Ere we will eat our meal in fear and sleep
In the affliction of these terrible dreams
That shake us nightly: better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy.
Lost in a train of thought, trying to catch forty winks, I am jolted to the upright by the apprehension of the approaching tunnel. Don’t fret, whispers the angel; you lose in worry. Walk a mile or two in my shoes, and your story makes method. I wasn’t so sure.
With distance in the hands of the gods, I do what many travellers do, go up on deck, find a quiet spot and let the mind drift — searching for an answer out on the horizon, a solution that begets a question that begs another. A heart forgone endures nothing but anguish, while a change of heart releases a form of thought, so intricate, so focused, a microdot splits an atom; a chain reaction, thermal propulsion of such unprecedented thrust, we will travel faster and further than ever before. I’m pondering the equation, relaxing, with a handle on the fix, when a terrifying thought hits into view, knocks the skittles for six, then shoots off, like a roadrunner, in two directions at once. Twirl it around, any which-way, we stand before you, the officers of the mind. Who do you think you are? Take the sedative; you won’t escape this time. No! No sleight of hand, cap that Houdini or we will constrict you the straight way! And that, I tell myself, is the warning shot!
Left to their own, free to roam, thoughts can get rough, mean, razor blade angry, spiralling out of control, sucking up the best of intentions… blink, and that circle of thought morphs small, revolves wispy quick, balloons big, then whips-thin to a width and trails off before you can catch the tail.
Thoughts can seem feral, impulsive, but pull them together, rein them in, the deliberation hits on a plan, a plan that remains dormant unless it manifests as structure. A structure that maps out legislation, for example, thoughts reason — reason makes a law, laws define boundaries, as well as principles — principles that lay claim to a sovereign, a sovereign that lays claim to governance, governance to a kingdom, allegiance and adoration from across a nation and a realm of unparalleled riches. Fix the trestle, bring out the bunting, bake a cake, take the biscuit, raise a glass, three cheers on the green, watch out for the team, risk a chance, make a dance, ignore the riddle, play a fiddle—jubilation, creation, revelation, halation, cause enough for celebration.
A long way from the party, chasing the monkey, agitated, mourning the loss, I searched for reason in tree-lined suburbs.
A blur of comfortable joggers, washing lines, sparkling homes and crewcut lawns—up the one way, down the next road, I made it through to the outskirts, only to see my primate friend, on the other side of the road, disappear down a narrow path, through some thicket and into the jungle. Catching breath, I hitched an excellent stick from a discarded pile of wood. I blundered on, slashing and kicking at the undergrowth, keeping apace until I stumbled, sweat-drenched and browbeaten, into a pool of light, saturating a narrow clearing, midst the dark, damp forest floor.
With the shriek of the monkey out of reach, unstuck, alone, in need of rest and a safer distance from any predators that might be lurking, I nearly panicked. I grabbed a wooded tendril, reaching down from the massive bough of a magnificent kapok tree, swung up to a low-lying limb, then clambered upwards toward the canopy. Halfway to the top, tired to the bone, I collapse on a bed of leaves, complemented by tiny yellow and white flowers, peaking through the new surface of mulch with a cracking twinkle. This perfect sack, spread over a broad passel of branches, woven and grafted together through a century of weather, was partnered by a broad shallow burr adjacent to the trunk. The gnarled projection, layered with a thick cushioning of damp moss, proved to be the perfect antidote, easing a weary head, refreshingly cool, for the hot and bothered mind.
Shafts of light, dancing across the underbelly of green, brings my attention to the endless variety of leaves, shrubs and hanging vines, the likes of which I’d never have imagined if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes. Islands of ferns, orchids, cacti, bromeliads, mosses, and other such plants, throwing out spider-like tendrils to airborne humus and any slight surface, appeared to levitate, defying gravity, maximising the space between trees and branches. Frogs, cicadas, howls, shrieks, trills, the buzz of pollinators and triumphant birds brought the revelry of the parade to ear. Wasted on the pungent smells, caressed by a soft, warm breeze, a subtle kindness cooling the contours of my face — swaying to rhythms of the interior — heartfelt in paradise, my eyes closed, turning the cacophony to an incantation — within seconds — I was drifting in a sea of dreams.
