OLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: Writing this in New Delhi, the winter chill has a familiarity; the cold-nose-sniffing days of UK winters long ago at the old house in East Anglia, before I had proper heating installed. A massive quantity of firewood; they cut down some Elms that had fallen over and all I had to do was chop it up with a long-handled axe. Thus, entire days were spent swinging axe, volumes of breathy vapour air then sitting by the fire. Everything that had to be done indoors was done there, next to the fire. A cup of Oolong tea placed for convenience on the edge of the hearth… cold fingers on warm porcelain.
And one day in particular, here in this low ceilinged house, staring at the flames, thinking I’ll have to go to the woodshed with the wheelbarrow again to get more logs. Walk through to the back door, not focused on anything but the task ahead, then for some reason there’s a joyful little skip at the wrong moment and I whack my head on the oak crossbeam protruding dangerously from the kitchen ceiling – the karma of wood fighting back… more like a sound than a feeling; an audible BONK! Fall to the floor, wow! Hands rise up and hold the head. It’s not an immediate pain; it’s an investigatory, how bad is it this time?
Stay there for a moment, inward searching directionalised towards the perceived centre where ‘self’ resides; awareness of the vulnerability of ‘head’ situated at the top of the body; eyes looking out, a world seen as if through a window at the front of the skull. Pause for a moment and consider the phenomenon of ‘me’ and the body I inhabit as a curious plurality; it’s not an ‘I’, it’s a ‘we’. I’m issuing commands and body just does what I tell it; addressing oneself as if ‘I’ were someone else: hmmm, the blunt-force trauma and brutality of the present moment… let it pass – get busy with something. Go upstairs and see if there’s a pair of gloves I can wear. The body obediently goes there because I’ve just told it do that.
Stumbles along, gets to the staircase then up, step by step, plod, plod, plod. Get the gloves and stand there for a moment, looking through this ‘window’ as if from a position inside the skull, seeing things at eye-level, then down the length of the body to my feet standing on the step, and the steps below that, leading down, and down to the ground floor… plod, plod, plod, downstairs again; it seems like a long way.
Out along the garden to the wood shed and, instead of just gathering a few logs and going back, I decide to cut up some more. WHACK, axe cuts through wood in a pleasing way. WHACK… so what’s to be done about this low headroom situation? WHACK… again and again I’m caught by it, even though I know it’s there. WHACK… return to ‘the plan’: excavate the floor and lower the level by one step to create more headroom. WHACK… isn’t it satisfying how the wood splits and falls to either side of the axe blade, forming two piles of equal number. WHACK… everything comes in twos, and there’s this feeling of companionship; that good friend, the body. It has a familiar feel to it; the aches, pains, grumbles and squeaks. The wheelbarrow filled, I push it back to the fireside and the rest of the afternoon is spent planning how to dig up the floor…
“I am and the ‘I’ that I am, is aware that I am. This knowing of our own being – its knowing of itself – is the most familiar, intimate and obvious fact of experience and is shared by all.” [Rupert Spira]