April Moon: Day 13

Curious

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

This word forks, and at first I am more drawn to the more active sense. One can be curious about a thing that is curious. I am immediately reminded of Alex in Leeds, who has a tattoo that reads Curiosity > Enthusiasm > Action – a fantastic motto. Curiosity gets a bad press – it famously killed the cat, and ‘satiable curtiosity is the reason for the trunk on the Elephant’s Child. This seems unfair. To know things for the sheer pleasure of knowing, not out of malice, but because there is a space in one’s mind where a fact ought to go, that seems very wholesome to me.

In fact, this seems to be a very literary word. Down the other fork, where it is things that are curious, there is the Old Curiosity Shop (I have never read it) and Alice again. Curiouser and curiouser. Oddness, interestingness, something-not-quite-right-about-thisness. Something that is curious makes one curious even if one isn’t naturally curious.

Are curious people curious? They are usually good fun to talk to; they don’t mind admitting what they don’t know, and they share what they do.

Curious.

April Moon: Day 12

Flow

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Rivers. Idyllic Revelation rivers, the sort that are metaphors for grace and love. Water flowing from the city. Mostly hymns, actually. Flow, river, flow, flood the land with the Father’s glory…where golden fields spread far and broad/where flows the crystal river.

Which reminds me of a mondegreen in another hymn: through gates of pearl streams in the countless host. I always took streams to be a noun, and pearl to describe the streams rather than the gates. I was probably extrapolating from ocean’s farthest coast in the previous line. Even now, there is a sense of clear light and clear water, in this and in all the new-heaven-and-new-earth hymns that I love. Flow is, somehow, part of that.

Flow is first cousin to current, which is a lovely fizzy word, but more scary and unpredictable. Flow feels steady; not necessarily strong or overwhelming, but reliably going that way. Flow belongs at the mature stage of a river, out towards the floodplain (oh, I remember building dams at the beach; there was an outlet of water from a bird park a little way inland, and we used to divert the flow and dig long trenches out towards the sea). Flow is calm progress.

April Moon: Day 11

Reflection

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Mirrors. Oh, I spent a long time thinking about mirrors. I came across an early proposal for the mermaid project the other day; it included a list of all sorts of things that contain mirrors. Kaleidoscopes (have you ever come across the sort that have glitter and beads and sequins suspended in a tube of some sort of clear viscous liquid? They drift from one end to the other and when they are reflected in the mirror the effect is one of such opulence that one might be in a jewel casket). Periscopes. Pepper’s Ghost.

Blue skies in still puddles. A streak of moonlight on the sea. The moon itself. And Alice.

Now we see in a glass darkly. Now we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror… There are various metaphors in the New Testament; that’s one of the best of them, I think.

I’m aware that this is only the surface of the concept, with no more substance than a reflection. That feels appropriate. I can see myself, double-reflected in the double-glazing of the patio doors. You won’t find even one of me behind them, and if you reach out to touch the reflection all you meet is cold, clear, glass.

April Moon: Day 10

Secret

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

See also: sacred.

I know two sorts of secrets: the ones that can’t be let out because they’re too sad and scary; and the ones that aren’t yet grown up enough to go out on their own, but which are going to be beautiful and joyful.

I let go of most of my secrets. Some of them weren’t even mine; I was carrying them around because I thought I had to. I handed the worst one back. Some of them stopped being true. Some of them I told, and they turned out to have never been true – particularly the one that went nobody must know what a social failure and weirdo I am.

I have one secret left. It is the good and joyful sort, and it’s not really a secret, because there are some people who know what it really is. For everyone else: I’m organising a cultural exchange programme for mermaids. It has been tremendous fun and incredibly hard work. Sometimes the mermaids have co-operated; sometimes they have hidden behind rocks and sulked for weeks on end. I have come to understand how different breathing air is from breathing water. Very often I worry that whether the host families on the surface won’t appreciate my efforts at all. At the moment I am trying to find the password that will let the mermaids move from sea to air. That’s a secret. I’m going to find it, though.

