts to tumble around as my perceptions increased. My destination lay a little over a mile away and I was looking forward to being a little warmer from the walk once I reached it.

After a few slips and slides I finally arrived, to most people this was a place to give no reason to stop, but for a few of us it is indeed special. Halfway up a gentle hill on a little used country lane I stood beneath two bare trees looking up through the stark branches to the moon and stars far beyond. It was here not so long ago I stood in good company with the family of a friend to scatter his ashes. I had only got to know Fred a couple of years before he died, we shared an enthusiasm for dogs and walking. I enjoyed listening to his tales and experiences as he freely passed on his wisdom. It is a pity he never had the time to write them down, but the knowledge and love for life he had is now something I and others carry forward and evolve into our own experiences. I find I am able to take comfort from this and in some ways it feels as if he is still with us.

I reached down to give Robbie our boarder collie a pat. He was Fred's dog and came into our care a couple of weeks before Fred died, now well settled with us, he seems to enjoy wandering with me and I have a feeling Fred would have been happy with that. The few moments standing still had brought the cold back to my hands & face, it was time to return back to the hovel. In my mind I said a farewell to my friend and headed off back down the hill, homeward bound.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Teachings of a Smoke Dragon

With the crackling of rain around me I looked into the fire and appreciated the warmth. To anyone passing by on the near by railway line the sight of a roughly dressed person sitting in the rain by a bonfire wrapped up in a plastic sheet it the must have been a strange thing to behold but I have long since given up about such passing glances. Within my body and head I could feel the discomfort of infection and the last few nights I seemed to be shivering with a permanent chill regardless of the warm clothes and heaters within the hovel, but the bonfire brought its raw elemental presence to press heat deep within my core and loosen the muscles from a clench as my body had been trying to hold every bit of heat it could.

I knew well what had brought on the ill health, it was time spent in an office with central heating and the concentration of coughs and colds brought in by the other workers. Such environments seem to breed germs with a ruthless efficiency but the need for work had forced my hand and committed me to spending more time in the offices than I would like. Back in a more natural realm surrounded by the elements and far away from the crowds I could feel the first stages of healing.

As the rain grew lighter and the sky began to clear I could catch my first glimpse of the stars and a gentle breeze spiraled the plume of smoke around me like a chinese dragon stretching from the origins of the fire and winding its way into the night sky. From my perspective I can see reasons why we need space and nature. Elements need to move easily, forced contained will only bring stagnation, this in turn will bring the creatures and organisms that will thrive there. When they flow well the conditions begin to suit the natural state of people and the creatures we hold dear to show us all is well.

Perhaps when people realise life is about the flows and cycles of elements & nature and not about the power & the grabbing of resources there is a chance to find a greater peace and healing within ourselves.