Leaving

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My bags are packed. I have been up to the Polling Station and voted Green. Put out the recycling. Walked up to look at the garden and the orchard. This afternoon I go up to London and tomorrow on to Scotland. My plan is to spend until mid-August exploring the west coast and the islands, on what I am increasingly willing to call a sailing pilgrimage.

I feel sad at leaving home. This place has been the centre of my life for nearly 40 years, and carries a deep sense of familiarity. And it is strange to leave at this time of year, when everything is bursting forth, changing, developing. As I walk up the footpath I notice that the May, which last week was at is peak of glory, covering the fields in ‘bling’, as Elizabeth put it, is now beginning to fade. The white petals fall as a light snowfall, dropping slowly through the air and littering the paths. In the orchard, the blossom is over and the fruit is formed on the trees and bushes, growing larger and taking on colour day by day. Maybe it is the flower meadow in the orchard I will miss most. Through the winter and early spring we kept the grass cut to stop it swamping the flowers. While the grass was still short there was a sprinkling of cowslips; now it is longer, the yellow rattle is flowering and the black eyed daisies in bud; I know that through the summer different species will dominate in a glorious sequence, and that I will miss it.

So I leave things behind and look forward rather anxiously to the adventure in the Scottish islands. What will I do with myself, alone for much of the time, for weeks on end? why am I doing this? Is there going to be a book to write out of this pilgrimage to follow Spindrift? Will I have anything new to say? Sarah B says go and be a shaman first, and through that I will find what to write… but I am not very sure what that means. People I speak to seem impressed that I will be away on my own for that long.

I have to remember what that I am attempting to rise to the challenge of finding a different sense of identity as a human being. A different story of who we are. It sounds completely over the top to say this or write it down, but that seems to me to be part of the challenge of our times.In Spindrift I took from Thomas Berry the importance of developing a conversation with the world; I used the koan “Wilderness treats me like a human being”. More recently I was taken by an old quote from Alan Watts “We need to become vividly aware of our ecology, or our interdependence and virtual identity with other forms a life…” “Vividly” seems a very apt word.

But I must remember my own way of putting in a tweet: “In these terrible times it is comforting to know that there is a great work to be done, changing the way we modern human see ourselves”. That is what it is about. And that is why I am leaving the comfort and familiarity of home and facing the anxiety of being alone at sea.

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Comments

  1. good luck and fair winds

  2. Paul Evans says:

    In the open sea
    with the thousand birds
    crying around me,
    how can I ever give up
    the life of a sailor?

    Anonymous, from Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred More Poems From The Japanese

    Best of luck.

  3. Malcolm Parlett says:

    Savouring the wonderful writing and memories, when I read Spindrift. Yes, you are on a great journey, and you carry many people’s blessings. In one way you’ll be alone, but in another you are not. Our love, respect, and gratitude for whom you are can keep you company in the long hours – you just have to remember to tune into our being beside you in our hearts and imaginings. Travel well, my friend.

  4. Paul Noone says:

    Hi Peter

    The contemplation of the pilgrimage and the solitude can be daunting. Perhaps there is no need to even consider what will come from this sea voyage. In the west of Ireland fishing communities, you may have come across the phrase: ‘is fanach an ait a gheobfa gliomach’ … ‘it is the unexpected or neglected place that you find the lobster’.

    This is a trip to re-charge the soul; a blessing of the senses. There are times when the best way to care for the soul is to make flexible again some of the views that harden and crystallise in the mind.
    Patricia and I want to bless you and your companion Coral. We wish to send you off with a beautiful poem written by John O’Donohue.

    A Blessing for the Senses

    May your body be blessed.
    May you realise that your body is a faithful and beautiful friend of your soul.
    And may you be peaceful and joyful and recognise that your senses are sacred thresholds.
    May you realise that holiness is mindful gazing, feeling, hearing and touching.
    May your senses gather you and bring you home.
    May your senses always enable you to celebrate the universe and the mystery and possibilities in your presence here.
    May the Eros of the Earth bless you.

  5. Fi Radford says:

    Bon vent Peter. May you emerge enlightened and enlivened by your participation in the mystery. Fi

  6. I like Malcolm’s comment about our being with you on your trip in some sense (I have definitely noticed myself dwelling more upon you when you you are swaying in Coral than otherwise). But your touching concerns at the outset of this adventure also highlight a question I’ve wondered about (but am not looking for an answer to: namely, why your nature retreats (along with those of many mountaineers and vision questers) tend to be alone, and why my retreats are pre-eminently social. In any case, fare well…

    • Bill, I am not entirely on my own, currently with Ben and the children. But yes, much of the time I will be alone. Do you remember the story of Pooh lost inthe fog. Rabbit keeps talking all the time, but when they lose him Pooh can find the way home because he can hear his honey pots calling. So we cannot be in conversation with the more than human while our ears are fully of human conversation. It is possible to agree to be silent and listen, but there is something more radical about being alone with the world. And hugely challenging cos all one’s archaic stuff about who one is and what this is all about comes to the surface. Good question, though, Px

  7. Melanie says:

    Hi P,
    We were talking about your flower meadow yesterday evening and funnily enough I have just got to the part in Spindrift where you are admiring the flowering may in Cornwall. So reading your post is a nice connection with the seasons and the feelings of renewal they bring. Of course, I’m reading Spindrift for a second time and just like the seasons, another reading brings a different quality of noticing, and a more intense enjoyment that comes with familiarity. I know I will read it many times more.
    As to the next book, I agree with Sarah that it will find you. As long as you keep writing, it will settle into a shape of its own (perhaps stories inherit some of Sheldrake’s morphic fields too).
    See you in June, to deliver one of Pooh’s rabbits!

  8. Go well and best luck.

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