Island Blog – Perception and a Blackbird

I sit in the darkling. Clouds are gathering like a people to church, some big and full of themselves, others following shred-like but I have no doubt they will puff themselves up in followance this night for there is rain forecast.

I watch the wintering geese fly in, fly in chatter and in synergy with the leader and with the nightfall. For me they fly right to left. I see the home-lights across the sea-loch, all warm and welcoming, a pipe of smoke from their chimneys. They are warm. They are cooking, chatting, cajoling and considering each other over there, a big swim away. And, they see the geese fly from left to right.

It thinks me beyond geese and tidal flow. It thinks me of how we see things, any things, all things. If geese can fly from right to left for some and left to right for others then what complexity lies in other of our seeings? Ah, it must be manifold. I can see this and you can see this, but you see that, not this. My perception of any one thing may well not be yours. I would like to be able to allow yours and mine and to consider neither one as an absolute, even as I am certain of my right to left of things.

As we converse, you and I, on matters from how to fix this or clean that, on the rights and wrongs of raising children, on the clarity of our shared memories, we move along different paths. What astonished you about something that happened meant nothing much to me and vice versa. We find it at best bothersome and our minds work like dingbats to convince the other of import and impact. But I still see nothing to upset me. Now why is that? Well, if we agree that my experience, my baggage, my history all come to bear on any given subject, as do yours, then we must also agree on a division of paths. We can both see the situation, yes. We can both recall to a degree what happened back then, yes, but where I see right to left, you see left to right and that is simply that.

How long a life do we need in order to come to such an acceptance? I am fed up of learning things like this. I wonder why it is we don’t finally arrive in that lovely place of complete understanding. I thought I completely understood years ago and yet here I am with my feathers ruffled and my heart beating too fast and my good manners thoroughly challenged as I watch your mouth insist on left to right. Although I write this with no actual cause, it is something I have observed recently between others and it intrigues me. To move freely and happily along an individual path of life, it is necessary to merely observe each other without dishing out labels, however silently. We can all learn from each other at every meeting if we decide not to judge. Every living soul has history, baggage and opinions, either learned or personally constructed, based on their experience of what worked and still works for them.

On returning earlier from slathering honey on young fruit trees, ring-barked by hungry rabbits, of which we have the lion’s share and adding a wrap of hessian to simulate new bark that will allow water to be drawn up the damaged trunks once again, I find a male blackbird flipping and floundering on the track. I gather him to me and feel the delicate softness of his feathers as I calm his wings. Is one broken, I wondered? His leg? Was he hit by a car or attacked by a predator and dropped? No, not that. The predators here are accurate as mathematics and there is no evidence of talon damage. I put him in a box in the garage to calm down. An hour later I return to give him water or seed or to find him dead. He wants none of it and is bouncing up in attempt to fly beyond the mesh that holds him down. I push in my hand and gently bring him out. Shall we see if you can fly? I ask him. He turns his head and looks at me through ebony eyes, then turns back to the great wide open. I lower him to the ground and to my delight he lifts and flies, a bit wonky-chops at first and then up up and away over the fence and into the sky. I watch him until he is a black dot in the blue.

Fly! Fly! I call out but he doesn’t look back. His path is his path as mine is my own. We come together and then we part and as we do, we are changed, just as we are changed after a human encounter. As I held that bird, I noticed his soft feathers, the majesty of nature in that trembling body, the perfection of design.

We can see each other that way too, if we so choose.

Island Blog 154 Reality Check

Rumi wisdom

As I sit here tapping on the keys of a laptop, waiting for my friends to wake up to another glorious morning in Argyll, I consider our conversation last night over dinner, on Perception and Reality. We had spent the afternoon developing depth and texture on one of my songs. Again, they said, sing that again, only, this time, shorten the vowel sound and give it more breath. Slowly but surely, a single line of melody took on colour and light. There were six of me in the end, in as perfect a repeat as made no difference. It’s interesting how difficult it is to sing exactly the same over an original melody line, not so much the rise and fall of the notes in sequence, but more the length of beats in a single word, such as ‘gold’ or ‘right’. If the consonants don’t land at precisely the same point (and a nanosecond matters) then it can sound like a shower of bullets. T-t-t……etc. I considered bringing the importance of such perfect repetition into ordinary life, hence the conversation. I may walk through exactly the same situation as you, but our perception of it can be chalk versus cheese.
Why is that, and is it okay, good, even, to have different slants, sometimes as many as there are people involved? Of course, it can make for war, and often has, and will continue to do so as long as people walk the earth; one that seems to be managing to extinguish rather a lot of its inhabitants. On a goodly sunshine day, and in a warm, easy, light-hearted situation, such as a merry meet in the bakery or on the street, our differences in perception and ‘reality’ matter little. We can walk away, wave, think what we like once the meet is done, but life isn’t about merry meets all the time.
Sometimes we butt up against an opinion we do not share, but however skilled we are at marketing our own, however loud we talk, however clever our words, we can never change the perception of another soul. We do not live their life, share their dreams and longings, feel their pain, know their joy, understand their song. And we have never looked through their eyes. We may try to do just that and call it empathy. We learn to listen, some of us, and then to mindfully consider that our own perception of reality, the one we are absolutely convinced is the blue print, just might be a blur to another.
At the moment we are all facing a Perception/Reality check, as the country moves towards election day. Some of us will shrug it off, not bother to vote, asking What’s the Point when Nothing Changes? We are bombarded with arguments, one party shouting its promises, another berating those promises as so much rubbish. Accusations of past failure, one-upmanship, clever quips and outright slander is all around us. Who is right to lead us and do we believe in the depth and texture, the perfect unity of their song, or do we feel bullet-battered and uncertain of the melody line?
One thing is for certain. If we bother to vote, at least we make it clear that our own reality matters to us, however we perceive it.

