Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Of maelstroms, tides and harvests

Here in the UK, volcanic ash once again disrupts air travel as the Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland erupts for the first time since 2004. The notion of an ash cloud slowly billowing across the planet at an invisibly high altitude wreaking havoc on air travel so far below and so far away is quite surreal; poetic almost. One does not wish to make light of natural disasters - of floods, tsunamis, landslides or tornadoes. Nor would volcanic eruptions seem poetic in Iceland now. But from a distance or from the perspective given from an arm chair in a safe, dry, sunny place far away, the workings of nature are breathtaking. Like the best music, art, or literature.

Perhaps it's the metaphor that resonates most with me. Words describing nature at work best describe states of mind, emotional and interpersonal interactions; best conjure the image of what we mean or feel.

Floods of tears
Depths of despair
Heights of emotion

We stand on precipices and brinks, fall into abysses and jump off cliffs, we scale pinnacles, weather storms, overcome maelstroms, fight the tide, go with the flow, paddle upstream, tread water, have the wind at our back - all without leaving our offices or homes.

Some days seem like uphill battles. Or the quiet before the storm. Some days we feel as if we are caught in a rip and no one can hear our cries for help over the sound of the waves pounding on the shores of our lives.

And some days there is a life preserver right there if only we could see it through the salt and sand, the spray and even the volcanic ash in our eyes. On those days we feel our way to safe harbours, trust our instincts and somehow know where we can turn for the buoys we seek.

And on those days, despite the exhaustion and the heartache, when we sense or find the solace we need, the relief and the gratitude that follows is so deep, so palpable, so real, that it makes so much that we concern ourselves with seem small and trivial.

By and large, in its simplest terms, the road we hoe is essentially a solitary one. We surround ourselves with others, with noise and distraction, clutter, stuff, experiences. But basically, we're all just hoeing a bit of dirt, more or less alone. Sure, we're all out there seemingly together, tending our crops in one way or another, hopefully reaping what we have sown, or not, in some cases. Some of us have our noses down, some have our ear to the ground to hear what is coming. For some it is the zephyr that will herald the news we seek. For others the clouds. For we are all tending different crops. For some it's wheat, potatoes or rice - nourishment for many, for others sweet fruit and pretty flowers will bring joy and beauty. Still others will give their life to rare cacti or allow noxious weeds to take over their patch. And others will cultivate great forests and provide shelter and protection. And some will seem to reap it all.

And yet others will throw down their tools and wander off to some other man's field to steal some manure perhaps, to break a shovel or perhaps to help out after a drought.

There may be tough times out in those fields, but ultimately if we know what we are sowing, can the harvest be a surprise?


The youngest Off-Spring once said  - "Some days (walking) feels like just pushing the world back."

At three, he was describing a physical sensation (I hope).

But his simple metaphor was profound and memorable, for some days that is exactly how it feels.

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