The corporal, in exile, playing out on the Spanish Main, with other unlikely recruits, sometime friend to Richard Hawkins, marauder, pirate and privateer, El Draque, the slave trader, naval officer and explorer. I’d run with the woodsman and those seadogs, staking our claims to the new world, outsmarting and kicking the Spanish conquistadors into retreat, for our place in the Americas. There was a chief, Metacomet, aka King Philip, of the Wampanoag ancestry. It was always the same dream — sitting with the King — the far off sound of the pipes sweeps in on the wind, the king’s hooch fills with fear. Everyone skedaddles, but I. Surrounded. Pinned to the ground, the hangman restricts the prayer, with his knee in my back, while he tightens the knot. Set up as the hero, slapped down and dragged off as traitor, then waking up as I am about to be hauled up to the yardarm from the end of a rope.
A howler leapt out of nowhere, screeching and shouting — you’re an imbecile, a buffoon, good for nothing, lazy and in the wrong place — the firecracker shock of a hard slap, so unexpected, I stood straight to attention, smacked the mosquito and fell out of my tree!
Back in the world, dazed, shaken, confused, but not clueless. Fact, fiction, head cracked, or not, nothing broken, except my pride. I drank in the air, breathing life into the body, until the heart and mind came together, calmer, in the same place, a place of wonder. I wasn’t dead. The earth was alive, and so was I! I saw the ground beneath my feet to be dynamic, bore witness to the ebb and flow of nature’s fluctuations. Humbled by the garden’s bearings, I sank to my knees to salute the sun in gratitude for rain. Without the dynamism of earth, nay, the universe, there would be no fall. No fall, no gravity, no landing, no up, no down, no feet on the ground; streams, rivers, plantings, mountains, ice, trees, seas, railroads, plains, castles and encampments — everything would fly off.
The King says in my dream — you ok, but you no hear the broken man. From the first day in the nursery, closing my heart to the world was a lesson I never really saw coming.
Don’t get too mesmerised by your angels and demons, alert, aware, observe — don’t get sucked into the wranglers of the mind, I heard him say — what is delicate as a flower to one, maybe hard rock to another. No care how you see, walk lightly in the days of summer and autumn; heed the spirit guide, so those who come in our shadow, tread rich and fertile earth in the spring, then cause a celebration — battling for dominion over the unfathomable realm, bad medicine.
Plants and humans each produce the gases that the other needs to survive. Plants need carbon dioxide. People and other animals exhale carbon dioxide.
Water enters the atmosphere from invisible vapours carried in air currents, evident as clouds. The watering cycle brings unseen atoms, particles and sand dust, nutrients to the Earth, her oceans, lakes, and rivers.
Through a mind-bending process called photosynthesis, the sun’s energies are absorbed through the leaves, bringing nourishment to the kingdom of plants that make the oxygen for all animals, including us.
Science reveals an unending intelligence to the depths nature will go in engineering the art of nature. If any part of that cyclical miracle machine gets sick, the chain gets broken, and everyone loses.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.
The forest team, the ever-present workings of trees, whose roots seek to nourish the stems above, while worms and other munchers break down the soil below to aerated compost, helping the entanglement of arteries on their way. Vital as Zeus spreading degrees of heat across arable lands, thirsting for the heart of Helios, writhing, curling, precipitating clouds, for the weights of rain, to encourage the seed — the spheres sound out a symphony, from high to low, all notes enrich the score. A mass of entrails, pumping thousands of litres of water, back to the woods, coursing up through the trunks, along streams of branches, to the tips of leaves, replenishing the buds for the bloom — a proportional baring, symbolising a teeming fertile life, eclipsed by the miraculous bearing of fruit.
Fruits of your labour: the synonym, derived from the garden’s flowering and fruits, has come to represent the central affirmation of what it means to be human. Listen to Earth’s heart; the song plays deep, loud and clear.
Crashing to the ground put my life into stark perspective. One person over the other, the white man’s realm remained as ever, repetitious and unforgiving — the ship’s captain gave the order. Felled and felled again, in relentless succession, until I’d taken enough hits, enough to replicate and inflict the same tyranny of division from which I was running away.
A human doing takes precedence over the human being — man’s law changes with his understanding of man. Only the laws of the spirit remain steadfastly the same. Inseparable, intricate, and admirable as the aim may be, seeking out the by-line of power represents a tiny fraction of what it means to be an earthling.
The Chief was right. I was back in the small seat, between heaven and hell, blown open wide and deep. No matter who or what I conquered, I came back to the same place. Whatever the distance, by foul means or fair, however high I climbed, however low I fell, whatever bounty might prevail, unless I lined up the crosshairs to the all-encompassing vastness, a mass of conflict followed wherever I laid my head.
— a correlation of insight — all manner of dramatic symmetry garner an unstoppable play, of comic and tragic proportions, staking claim to this pillar of human life — bound to the heart, some internal mappings can drive a person to distraction. At the same time, other such plotting set a global stage.