Island Blog 116 To See Darkly

 

snow-goose_711_600x450

 

 

 

I saw this large white thing on the sealoch, pushing the water into a triangle with the rocky shore as the third median.  I peered for a bit through the paint-spattered windows as the cover of the night slid back to reveal a new morning.  I always do this ‘peering’ thing first, actually not just first, but second and sometimes third, in a vain attempt to kid on that, overnight, my eyeballs have grown young again.  Ah, halcyon days….. when I could see so much more, often too much, and sometimes that which would have been better not  seen at all, and certainly not by me!

Anyway, I waffle away from the large white thing.

Before it disappears completely, travelling at a fast lick through the frothy tide line, I grab the hefty set of Zeiss binoculars, or ‘bins’ as I gather they are fondly known, and nearly fall into my coffee with the weight of the things.  I don’t believe any bird watcher ever held these up to their eyes for long.  I would need to consider the employment of a personal trainer for at least a year just to manage a period of time longer than 35 seconds.  However, being a woman, I can achieve a great deal in 35 seconds, so I stick them onto my face and focus quickly, to the usual no avail, because why?  Because, as well as giving me instant arm ache and the beginnings of a shake in my ulna, well, both ulnas to be honest, the flaming glass bit mists up as my hot eyeball challenges the cold lens.  Vital seconds pass, as does the large white thing, into the trees that overhang the near shore.  Hmmm.

I call it a Snow Goose.  It was too big for an eider duck and too small for a swan or a flamingo.  Snow Goose it is.  There!  I feel dead chuffed and highly priveleged and can live this fantasy for days.  I saw a Snow Goose today!  That’s what I say in the shop to a resounding chorus of envying OOhs and Aahs.

It makes me think.  Of how we can see things that aren’t there, and not see things that are there.  How an un-misted glass lens can show us something we think we can explain, and how a misted one can talk complete pants to our human brains.  When we ‘see’ something through our eyeballs, we bring a process into being.  First, we see, then we fix this vision into a place, and then, without any conscious decision, we pad it out with all manner of daftness, imaginings, past baggage, phobias, indoctrinated beliefs and hopes.  When I see a beggar on any street, I see someone calling for help, and I will always give something. I follow my own heart in this matter.  When another sees the same sad sight, they may feel angry, begin to judge, or see laziness, bad choices, weakness – in other words, they might look down on the beggar as less than human.  It’s called ‘perception’ and it is in every one of us, however much inner work we might embark on to learn humility and compassion.  We can’t help it.  It is part of who we all are.

When I decide, which I sadly do, now and again, that someone else is heading in the wrong direction, I say so.  And then I learn a new fact or two about them, and regret, deeply, my hasty judgement.  I work on, to soften my perceptions, or, rather, to shut them up, but they can rise unbidden, un-called for, and always at times when I am not mindfully in control of that sneaky little set of wires that run from my brain to my mouth.

One area of perception, that never fails to cause a stooshie, is that of Boundaries.  Whether it is between black and white, the Ukraine and England, England and Scotland, or the African States, there is this thing about boundaries that could curdle milk in a nanosecond, one that everyone has an opinion on, based on personal perception.  Oftentimes, I hear folk talking heatedly on a ‘boundary’ subject. It can wire up a whole shopping queue once it gains momentum, but what saddens me is that I so often hear not what any individual really thinks, but what someone else has said on tv or written in a newspaper.  When you actually consider the other human beings involved in these situations, with only theories posturing as reality, how can anyone opinionate?

My world may be laughably fantasmic to some, even to many, but if we all  (and I believe we all do) want a life of peace and neighbourly-ness, then our arms must be open, our hearts too and, one day, our countries.  Voltaire said, ‘It is sad that, if we are to be a patriot, we first have to make an enemy of the rest of mankind.’

I think a different way to you, and you, to me.  I feel differently about the whys and the hows and the whens of things, but this can either be a glorious Snow Goose pushing through the saltwater of a new tide on a new morning – or, it can be ignored as something I couldn’t quite see, through my glass, and darkly.