online: 21 june 2003

20 june 2003 changing perceptions

20:09 A summer evening. The blackberries are in bloom - with perhaps fifty tiny stamens (each in the form of a slender drumstick) in the space between five petals. Also a small greeny yellow flower I cannot name*. It is about 6 mm across and has a tail like a honeysuckle - I suppose containing nectar. A bird sings intermittently and a man in white clothes goes by with an easy rhythmic stride. He looks cool despite walking quickly. Peace and stillness.

This afternoon I became interested in writing by and about Robert Browning but so far I've not understood his poetry** though I would like to. Perhaps he lived a kind of life I've not experienced?... After an hour or so I went to sleep and I'm only now returning to full wakefulness... I drink some water.

To know how to live is all.
This is carved into a seat in memory of Kate Lunn, 1971-1997. I sat here and noted this a year or more ago. Today I was attracted by smoke - from an abandoned disposable barbecue. Two pieces of meat are still cooking amidst long grass and buttercups beneath a pale blue sky with long curved vapour trails that intersect. A plane flying high, but beneath them, reflects the sunlight. The ground is in shadow. And another plane, much nearer the ground, turns gently and quietly towards the airport.

As I walked this evening I saw the trees growing out of the earth as if powers or presences - not magical but sculptural, like beings, which of course they are - and perhaps everything is. I wonder if this habit of observing and noting what I see and hear is changing my perceptions - and thereby changing the things themselves? I expect so. Our perceptions are not fixed and neither is reality, though it looks so stable.

*Later: it is Small Balsam. The ripe seed pods are explosive when touched!

**lines selected by chance from Browning, Poetical Works, 1833-1864, edited by Ian Jack, Oxford University Press, London, Oxford, New York 1970, page 638, line 28, from 'The Last Ride Together', the last line of stanza vii):

What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you expressed
You hold things beautiful the best,
_And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
'T is something, nay 't is much: but then,
Have you yourself what's best for men?
Are you - poor, sick, old ere your time -
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who never have turned a rhyme?
_Sing, riding's a joy! For me, I ride.
And, as I copy out these lines (with some understanding and affection but still somewhat baffled), I realise that the chance process has (as usual?) selected something apposite. Not only do these lines address my question ('what does it mean?') - they begin to answer it. And I begin to see that what Robert Browning was doing was to question even the most sublime things, his loves, while being aware, as if in a second self, of the certainty, the simplicity even, of things thought to be ordinary, or difficult... and of his poems... Is that it? Something like that.

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