April Moon: Day 9

Yearning

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

‘Tell me, child,’ says the poet Bunthorne to the milkmaid Patience, ‘do you ever yearn?’

‘I earn my living,’ she replies.

Which makes me think about my earning and my yearning. I work for an organisation with high ideals, an organisation that’s trying to change the world, yearning, if you like, for change. My daily duties, however, are pretty prosaic. I don’t think I ever expected anything else: I’d already got my head around the idea that a servant with this clause/makes drudgery divine, that if a job’s worth doing it doesn’t matter if it’s frontline or backroom. Even when it’s stuffing a thousand envelopes, there’s something at the back of it that’s about yearning.

It is tempting to say that earning is yearning in action, but I know well enough that I’m in a privileged position, to be able to think so.

And then yearning does not have to be about action. A wish is an act in itself, even if one then doesn’t follow it up with an obvious action. We must be the change we want to see; fine, but we begin not by changing, nor by being, but by wanting. I remember last May, when I was burned out with all my causes, feeling corroded and unappreciated, going to a lecture by Leslie Griffiths, Baron Griffiths of Burry Port, a prominent Methodist. He was angry. He was angry about a whole lot of things, most of which I was angry about too, but which I was just too damn tired to do anything useful about.

I cannot remember what exactly he said, but the effect was to give me space, to let me be angry, to let me want change – yes, to let me yearn – to remove the expectation that I would immediately go out and fix it. I could breathe again.

I’ve been trying to let myself just want things. To desire a change, an outcome, a quality, and not to be ashamed of desiring it. Not to be afraid that I might not get it. To yearn.

April Moon: Day 8

Wild

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I have had Born Free stuck in my head most of today. That, I think, has a lot to do with it. Wild is the opposite of tame is not being in a cage is being free. Freedom is something that I have been thinking about, on and off, this year, but it has been more about being free from the constraints that I place upon myself. (Oh. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Except I don’t quite believe that, because being born into chains – literal or metaphorical – is a long way from being born free.)

Wild is somewhere that I’m not ready to go, just yet.

Wild beasts. Les Fauves. Tiger, tiger, burning bright.

We were talking, my housemate, his mother, and I, this morning, about cats we have known; specifically, the cats that came into our families having been neglected in kittenhood, and how they have been alternately affectionate and vicious, as ready to scratch your face as to sit on your knee. That is a difficult place to be, between wildness and tameness, never quite trusting anyone else to look after oneself, and never quite trusting oneself to manage alone.

But then there are wild flowers and wild strawberries. I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows – actually, it’s more of a cliff. And there is something there about going where one pleases, and doing what one pleases.

Wilderness.

I don’t know. Lots of stuff here, and it doesn’t want to sit down and curl up neatly. Which, I suppose, is not all that surprising.

April Moon: Day 7

Texture

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

This is a good word. I’m not particularly taken with it as a word – it feels a bit impersonal and clinical, much like text and textile – but what it means is all sorts of loveliness.

Dimensions. Heights and depths so close together that you can feel the difference through your fingertips. Differences absorbed at the same time. Shiny smoothness; softness; scratchiness. New-painted nails against my bottom lip (it has always been a good way to feel things: try it). Rough skin on the backs of my knuckles; close Guernsey wool; soft-ridged corduroy; draggy leather; smooth-polished wood; flawless glass, whose texture is almost a sound.

I have just realised the connection with tessitura – the weave of a piece of music, which is similar to the range, but a more helpful thing to know. The range tells you the top and the bottom, but the tessitura is more like the mode than the mean; it tells you what most of the music is like. (There is not a note in Hark the herald-angels, for example, that I cannot sing, but the tessitura is high, and it is exhausting.) Music is similar to objects, I suppose, and the texture of music is a similar all-at-onceness, except it isn’t; it’s a series of all-at-onces that run together. It happens in time, while conventional texture happens in space.

Dimensions.

Sometimes you absolutely have to look with your fingers.

April Moon: Day 6

Nuance

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Nuance feels like hard work. Tonight I look at the word nuance and think, oh, dear, I haven’t got enough of those.

