When the wall comes down

Other people’s words about … the view

When I was about fourteen or so, I studied a poem in school by David Campbell, called ‘On the Birth of a Son‘. It was a sonnet, and I didn’t know much about sonnets, except that Shakespeare wrote a lot of them. It never occurred to me that a contemporary poet might write one.

This sonnet by David Campbell has stayed in my mind ever since. It remains one of my favourite poems. Here it is, in its entirety:

The day the boy was born, the wall fell down
That flanks our garden. There’s an espaliered pear,
And then the wall I laboured with such care,
Such sweat and foresight, locking stone with stone,
To build. Well, it’s just a wall, but it’s my own,
I built it. Sitting in a garden chair
With flowers against the wall, it’s good to stare
Inwards. But now some freak of wind has blown
and tumbled it across the lawn — a sign
Perhaps. Indeed, when first I saw the boy,
I thought, he’s humble now, but wait a few
Years and we’ll see! — out following a line
Not of our choice at all. And then with joy
I looked beyond the stones and saw the view.

On the face of it, this poem is about becoming a parent — the fears new parents have; the limitations parenthood imposes on their lives; the unexpected, unsettling joys it rewards them with. So it might seem strange that Campbell’s words have always resonated with me, though I have chosen, deliberately, never to become a parent.

But that’s the thing about great poems: they are universal. They manage to strike a chord in different people at different times for different reasons.

For myself, every time I read this poem I am moved by the contrast the poet makes between the act of looking inward — at his safe, pretty, cosy life — and the act of looking up, out, to glimpse a view of the world, and his life, beyond.

The view beyond. Recently, I went on a camping trip to Yorke Peninsula with my partner. We returned to the same spot we always return to, driving down a long, undulating, unpaved road to get there — one that is corrugated and dotted with puddle-holes, dusty with sand stirred up by other passing vehicles, and lined with dense thickets of bush where brown snakes lie coiled, sleeping.

Each day we passed our time the way we always pass our time there. Each day we woke to the same view.

But it is a spectacular view: of open skies, of wide seas, of sprawling cliffs and rolling sand dunes. It is a view of a life beyond the life we normally lead. It is a view that sets me free.

I live a small life: small things give me pleasure. I consider myself, mostly, lucky to be able to live this way. And yet it’s good to escape from time to time: to look up and out and beyond.

And to see, again, the beautiful view.

Notes

  1. You can find a link to this poem here and here.
  2. All the photos in this post were taken at our campsite in Yorke Peninsula in February this year.

Self-transcendence

If you are ever in need of an answer or feel a little lost in this great big world, go out there and hit the trails. Leave the Garmin at home and just get out there and be. Connect with nature. Listen to the whispers of breeze in the trees or the ramblings of the nearby stream. Eventually, you will find what you are looking for and perhaps, in time, you will find yourself as well.

 

The words I’ve quoted above come from the blog So what? I run.
(Read the whole post here.)
For me, they apply whether I’m walking or running.

Because of my knee injury, it’s all about walking for me right now.
And I’m okay with that.

It’s all about the connection with the world around me:
it’s vital.
It’s healing.

And in the spirit of the quote above,
I’m posting today some photos from one of my favourite local walks.

You don’t need phones or apps or pedometers or fitbits.
You just need time to look,
to listen,
to breathe.

The quality of blue (2)

As I mentioned in my previous post,
there is something about the colour of the sea in summer.
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The quality of blue is different from other times of the year.
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It’s silky blue.
Pearly blue.
The truest kind of blue.
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Blue sky.
Blue sea.
Bluer than blue.
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A celebration of blue.

On running

Finally, after a summer of heartache followed by almost crippling depression, came the walking phase. After a hectic routine of lying under my coffee table weeping, I had reached a point where I had to get outside and see daylight. I wanted to feel the breath of warm air on my skin; I yearned to feel the blood circulate around my body again … Half-deranged by weeks of erratic sleeping — nights spent enervated and panicky followed by sluggish, heavy-limbed days — I decided in desperation that physically exhausting myself might make the nights seem a little more welcoming. I longed to yearn to lie down at the end of the day, legs aching from use rather than the anxious jiggling they did under my desk for hours on end.

from ‘Running like a girl
by Alexandra Heminsley

When I was twenty-five, I took up running to cure my own case of heartbreak. I lived by the beach (a different one then), and so I picked out my four-kilometre course, from one jetty to the next and back; and then I ran.
And the heartbreak lifted. Running brought me the simplest joy I’ve ever known, in fact — until I developed runner’s knee.
Twenty years later, I’ve started running again.
The joy’s still there …
… but so is the runner’s knee.
I won’t give up hope, though: running is the best salve I know.
Cross your fingers for me?