28 December, VIRUS 2020
Australia’s billionaires became 50% richer during pandemic. The Guardian
I met an old man on the village green yesterday, lame and frost bitten and ruddy and white haired who told me he had had goose for dinner and ‘really thought he was the happiest old man in the world’. He looked so convinced of it and so stealthy as though happiness was not altogether respectable that I told him he was a credit to the race and upon which he shambled off to the public house, and I nearly followed. Virginia Woolf letter, 28.12.1906
Lockdown awakened our interest in nature, but it mustn’t be at the expense of wildlife. The Guardian[i]
I rush my camera outside the early light is golden, the forest is gilded.
I was listening to ‘Pigeons’ a song from Bill Callahan’s new album:
Hello, I’m Johnny Cash
Well, the pigeons ate the wedding rice
And exploded somewhere over San Antonio . . .
Then Murat Başkaya slips in with ‘Güneş Sabıkalı’, Turkish rap, wonderful and I recognise a couple of words – I travelled around in the seventies (best hitchhiking in the world then). I wanted to live in Turkey once upon a time. Now it’s a dictatorship, probably was back then. So many arrested for peaceful argument. A week ago, the ex-Cumhuriyet newspaper editor was sentenced to 27 years in jail (in absentia).
I look him up, Murat Baskaya started his DJ performance in 1997. He has been in many clubs and organizations in Turkey. He continues music play in various organizations and to make electronic music.
I look up hernia, I had one there before not uncommon in babies, The doctor wanted to operate but my mother put a penny over it and bandaged it tight, and old wives tale the Dr said, but it worked, well, for over 60 years.
Finally found the stink in the garage, an antechinus almost empty, a couple of maggots still feeding on the coat swept into the garden. With our guest having gone, I try to get down to some writing, but the garden awaits, our first frogspawn.
The breath is humid. I give up thinking of weeding, a female Bowerbird is eating the tiny seeds of the native white flowering Tibouchina and the adjacent Grey Myrtle.
I happen to look out as a bat flies silently towards me, a little higher than the, a Flying Fox alone, veering across my line of sight, across sunset, the backdrop a pale wash, the closest I can think of is the sky behind St Catherine of Sienna (by Fra Bartolommeo in Lucca), shoals of cloud a Prussian blue and topping the canopy a brushstroke of dusty yellow fading to fumes of sepia.
A frog starts a powerful barking , a Cockatoo grates faintly. I put on Sex, (The Necks’ hypnotic first release) wish I’d taken a photo of that sky. The frog punches the music from time to time, and as I write these words, the sound of my pen on the page surfaces but I don’t know how to put that noise into words.
A poem arrives in my inbox (which begins):
…Despite all this we’re traveling fast,
we’re traveling faster than light.
It’s almost next year,
it’s almost last year,
it’s almost the year before:
familiar, but we can’t swear to it . . .
Margaret Atwood, Winter Vacations, Paris Review, No 234, Fall 2020.
Also in my inbox, a marvel from Emergence, David Whyte’s ‘Blessing’ poem with filmmaker Andrew Hinton and musician and composer Owen Ó Súilleabháin, using a song recorded well over a century ago by Richard Henebry (Risteárd de Hindeberg).
‘The singer of the song on this recording is introduced as Pádraig Ó Néill. We know nothing more of him, but through his accent and style of singing you can hear that he is a farmer or a fisherman from that region.
The voices on these recordings are of a culture that lived intimately with the agriculture and aquaculture of their surroundings—a culture that was still sonically and spiritually in tune with a Celtic symphony of earth, the seas, and the seasons. These sounds are vibrations that emerged directly from those singers’ bodies, resonating out in waves through the air. . .
The song that Ó Néill sings is called ‘Cé Phort Láirge’ (Waterford Quay). It is one of many songs from the Irish tradition that sing about emigration, a mourning for something unjustly driven away.’ [ii]
I look out at the forest, the glass crying, the greens so green and I think of what Gumbaynggirr songs were sung here, what we have lost and what survives.
[i] ‘During lockdown, with life on pause and in need of solace, we [in the UK] tuned in to nature as never before. The Wildlife Trusts told me its website recorded a 2,000% increase in live webcam views. Unsurprisingly, when restrictions on travel were relaxed in mid-May, people flocked to the countryside like birds let out of a cage.’ Isabella Tree, ‘Lockdown awakened our interest in nature’, The Guardian, 28.12.2020