Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Thoughts in Progress

It must have happened about a third into my run a few days ago. I was listening to my mp3 player as I usually do, my training getting more Brighton-Marathon-focused these days, each song propelling me up, incline after incline. Then, all of sudden a particular track kicked in and I felt a strange sensation. For some reason, the lyrics seemed to unveil a secret hitherto buried: Way over yonder/Is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter/From a hunger and cold/And the sweet tastin' good life/Is so easily found/A way over yonder, that's where I'm bound.

I must have listened to Carole King’s Way Over Yonder a thousand times before. One of my favourite records is the Tapestry album. But on this occasion King’s timeless composition took on a different meaning.

January has come and gone and for those who make New Year resolutions, a fresh start along with practical strategies is de rigueur. How to identify and maintain willpower, stick to a plan, set one goal at a time and learn from failure, are some of the elements that make up this “New Year, New Me” approach.

Not for me, though. For starters, I do not make New Year resolutions. Secondly, for the last four or five years, I have begun to reach more into myself, to attempt to deepen an understanding of who I am. This is where King’s song comes into the picture. A first listen (and multiple ones after, perhaps) might make one think that Way Over Yonder is a religious-themed tune. All this talk of “garden of wisdom” and “the land where the honey runs” invites a Bible-friendly reading of the song.

And yet, for me, this garden of wisdom is to be found within myself and not in a holy book. It is the place where I would like to believe I have planted myriad plants, flowers and trees throughout my forty-seven years (and counting) and which I need to tend to regularly.

Last summer I began to impose a social media curfew on myself. There was a strong reason for it which I will not discuss here (no, there was no addiction. It was more creativity-related). There were such positive side-effects, however, that I decided to extend the curfew beyond my six-week-long, annual leave. Add the meditation I have been doing for the last three or four years, plus mindfulness, plus a more positive attitude in general (less anger, more thinking) and my body and mind together have become Carole King’s land where the honey runs.

Without wanting to sound too preachy, sometimes we look at external elements to help us keep a healthy equilibrium of brawn and brains. We tend to forget – and that’s happened to me – that the real balance lies within. Start from within and everything else falls into place. Well, most of the time.

© 2019

Monday, 24 December 2018

Thoughts in Progress

What if we were to wander onto the canvas of an artist painting a landscape? Stroll in at the precise moment when the painter is trying to capture the choreographic movement of a field of wheat? Would we be considered accidents, errors to be erased and painted over? Or would we be incorporated automatically into the piece?

That seems to be the dilemma facing Kate Northrop in Affair with Various Endings. Of course, her two lovers, meeting “outside Kempton, with the creek rising behind us?” have plenty of reasons not to want to be included in the painting. Editing reality out of a canvas is a form of lying, albeit benign. Editing our own reality in order to create a story that casts us in a good light is also a form of lying. At times like this I think of couples around the world attempting to erase the meaning of “the last of the light lifting this evening from the field of wheat”. Perhaps one is the painter and their view does not include the other one anymore.

To paraphrase Nick Cave, one of them is still a good muse, but the other one is still not much of a poet.

© 2019


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