online: 3 june 2003

30 may 2003 life and death

20:33 Pond 2.

Today the air temperature was 27C in London. (I cease to function properly over 25). It was 24 in my room.

I could see only five cygnets in pond 1. Has one died already? Each year some of them disappear in their first month or so. In pond 2 I can see the four goslings - already they are more than twice their birth size so perhaps they will all survive.

A man walks by at a slow pace with his arms behind his back and looking straight ahead, as if at a funeral. How did a probably lively small boy grow into such a cautious-looking man? I like his peaceful demeanour but I wonder (as often) at the change from child to grown up.

As I wrote that a plane leaf descended onto my lap. It is already dry and crisp and partly rotted. I look up and on the ground and see many plane leaves that look dead and about to drop, or already fallen. Why so early? Or are they from last year? There are plenty of new leaves that are not decayed or shrivelled...

...Life and death are intermingled but we try to keep them apart - except in sensational newspapers. Is it educated people who try to keep death out of sight and separated from life?... Perhaps death should no more be feared than the cutting of hair or of finger nails? But the logic of that can't be right. The fear of death has a purpose does it not?... But not in old age, perhaps.

21:00 It's getting dark now - I'll walk to Parliament Hill.

Now I'm there I'm surprised to see that the tall buildings at Canary Wharf and in the City are only half visible - is it rain or is it smog? Yes it's smog - the haze does not move as does a rainstorm.

Five young people nearby are talking and laughing and shrieking with such joy as they picnic.

And now as the light goes the shadows beneath trees look mysterious.

[I was looking at a wood of tall oaks and beeches that I think of as the forest in Dante's Divine Comedy:

Midway life's journey I was made aware
That I had strayed into a dark forest...]

A small helicopter approaches making a loud booming sound. When it passes overhead its sound changes and the booming sound is gone as it flies into the distance.

Yes there is an effect when one stands beneath a tree, an effect of the atmosphere within it, and at dusk it seems stronger... I go to stand for a few moments beneath a chestnut who's branches reach to the ground. As I stand there I feel somewhat different, as if my responses are changed and my actions also... I think it's almost sexual - the presence of trees. But perhaps it's the same effect as when one enters a room, or any enclosed space (any womb?)... There is an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson** on the physically different atmosphere within a tree. Temperature, chemical composition of the air, and such.

*Dante, The Divine Comedy, translated by Laurence Binyon, Agenda Editions, London 1995, page 3.

**In Virginibus Pueresque, I think. I don't have a copy...

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© 2003 john chris jones

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