How many miles to Babylon?
Thursday, 11 August 2016
Sunday, 3 July 2016
|Ned Thomas of Aberystwyth's Mercator Institute addressing the 'ALL EQUAL' event on the sea front.|
The Referendum campaign seemed nothing less that an exercise in collective irresponsibity and the disarray following its outcome a fitting conclusion to the process. In spite of my dismay at the outcome I had expected it and was only surprised by the surprise of the financial markets who had predicted a Remain vote. So much for them as indicators of how things are.
The tide of xenophobia unleashed during the campaign and manifesting itself in its aftermath is disturbing, quite apart from the longer-term social consequences of the outcome. It was heartening, then, to be able to attend a gathering on the seafront in Aberystwyth where the flags of many nations, including many minority and/or 'disputed' nations, fly to celebrate diversity. The event was organised not so much to dispute the outcome of the Referendum, but to affirm the equality of all the inhabitants of the town and of the wider country wherever they are from.
There were speeches, poems, songs and statements of affirmation of this principle and we were all invited to wear a safety pin to represent the fact that we are all pinned together as common citizens of the world. We concluded by joining hands in a chain under those flags all along the Promenade. It's good to be part of a community that can organise such an event at short notice and get such a good turnout to support it.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
A cat flits down a corridor of shadow - out of the sun - and under a wooden fence, a brief moment of mystery - caught and held - though the deeps of the world recede as time erodes them; they flatten - obscuring what is hidden - to the bright plainness of day.
Tuesday, 17 May 2016
I caught the scent of hawthorn on the breeze this morning as I walked through the woods. It is the scent of summer. The ash tree, last to leaf, was springing with sprays of green. After a couple of thundery days the sun is bright and the sky clear. Looking up through the fast-developing canopy of different shades of green there are flashes of blue through the delicate tracery of birch leaves. The oak canopy is much thicker but light trickles through still as the leaves continue to bulk out. It is in one of the oaks growing from the bottom of the steeply sloping hillside that I had seen a kite’s nest in the fork of the branches from the ridge top path that is level with the tops of the trees growing from the bottom of the slope. The kite lifted off the nest and began circling the open ground in the valley. As I came up level with the nest it looked empty, but when I trained my binoculars on it the fluffy grey-white head of a chick popped up for a moment, then disappeared. I waited some time, standing on the bluebell-lined path as time slowed and then seemed still. Nothing happened. I caught site of a treecreeper on the trunk of a nearby tree. The kite could be seen every now and then still circling above. Further off a buzzard circled too. The birch leaves glistened against the open sky.
I retreated along the path and up onto the hill above the wood. The dew pond where the sheep drink in a hollow near the summit was barely damp. Water seems almost magically to gather here or be absent. There is no spring but sometimes it is full of clear water while at others it has all drained away. Turning here down back to the wood I retraced my steps along the ridge path. The nest looked empty but when I trained the binoculars on it I could see two chicks sprawled across the edge. I watched a while, but it was time to go. I had already left wood time behind and clock time was calling me back to schedule.
Wednesday, 4 May 2016
It’s May, and starting to feel like Summer might be coming. The last few weeks seemed like they were colder than most of the Winter, but today the wood looks suddenly green and the sun is shining. I have for the past few years participated in the ‘Track a Tree’ project, and it is time for me to start recording the development of leaves on the particular tree I document each year. It is an ash and has consistently been one of the last trees to come into leaf over the last three years. Sycamores are in full leaf, as are hawthorns. Blackthorns, which usually flower before they leaf, seem to be doing the two things simultaneously this year. Oaks have come into leaf, though they still have that yellow-brown colour of their early leaves before the chlorophyll masks it with green. But the ash buds are still closed, big and black but unburst. Gazing up into the canopy for any sign of leafage all I can see is what looks like the first flowers which are easily missed and come before the leaves. I also need to record any flowering plants around the tree. Although this wood is always good for bluebells, there have never been any around this tree, but this year there are, as elsewhere in the wood the bluebells seem to be spreading from the swathes of them on the slopes to other areas. A little further along there are wood anemones, but not near enough to the tree to be recorded.
The tree is high up on the ridge at the top of the wood. Following the path along the ridge I look out for a kite’s nest that is visible in the top of one of the trees growing from the bottom of the steep slope, so the path is more or less level with the upper branches of the tree. The nest is there and when I train my binoculars on it I see the kite sitting on it, head turned towards me so that the beak is in profile. I watch for a while then go along the path to a seat surrounded by bluebells. Sitting in it I can see right across the valley and I spend a little time doing just that. The hammering sound of a woodpecker echoes through the trees then stops. A little later I see the bird flash through the trees below me. Is it now Summer? Not quite. When the ash buds open it will be, and that cannot be very long in coming. So I’ll come back to the wood every few days to record the bud burst, the partially and then the fully opened leaves, by which time the canopy of the other trees will have fully developed and I’ll be lucky to get site of the kite’s nest. Then it will be Summer.
Saturday, 9 April 2016
Ni thau awen o’i thewi(Gerallt Lloyd Owen)
Mae erioed i’w marw hi
Awen is not silent in its silence__________________________________________________
Forever is its finality
These two lines from a master of cynghanedd express with profound simplicity the nature of Awen. My translation of them cannot achieve the woven interlocking of sound and sense which is contained in the Welsh. But I hope it captures something of the concentrated power of the original.
Sunday, 6 March 2016
[Odysseus and Diomedes on a night-spying expedition to the Trojan camp]
“Athena winged a heron close to their path and veering right. Neither man could see it, scanning the dark night they only heard its cry” (Iliad , Book 10)So the voice of the goddess comes in the night unearthly as if far away, but close; echoing through the unfathomable dark, but whispered as if a lover told a secret close to your ear and you reply just as softly yet speaking clearly: ‘O goddess I answer your call’ into the darkness of the night, no light, even starlight (fitful behind cloud) and not moonlight for it is moondark, so dark the voice, the heron’s call in the night: a creak, a croak, a fraink, not sweet like a songbird but a guiding sign to be wary a waymark on the path, showing the track to be taken, the line to follow through the gloom, impenetrable blackness unimaginable in towns, villages even where some distant gleam lightens the hue of darkness, but out here in the ancient dark her piercing cry is the only glint to guide you coldly calling from empty space, but welcome as the sigh of a mother to a feeding child, nurturing sharp-eared attention, opening your night eyes.