the train to the north

POSTCARD #267: Newcastle-Inverness journey: Head spinning with ear-popping air pressures and momentum of the great storm that brought me here. The travel industry is the largest network in the world. Miles of corridors, two planes, Delhi/ Amsterdam/ Newcastle and the train to the North. Everything is linked with everything else – absolutely everything… who runs it all? (is there a God?) Inappropriate question; taxis, escalators, the spinning flow of it just moving along by itself. I jump on a train to Scotland and join the others already there. Get my seat, and we’re all swept away by these huge mountain scenes passing through the train, opening up in the windows, then changing to the next picture.

Train arrives at my stop, a small town I visited when I was a kid, long ago and far away. I feel like a stranger now, my whole reason for being here is to visit the boy. I could be one of the three wise men flying in from the East to visit the child (why did they do that?), except I’m the only one… a wise man nobody has ever heard of, bearing gold, myrrh and frankincense (the story goes), and other assorted gifts, including Chawanprash, an Ayurvedic health food for the parents. Ring doorbell, hello everyone, well the boy is asleep now is he then? Okay, never mind, he will wake up soon.

Twenty minutes spent chatting with mom and dad, then sure enough, enter stage right, stumbling into the spotlight… a one-and-a-half year-old, fair-skinned, wide-eyed, blond boy, new to the world. And all I can see when I look at him, are the faces of the elders (recently passed) flickering through identities in his face, the enigma, in recognition of me being here (I never attended their funerals)? The boy is shy about me in his living room, turns this way and that, bright colours of toy objects, he is a shining presence, moving in the actuality of it…the IS-ness of it.

I’m astonished. He is all of it; the elders faces I see in profile who look back at me when the boy moves his head. Short glimpses of aunts and uncles I haven’t seen for so long, now dead and gone, and it’s as if they were really ‘here’, having become the form of this small boy. If I say they are real, then they are. Their eyes looking out of his small face. Identity… where does it begin? The child is father to the man, they’re looking at me as if waiting for something to happen… birth is a turning inside-out and an embodiment in a physical being – we are all so unaware of it, only the Old Souls who have been here and travelled through this gate many times can see how it really is.

Everything happening without language to give it form, so it cannot be remembered, and of course this sweet boy is unaware of any kind of story about me, the only uncle on his mother’s side… and when he’s old enough to understand that, it’ll be too late! I’ll not be able to be here to say hello, my nephew, and this is the story of how the World works… I feel an urgency, I should write this post in such a way that he will find it one day (message in a bottle), and thus understand the World much more clearly than I. He will find words for it, I feel sure, which can immediately express and bring into reality these hesitant forms of mine, shadows of a former time.

So, it was all a wonderful returning to one’s own sense of ‘selfhood’, seen in the boy – a dream-state set in the context of my being awake. We have no children of our own – sad, so sad. There’s something about this that’s so clear and obvious, then I lose it, and it can never be found, because searching for it creates the sense of it being lost, for ever and ever….



photo-9POSTCARD #135: Glasgow, Scotland: Battles lost and won and always the bagpipes have a part to play. There’s an extraordinary power about the instrument. I hear it as I’m walking down Buchanan Street, drawn towards the sound, and see the huge crowd surrounding the group outside an expensive shopping mall. Street musicians, I don’t know anything about the tartan kilt outfits they wear – the piper seems kinda clean-cut to me, respectable. Maybe he’s also a part-time piper in other bands, or one of the sons of these war-like characters beating out a furious rhythm on the drums. Somebody else going around collecting coins in an open box – there must be more than a hundred pounds in there ($150). I pour the contents of my pocket into the collection.

Jiab was here a long time ago while I was in Japan, she stopped to listen to a street musician playing the pipes and the piper happened to be standing next to an old red phone box with glass panels smashed out (those were the days before cell phones). So Jiab had a think about time zones between here and Japan, gathered all the change she had and called me up. I was in the office in Yokohama and somebody said there was a call for me. Picked up the phone and there was this skirl and blare of the pipes coming from the other side of the world. Then Thai laughter and the sound of coins being shoved into the phone slot – we couldn’t talk or anything, the sound was so loud. So after a while we ended the call. Jiab has a sense of humor.

Sound of the pipes fading into the background as I walk now through these streets back to my hotel… extraordinary that I have no home in Glasgow. I’m a tourist, even though I lived here for 5 years, and all that’s left is a strange familiarity – recognizing the streets, the buildings. Feels like I’m a member of a clan, vanquished, as if in a battle that took place in the time I was away – the Celtic sense of calamity. And today, after more than thirty years living in other people’s countries I discover I’m homeless. It feels like I don’t exist. I’m nobody, in a place where I used to be ‘somebody’. Mutuality in the illusion; clan, this is all we seem to have in the lifetime we share. In truth, it all merges into one; cycles of darkness and light, and seasons, a spinning planet around the sun, cycles of organic forms that reproduce, die and other’s take their place, continuously.

“… the moon, reflected in the water, shines brightly and within the spotless water seems to be, but the water-moon is empty, substanceless; there is no thing to grasp… ‘tis thus that all things are.” [Samadhiraja-sutra 2nd century CE]


Note: Dear friends tomorrow I’m going offline for a couple of weeks in order to enter a retreat and receive advice on my health situation. I’ll be back again in July and catch up with your posts and comments then. Thanks for reading….