Wednesday, 3 April 2019

From the silent mountains

In Norway visiting family and friends! Snow sparkling in the sun. Or mist swelling up the valleys. Or hail spitting down upon the wooden chalet where we spent a weekend, and when possible drove up to the ski slopes...
Here you see Christiaan in ski gear, preparing himself a hot-dog, barb-a-q tucked into the snow behind him, and family gathered round.
I didn't even try skiing, since I have a (no one quite sure of diagnosis) badly bruised left knee which continues to be painful when walking. Fortunatley nothing broken. Time will heal, as it does everything...
Anyway, I am very happy here, imbibing wonderfully fresh air (does one imbibe air??)  and greatly enjoying the extreme quiet that pervades here in Nedre Stokka (Stavanger).
Beside and below, two scenes from the enchanted spot in Saida, north of Stavanger (about the same latitude as Bergen, but then inland).

The roofs of the chalets have turf growing on them, a form of insulation. It can be very wet and cold. Below a typical photo taken through our windscreen, driving on the way up. Yes, very wet.

But the drive back home to Stavanger, on Sunday afternoon, clocks just moved forward so an extra hour of sunlight, was sheer beauty. Along winding narrow roads, bordered by sheer deeply-cracked rock faces which often gleamed wet in the sunlight, resembling freshly-cut coal, or beside the still waters of an endless fjord.

During the day, here at home in Nedre Stokka, Stavanger, silence prevails. I shake off the problems of Brexit and property developers in Amsterdam, concerned with making as much profit as possible. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world? And lose his soul. Is how the verse continues. But Shakespeare understood the seduced human heart, and in his final play, The Tempest, one of the "baddies" speaks the memorable words: My soul? That is a deity I think not on. So there you go. But as you know, I do think on it! Back to the Metaphysical poets. Or, here's a poem I wrote in 2011, in beautiful Tuscany, central Italy

Returning to Italy, summer 2011

1. This is like coming home:
harvesting the good memories
of sunlight filtered through green leaves
of sweet silence after rich conversation
of the kindly night, warm and soft
through which the crickets send their scratchy song
under the pale half-moon.

2. To paint an Italian landscape

High high on a Tuscan hilltop
before me the intricate landscape
spreads to the mauve horizon
midday stillness
the small lizards scuttle into private cracks
between hot bricks.
From an unlocated source,
softly into the full stone tank
the unimportant water falls and falls.
Birds are silent.
Silver-grey of the olive groves
bright green of the fig trees, dark green of the pointed cypresses,
and the distant vineyards thin hairs of purple-green
combed out across the slopes
curving above Poggibonsi, Cinciano, Val d’Elsa.
Square campanile, like fingers of remembrance,
mark every distant peak.
Receding into purple haze, range upon range of hills
each fainter than the former.
Such sturdy quietness, such golden radiance.

Everywhere the white dust penetrates
gently blowing, impertinently present
a dry powdering upon the greens and golds,
muting the sunflowers and the terracotta roofs,
a reminder…

3. To paint the memory

Words surge unfailing, process across my stage,
bow, turn cartwheels, grimace, giggle,
begging to be selected, in order to survive.
Some of them old, wobbly, raggèd and patched and worn:
will have to be dismissed.
But the old may be polished stones
can be fitted into new patterns
re-arranged and threaded into surprising forms.
Fallibility fades, reassurance remains.
Voices of those I love
the words forever remembered
on and on and on into the silence

Greetings from the Norwegian woods.