This photograph is one of many I have taken, somehow trying to capture the inner disposition I feel when I catch sight of the little birds that sit among the Wisteria branches. The view is one I see every day as I sit in my basement study. I have an old blue and yellow striped armchair, crackly stuffed with something rigid and post war, it keeps me upright as I try to mediate. All the methods, following the breath, centring prayer, stillness exercises, guided mediations are like this armchair; well stuffed and giving uprightness, but they fall away when I see the Robin perched on a branch – nippingly picking out seeds from the feeder. His daintiness and delicacy capture my attention as the downward dip of the float catches the anglers breath. Then I see the Chaffinch waiting to go through the same tiny pecking rigmarole.
I began a six month sabbatical in January 2010 and expected to dive into the poetic life with all the prolific vigour that I sensed was pent up, explosively, inside me over my 50 years of living. The waves of self-disappointment were relentless in the first month because all I wanted to do, as I found the pluck to admit it, was watch the little birds.
I developed a cornucopia of feeders, I chased the squirrels on regular basis, I kept them topped up, and I allowed my fascination to grow. I didn’t, nor do I now, feel the need to twitchily name them, I do have a little guide book for the ones I don’t know by name. But I do, with an aching longing, want their world, almost totally uninterested in my human milieu, to become part of mine. I am after all an animal.
In a book called Becoming Animal by David Abram he quotes a Canadian poet – Robert Bringhurst :
A Quadratic Equation
Voice: the breath’s tooth.
Thought: the brain’s bone.
Birdsong: an extension
of the beak. Speech:
the antler of the mind.
These words capture a little of what my fascination has taught me of the last five years. Firstly, I can trust my deepest instincts, even when they seem to go against the ought to’s , should do’s, must be’s that my rational mind scourges me with. Secondly, the pleasing of the heart and body will lead the mind to a submissiveness to what is, and what is, is in fact, all we have! These words of David Abram put it all far more lucidly than I can.
‘Owning up to being an animal, a creature of earth. Tuning our animal senses to the sensible terrain: blending our skin with the rain- rippled surface of rivers, mingling our ears with the thunder and the thrumming of Frogs, and our eyes with the molten grey sky. Feeling the polyrythmic pulse of this place – this huge windswept body of water and stone. The vexed being in whose flesh we’re entangled.
Becoming earth. Becoming animal,. Becoming in this manner fully human.’
Photograph – Copyright Adrian GR Scott.