“As you can probably hear, there’s leaves on the ground as I’m walking through the woods of the North Downs. I’ve just stopped at a crossroads in the path and spooked a deer. You may be able to hear the hum of the M25 London orbital motorway in the background, just over the ridge it’s much louder. We’re about thirty-five minutes by train from London Bridge or Victoria, from where we are.
The magpies were making quite a lot of chatter and now that I’ve stopped walking, they’ve stopped. I can see a few in the tree, they seem quite content to hold each other in awareness, perhaps curiosity. There’s something about ageing and relationship with birds, not sure what but I hear it mentioned from time to time. They seem more important somehow, more prominent in our awareness. It’s certainly true of me. There’s something about being held in regard by a bird, knowing or sensing that we’re really seen, that it sees something more than what we’re just choosing to show of ourselves. Could be a lot of projection on my part in that, but they do have some access to ultraviolet wavelengths in their visual field.
I was thinking on relationship as a whole, relationship to nature seems so easy and natural when we’re kids, perhaps because we’re somehow aware that we are of it, we are from it, and then as the sophistications of education are forced on us and the compliance with the narratives of how we’re supposed to live, what we’re supposed to do to function within a system become more dominant in our experience that relationship with nature fades, as does the relationship with our own inner wild and wilderness.
We are brought back into relationship with our primal selves during big emotional upheavals and will often work to suppress the uprising. What are we risking if we practice letting go of this control, and what are we risking if we continue to suppress? Can we find a way back to identifying with our being and not just our thinking? If so, it would facilitate a reunion and a discovery - an integration of mind and body, and of our inner and outer wild.
The crows becoming a bit vocal again. I wanted to share something I wrote a while back about my first encounter with really being aware of relationship dynamic, what’s required to be accepted, and also my relationship with the inexplicable and the opening that that created, that has stayed with me…”
It must have been a Saturday afternoon, as Saturday morning TV kept kids off the streets. I would have been wearing a multi-coloured tank top my Gran knitted hoping to replicate something I’d seen on Top of the Pops. The sun would be in its default position for the Midlands of England, namely behind cloud. Windowless factories sat in a corner of Mount Street, the smell of machine oil thickening the air in the narrow alleyways that ran between the workshops. Those warrens, various car parks, and a few abandoned houses awaiting demolition were the playgrounds of the day.
Some kids had gathered around a dead Blackbird. There was, as there always seemed to be, just enough space for me to join in without compromising the natural shape and balance of the group. That effortless joining has something to do with the fragile relationship between basic hygiene, knowing a few good jokes, and being ok at football. Falling short in meeting any one of these criteria meant the real possibility of becoming an outcast. There was always at least one kid with baked bean sauce at the corner of his mouth, a strangely consistent phenomenon, and that careless smudge amounted to riding a fine line between acceptance and exile.
We all stood in a circle peering down into the shadow-well our huddle had created, the Blackbird motionless on its back, legs in the air, beak slightly parted, a sliver of shiny eye visible between lids. Maybe it was still alive. I followed an impulse to place my foot onto its chest and very gently press down, a risky move that created a nervousness within the group. Compression on tiny lungs forced its last intake of air back out into the world, and a short burst of trapped birdsong escaped—an arpeggiation of the secret chord. Everyone scattered. I stood startled still, the sound frosting along the high redbrick walls and chiming upwards. The song of a dead bird, I know it by heart, I’ll sing it for you when we meet.
Music by Harry Sever
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"What are we risking if we practice letting go of this control, "
For me it feels perilous. As if going back to my inner wild would feel so freeing that I would not return. I like to connect with nature, but sometimes I get lost in it. When I'm feeling intense emotions and I am immersed in nature, lying on my back, listening to the songs of birds and looking up at the blue sky with a gentle breeze on my skin, I feel taken to the edge. And I just want to leap!
But what if I can't come back? What if I can't return to society's normative?
This is where it feels frightening to me of letting go of the control.
Thanks for this wonderful piece of writing... Just some thoughts that came up as I read this..
I really liked this. I didn't expect the ending of course.. but now reflecting on it.. it makes a lot of sense - vantage point of birds (and the reverse for the blackbird), the connection with nature as kids (and why an adult will probably never know this song), the everlasting imprint of this song on our beings
To me, helpless at it may feel to be the blackbird, it represents the waiting for a release many of us do in our lives. The tiny lungs holding on to the tiny breath and on to tiny lives we live.. But when we let go, we join the unimaginable vastness of the Universe where life and death, light and darkness, matter and energy, all unite into a singularity. This is symbolic of course.. but I see the fear of holding back from that release in everyday moments of our lives (shall I quit this job when I don't have the next one lined up? Shall I end this relationship and will I feel lonelier? ...). The truth is that in letting go and that birdsong lies the portal to the other world which we cannot see from here..
Are we ready to exhale that tiny breath?