POSTCARD #134: Elgin, Scotland: It’s a fleeting transitory thing, sometimes so clearly seen – as now on this bus following the coastal route and scribbling down words in my notebook (almost illegible writing due to the motion of the bus). I’m visiting Uncle P who is over 80 and lives in a care-home. The photo above was taken from the bus going through these small villages, and it was shortly after that I got off at Buckie.
Then it all comes back to me, the call of seabirds and smell of the sea. Huddled in my coat in the cold wind looking down at the same street surfaces; pavement cracks I recognize from the last time I was here, years and years ago? What is it? Just a feeling, awareness precedes thought, no words for this kind of thing. Incidental people pass by on the street. I think I know them from long ago, but it’s possible I never spoke to them at all, we were always like this, seeing each other in the town and only that gentle familiarity, glance, eyes meet, strange recognition… do I know you? It’s like I never left this timeless non-objective moment – there and then is here and now.
And they would say it makes no difference if I’ve been away in foreign lands, North India and Thailand, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and living my butterfly life. Coming back here is like stepping into the same instant of existence. It’s like it was yesterday, except people are older, aging, settling into a comfortable gravity. And a feeling of how everyone is near the end – I don’t know the young folks, of course. People I used to be friends with are inexplicably gone. It’s like the estuary leads out to the sea – water from the mountains flowing through so many different circumstances, on the way to joining the oceans of the world.
I get to see Uncle P and he looks well but almost all that he says is subtly incorrect, wrong dates, gives people all the wrong names and I agree with everything he says. When it’s time to go, he takes me to the exit, but we get lost, pause at the dining room and he’s puzzled why everything has been tidied away – I ask a staff lady in the kitchen who assures me that Uncle P had his lunch already. He forgets things; she tells me out of earshot – shows me the exit. Last I see of him, he’s going back down the corridor with the kitchen lady and telling her he’s looking for his wife. But she passed away a year ago.
On the bus to Elgin I have a little weep about Uncle P, and when the bus gets there, find an Internet café to write this.
‘Wandering through realms of consciousness like a refugee, thought looks for a home. Thought thinks that perhaps by clinging to this or to that, it can find a home. In this way, thought forms attachments with names and forms, with concepts such as “is” and “is not,” “self” and “other,” “me” and “mine,” and with emotions like envy, pride, and desire. It is the mission of thought to form these attachments in hopes of finding a home. Thought wants to own its own home.’ [Thought Is Homeless/The Endless Further/ 2012 July 16]