Perhaps it is just having finished what I have finished today, and immediately gone back to the beginning and started to read back through it, and found how lacking in nuance it is. It is good, but already I can see that things are missing, and that things are in there that do not need to be. It feels heavy-handed, slapdash. I can see where I have been lazy, and I can see where I have been clumsy.

Nuance is subtlety, delicacy, lightness, deftness; and I, having completed the biggest and most complex creation of my life, feel flat and heavy. I am pleased with it, but it is done and also not done. Nuance. There may be some more of that tomorrow.

April Moon: Day 5

Focus

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I got my camera out on Saturday, the first time in months. I’d made a necklace as a present for somebody, and wanted to take a picture for my portfolio. With the necklace suspended from the window catch, the idea was that the green and pink of the trees outside would blur into a pleasing background for the green and pink beads of the necklace.

It took me several tries to achieve that. The first few, of course, had beautiful sharp leaves and blossoms, with a vague green and pink blur in front.

Yesterday I was pleased that I had my camera to hand. The heavy rain brought a toad out onto the path in the back garden, and I wanted a photo of him. I had to shoot through the french window, and so I have several photos of a toad, overlaid with milky white raindrops.

Focus is a choice. I will concentrate on this thing, and not that. Last week, unexpectedly, I ended up at the pub with some colleagues. One of them said something about multi-tasking. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I can’t multi-task. I think it’s a myth.’

She smiled and admitted that she can’t, either, and proved the point a few minutes later: she was looking at something on her phone when somebody spoke to her. She only heard the third time.

When I talked about that necklace I made, I didn’t say that I was trying to do it in front of the telly, watching the qualifying for the Chinese grand prix. Hopeless. I made a fantastic necklace, but the finer points of the F1 passed me by completely. I should have known.

One thing at a time. And yet. It is rare for me to do one thing at a time, at least for long. I can focus, but my focus gets tired. However, I can do a succession of things, flitting from one to another, and find after about three hours that I have made significant progress on a lot of them. A kind of roving focus, I suppose. After all, I’m not a camera. It’s a lot easier for me to choose. A, and not B. Or, A and then B, and then C, and then D, until they’re all done.

April Moon: day 4

Sacred

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Oh, this is a lovely word. This has layers upon layers.

A hymnbook – of which we must have had more than one copy, since I remember it being both small and red and large and black, and being both in the revolving bookcase and on top of the piano – with gold lettering on the spine. Sacred Songs and Solos. Greeting it like an old friend when it showed up in Huntingtower.

A pious-eyed Victorian woman with abundant auburn curls and hands clasped across her prayer-book (I have a specific picture in mind; it is entitled “Our Father”).

Noticing how it is an anagram of scared.

Remembering how Havi had a whole sequence of Wishes that included I see the secret holiness of everything. Enjoying the consonance: secret sacred secret sacred secret sacred

Reading On the Road, and discovering that, while it is very much the Urgent Thrusting Phallic Man Book that I feared it would be, it is also about the secret holiness of everything. Then I got on to Ginsberg, and particularly Footnote to Howl. And went back to St John of the Cross, and walking alongside the park at sunrise, and suddenly everything was trembling with the sacred.

(Those deep pink blossoms I noticed this morning, when I was pretending it was day 3: the sunset light has caught two or three branches, and they glow around the edge. There. That’s what I mean.)

And this:

“Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.” – A Tree Full of Angels, Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B.

Walking my head around the wonders I already knew: Maundy Thursday seven years ago, sharing pasta and sardines with my best friend, in a narrow little hostel in La Rioja, and suddenly understanding the point of the Incarnation: that God has become part of creation, which is sufficient for redemption alone. God said that it was good, and became part of it to prove it. The rest of it need not have happened, but was always going to, because that is the way the world works.

And, understanding further, a different walk and on my own this time, west through a pine wood towards Yarmouth, that what was sacred because God made it is sacred beyond all imagining now that God has become part of it, and that every atom of this universe and every other one is suffused with the divine, and that there is holiness in all of us and in all of creation, if only we can see it.

The sacred is secret, but it does not always stay that way.