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]
The post reminds of my days of chopping wood in the U.S. Rocky Mountain West. Also, for me the ‘I’ has become ‘we’; I find it improves my overall being. Lovely post.
Thanks Karen, I used to know an old man who’d always address me in the plural form: ‘How are we getting on today?’
Well, I can certainly understand a nostalgia for winter. Wonderfully written memories.
Thanks Ellen, I haven’t experienced a full winter season for more than 30 years. Fond memories of days spent chopping-wood; it’s all that’s necessary for a satisfying day spent partly by the fireside.
All your posts so engaging and well written. Pull the reader into your world. Are you still thinking of compiling your posts into a book? Would be a good one.
Still thinking about it, yes. The difficulty is how to organise all these different posts into a sequence that has continuity for the reader. I’ve done some parts, but other sections don’t seem to fit in well. Still pondering…
…ist nicht Nostalgie, wird bei uns in Österreich noch immer gemacht… 🙂
lieben Gruß Lis
…it’s not nostalgia, here with us in Austria. It’s still happening…:-) Love, greetings Lis
…nostalgie während der Gegenwart, gerade das Gefühl selbst? …nostalgia for the present time, just the feeling itself?
Tfhank`s for Your Comment.
Love greeting from Lis
This post really made me smile. I can relate to seeing myself as a ‘we’—flipping consciousness from and to each of my three selves. Sounds like you lived in a cottage. I love low beams but then I’m only 5’4″. Not for everyone I guess. 🙂
Thanks, yes it was a cottage in the countryside, low beams and charming and this is it, now it’s gone so I’m kinda mourning the loss of it. That’s why I’m writing all these posts – it’s still v much part of me. Most of the time I was there alone, and that aloneness leads to the benign schizoid state of not ‘I’ but more like ‘we’… seeing a mirror reflection of ‘me’ as object, observed by the other ‘me’ as subject…
I would imagine that an experience like that can be enlightening. I am sorry you are missing it Writing does help as a ritual at times to help let something go. I look in the mirror and never see myself. Somehow I cannot relate to the image I see before me…whatever that means 😀
Agreed and this is what blogging is all about… there’s the reflective side of it and also the response from others.
I’m glad you replied again, your comment about the enigma of the face in the mirror – and I know what you mean about that mystery – but I’d intended to ask you in the first comment about this part: “flipping consciousness from and to each of my three selves”… why are there three?
The ego or personality, body and spirit is what I refer to as my three selves. If I am achy in body, I turn my consciousness to my body to better understand what is going on (I am actually in the process of writing about this now), when I am meditating my consciousness goes to my spirit, when I am problem solving or enjoying a conversation, my consciousness is in my mind. 🙂
I like the idea of this; identifying and welcoming these three selves builds towards becoming familiar with what they are – look forward to reading more. About the image in the mirror being ‘empty’, maybe we cannot relate to it because the image is objectified, entirely separate from the experience of conscious awareness?
Yes, I think that’s it exactly!
Many many years ago I lived in the backwoods of Canada. I knew an old man called Scottie who was tall, and liked his drink, and who lived in a tiny cabin with a low beam. It was said that Scottie, after staggering back from the local bar, had a number of painful encounters with the beam on entry to his cabin. He apparently solved the problem by nailing a pillow to it!
Love your memories Tiramit. 🙂
Oh no, I feel sorry for Scottie; the hangovers after the encounters with the beam 🙂 I did try some cushioning for a while, but the fact that I could see it coming was probably just as effective. In the end I had the floor excavated and lowered, at the same time as foundations were being dug for a supporting pillar and new doorway – problem solved…
Ah, but what when the body no longer obeys? (Rhetorical. I’m not expecting you to fix that one. 🙂 )
Well, we all have these off days…
Take off your high heels while you’re walking around inside. Works like a charm I’ve found. 🙂
I decided to dig up the floor and lower it so I could keep the high heels 🙂