At 5.15am on this day the Lord has made, Marie Howe’s name tops my inbox. She’s a poet, a completely unfamiliar name.
Below hers is Bobby’s. He’s my vaccinated bosom pal with whom I take my fo’daymorning walks.
‘M2 was a secondary contact,’ his brief email says, ‘and now I think I may have Covid; I certainly have the symptoms.
‘So you’re on your own tomorrow, bro. I’ll be in isolation, watching spaghetti westerns all day.’
Before opening the Poem-a-Day email, all I could see of Howe’s ‘My Dead Friends’ is a line and a bit:
My friends are dead who were/the arches…
I shudder. For a brief second, Blaxx crosses my mind. We knew it was coming. We knew he was going. And yet…
‘…the pillars of my life,’ the poem continued, ‘the structural relief when/the world gave none.
‘My friends who knew me as I knew them/their bodies folded into the ground or burnt to ash./If I got on my knees/might I lift my life as a turtle carries her home?
‘Who if I cried out would hear me?/My friends—with whom I might have spoken of this—are gone.’
What do I say to Bobby? Forward the poem? Nah. Inopportune. In more than one sense.
I am on my own this muggy morning but I must not miss the 5.15am departure time. I’ll miss out. No question.
It is not in my nature to worry. But left alone to climb Lillian Heights and contemplate alone the beauty of Mother Nature, to seek solace in her bosom, I am uncomfortable, troubled.
Alone on the road, I am assailed by myriad thoughts…
Nature is an artist, not an artiste; she is the antithesis of arbitrary, regular, programmed and punctual. For her, vy-kee-vy is not an option.
On any given day, not in the mood to climb up the Heights, I can choose to postpone or cancel exercise. Stay a-bed instead of ascending to the high ground to behold Apollo’s splendid emergence.
But the sun will still rise at the appointed time today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. Like clockwork. Ask the garrulous Seigonie Mohammed. Or the dapper Kalain Hosein.
And with the sunrise will come the celestial mural.
Colour-blind or not, you see the beauty in the diverse hues, the artistry in the myriad shapes of the multi-hued clouds. The towering cumulonimbus connote comfort, conjuring up images of pillows and cotton balls and blankets that cuddle and caress,
And in the high-flying cirrus, you see egrets and scarlet ibises and sundry other graceful avians.
In eight frames of Peanuts, my favourite comic strip, the possibilities inherent in clouds are splendidly captured But not unusually, creator Charles Schulz turns the story inside out, forces us all to look at ourselves as well.
Frame One: Lying on their backs on a grassy mound, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Schroeder stare silently up at the cloud-filled sky.
Frame Two: “What do you see in the clouds, Lucy?” Linus asks.
She responds with a lecturette on the stoning of St Paul.
In Four, asked to respond, Schroeder predictably brings Beethoven into focus.
In Frame Six, Linus puts his question to Charlie Brown. No answer.
Silent contemplation fills the penultimate frame. They all remain mum, But you can almost hear the cogs turning inside Charlie Brown’s head.
With the final frame, Schulz enjoins us to soar no more, brings us all back down to earth with a thud.
“I was going to say,” he ‘makes Charlie Brown mouth, “I see a ducky and a horsey but…”
Nature does not discriminate; there is room for us all. Between the sublime and the ridiculous, the possibilities are infinite.
On the lookout now.
Damn! Dry season but there’s very heavy weather around in the East this morning.
With this palette, even Mother Nature can’t do much. Multiple shades of grey. Just the slightest hint of blue.
What does the classic line say? ‘No, not light but darkness bright.’ Dante? Milton?
What a disappointment!
Back home, I ignore the hundreds of leaves waiting beneath my mango trees. Ignore the droppings left for me by my dogs since the previous evening. Ignore the many plants Madame insists must be watered in the dry season ‘before you go on that addictive computer’.
Disobeying, I go directly there.
My email is brief. Under 100 words.
Thank God you got the jab. But so did Blaxx.
I walked all alone this morning but Dylan Thomas was in my head. So I did not come up with these words on my own.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Take very good care, my friend.’
I tagged it: ‘Why we walk…’