I spent this past weekend at a writing retreat at Scargill House in the Yorkshire Dales. In a way it reminded me of my time at Cambridge: though the talks were interesting, most of the value was in meeting people and getting to know them. I know these friendships will last. My only regret was that I didn’t have much time to explore the area— it’s a beautiful part of the world. Back in Surrey we only hand indoors and outdoors. The mountains up here are a step beyond that, the outdoors of the outdoors.
Speaking of Surrey, I learned that I’m losing my job the day before I left for Scargill. Since it happened around the same time as our rental contract was up for renewal, we’re going to go somewhere else; we have about a month and a half to find out where. This is what you call an Adventure!
This weekend, Sheridan Voysey spoke to us about his experience of writing autobiography. He mentioned that there’s always a temptation to dress up your experiences when you write them down, but it’s best to avoid it, because people can detect authenticity. People will be able to apply it better to their lives, and they may respect you more than if you’d embroidered it. That reminded me of this poem of mine.
by Marnanel Thurman
They named me for my granddad’s father’s father;
they said he’d caught consumption in his youth
and left his son an orphan. But the truth
I learned on reading registers is rather
more horrible, but easy to explain:
his wife had died. And Thomas, left behind,
drowned deep in pain, drank gin, and lost his mind,
died sobbing in a home for the insane.
And in my brain, statistic turned to story:
a broken heart, and lovers dying young,
beyond the brittle lies of broken lungs.
But, grandpa, may I hope we’ll meet in glory,
and over soda, on the other side,
I’ll let you know I bear your name with pride?
The point of the Good Samaritan story is blunted if we forget the place of the Samaritans in that culture. Here’s an attempt to redress that:
If the sky’s the limit, why do we never hear from aliens? There are billions upon billions of worlds out there, but we’ve never heard a word from anyone else. Why not? There are no certain answers to this question, known as the Fermi Paradox, but there are plenty of suggestions: Wait But Why discusses the possibilities. A good read.
This dates from about 1890, but I haven’t been able to trace the poet. Can any of you make a suggestion?
A DISTURBED REVERIE
Lying supine on the soft, matted grasses,
Gazing up lazily into the blue
Of the sky, when the wandering wind as it passes
Opens the branches for me to look through,
Idly I ponder, and ponder, and ponder,
Thinking of nothing, yet happy and free ;
Careless of everything, idly I wonder
At the immensity opened to me.
Looking up listlessly, thoughtlessly dreaming,
Mind a vacuity, life full of joy,
All the dull world seems with happiness teeming,
With nothing to worry, or fret, or annoy.
Earth seems a paradise. Why should I trouble
Or toil to win heaven? Why, heaven is here!
Fortune is worthless, and fame but a bubble:
I scorn them both, looking into the clear
Deep blue of the sky while the wild bees are humming,
Above and around me, in harmony deep,
And over the meadows the breezes are coming
To fan me, and soothe me, and lull me to sleep.
This, this is happiness, perfect, unmeasured;
Long shall this day without blemish or fleck
Stay in my memory, lovingly treasured —
Great Scott! There’s a wasp down the back of my neck!