Friday, November 16, 2007
It's been over a fortnight since I posted, the gap being the result of my wife and I taking a short holiday in Spain, whence our daughter, her partner and a mutual friend have decamped from North London to live and set up their business. They've rented a villa on a millionaire estate until they can get themselves established somewhere permanent. we visited them and it was a quite spectacular place, with jaw-dropping vertiginous views over wide valleys to misty mountains, their 'garden' a steep mountainside of wild rosemary, hibiscus, olive and oleander.
Like many thirty-somethings they have declined to buy-in to twenty-first century amorality, commercialism, hedonism and 'aspiration'. Although they are renting a magnificent villa at off-season prices, they are living very frugally and simply, they are all vegetarians, don't drink or smoke, and generally walk or cycle to the village on errands. Politically they are disengaged and cynical, although that's perhaps too strong a word. Dan, our daughter's partner, has an Iranian father and an English mother. He lived in Iran until he was eleven, having been taken there by his Dad as a child. He talks enthusiastically about his Sh'ia Muslim heritage, although he is non-religious and not a practising Muslim.
During our short visit we were deeply touched by their quiet hospitality and kindness. Late one afternoon, after eating a simple meal on the gorgeous terrace over the valley beneath, the cool of the evening descending, my wife and I were gently surprised to feel a soft warmth enveloping us from behind. As we sat, Dan had come behind us with a padded quilt, wrapping it gently round us two and tucking it in, to keep us from the chill.
My wife and I had an opportunity to talk while we were away, to feel ourselves slowing down, our tensions dissolving, the pre-occupations of our daily lives falling away. I've never indulged myself in a Buddhist retreat, but this was a retreat in its own way, and it was good to share it with my life-companion, and for us both to marvel at our daughter's mature womanliness, no longer our "little girl", although always our dear child.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Died 1 November 2007
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
These lines, "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver (from her book, Dream Work, 1986), were dedicated by her devoted son, Phillip, whose origami birds perched on her pillow as she died, calmly, bravely, choicefully, freely, as we do, as we all do, as we all do always, left to ourselves.