Friday, 27 December 2013

A short walk at the end of the year

This afternoon I went for a short walk in Highfield Park. The sun was about an hour from setting, and the wind was still strong after the recent storm. That perfect soft light you get in mid-winter lit up the tops of a bank of birches in colours reminiscent of a Klimt painting: golds, browns, reds. I made a point of wandering through the little copses, comparing the sound of wind made in different trees, and being astonished by how loud a noise one tree can make. The birds were mostly quiet, presumably cutting their losses and sitting huddled in the thickets.

To my surprise I found my eyes filling with tears.

Perhaps I had spent too long before going out pondering the pros and cons of getting a dog, as people do when they fear they can't have children or, in my case, fear that they will always be alone.

Perhaps it was an awareness of the people I know and love who are worrying about what the next year will bring, who suspect it will consist of worsening health, or new ways to fail.

Perhaps it was the sense of an old year sliding away, turning recent experience into fallible memory.

Perhaps it was the knowledge of the apparent fragility of my faith, immersed in a world which views it as an anachronism that can be allowed to die, surrounded by honourable atheists.

Perhaps it was none of these things (and all of them)...

Love Dogs (by the Sufi mystic Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks)

One night a man was crying,
                    Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
                    'So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever gotten any response?'

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

He dreamed he saw Khidr*, the guide of souls, in a thick, green foliage.
                    'Why did you stop praising?'
'Because I've never heard anything back.'
                    'This longing
you express is the return message'

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.

(*Khidr lit. “the green one”. Barks describing him as existing 'on the edge between the seen and the unseen', and as being 'the personification of the revealing function of the metaphysical intellect, the '”prophetic soul”', and suggests that 'he may be a partial source, along with Druidic lore, for the enigmatic Green Knight in the Middle English poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”'. He has also been identified with the Green Man of European mythology.)