POSTCARD 136, Peebles, Scotland: We don’t usually wake up to the sound of birdsong at dawn, it’s too early – 4.30 am here in the room with curtains closed to keep out light that glimmers all through the night. Summer in the north means it’s nearly always day. Difficult to sleep, getting out of bed is not easy but I have to be up and ready to leave because this is the end of the retreat and the start of the long journey home.
A labyrinth of corridors and narrow staircase that leads down from the upper floors in this old mansion house converted to a Health Center. Nurses chattering together in their white coats come upstairs, pass me on the staircase going down (ghostly image of maids and housekeeping staff from a former life). I go down and down to the small chapel created in the old wine cellar at the lowest point beneath this great house. Find a place and sit in the silence. I feel humble, a Buddhist in a Christian sanctuary, examining the nature of human experience rather than its external creator – ‘a part of’, rather than ‘apart from’. The ‘hallowed’ Presence may have no name… identification creates an object in a world of subjectivity; a world of whispering Hymn books’ paper pages turning in these curious acoustics: ‘forgive us our trespasses and those who trespass against us.’ So many ‘s’ sounds the rhythm of the Prayer goes out of sync for a moment then its momentum builds up and falls into unity again. Trespasses and trespassing; acting out scenarios in the mind – letting-go and forgiveness.
Say goodbye to nurses, therapists, doctors and friends I’ve known for four weeks and will probably never see again – we shared a small lifetime. Goodbye dark stained wood panels, chandeliers suspended in high ceilings; goodbye antique furniture and carpets over oak block herring-bone flooring. Bags in car and down the long drive into the rolling hills. Sun breaks through and the sky is blue as we descend through the landscape. These are the Lowlands.
“The mind is a kind of theatre where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.” [David Hume]