The idea for this blogpost came to me during meditation, a short while ago. I am the world’s crummiest meditator. The minute I hit the cushion and close my eyes, my mind takes that as a signal to go apeshit and I spend the next eleven minutes and eleven seconds (don’t ask – that’s just how it works out, timewise) watching my thoughts jump around like flees on a squirrel. Which I know about because once upon a time, when my son was still little and we shared our house with seven cats, we had a garden backing a forest, with a wooden fence separating our garden’s trees from those of the forest. The many, many squirrels that lived in the forest had, of course, no concept of fences, and they’d descend on our trees in great numbers, making their chittery squirrely sounds, which would cause the cats to leap from whatever shelf / chair / human they’d been resting on: Squirrel Hunt! Sadly, they were good at it. In the aftermath, there was I, picking mangled little bodies in various stages of disrepair off the lawn, wrapping them in our ever-decreasing supply of towels, and taking them to the local veterinary surgery. I can still see the vet peering at me across the top of his glasses: “Squirrels?” “Afraid so.” “OK, just put them there” – pointing to the table – “I’ll take care of it.” He’s the one who told me to forget about the towels because they’d be hopping with squirrel fleas, demonstrating by lifting the towel off of one unfortunate little shape, and sure enough, black specks pinging everywhere. No, thanks!
Where was I? Oh yes – multitudes. I woke up with this song on my mind, the signature tune of a German singer-songwriter whose songs were important to me during my teenage and early adult years, one of his records was in the suitcase I took with me when I immigrated to England. I moved countries with just one suitcase filled with books and other essentials and one duffle bag with clothes, to give you an idea of the importance that record had for me. I still have it, only now it’s part of my history, one of the multitude of layers that make up my life. Any life. Everything means something, everything interlinks with everything else. We take it all for granted, as well we should because otherwise, we’d spend every moment standing in awe, mouth hanging open. The desk I’m sitting at – we found it in an old factory building in Croydon/Surrey decades ago, the previous occupants had just left it there. My son’s dad brought it home, cleaned it up, and it’s been in use ever since. Mr W. has restored it close to its former glory and I’m currently holding it for my granddaughter, pending a trek with a van across the Channel. I’m sitting on the piano stool my mum used as her desk chair, complete with the small Gabbeh carpet that perfectly covers the by now shabby upholstery. I could follow the track of the desk down the decades and go to all the layers that made up my life back then and take any of the gazillion side-tracks that open up along the way. Or I could follow the path of Mum’s piano chair, an endless line of memories and thoughts and images leading to lives within lives, childhood and siblings and ancestors, and all the people that were around when we grew up. Now that I’ve activated this way of seeing, everywhere I look is another story, another layer, another part of the multitude that makes up my life, here and now. The painting above my desk that I wrestled away from Mr W. who still sees it as unfinished, but I love that it has all kinds of potential. It’s a seascape and the clouds are moving in – they might or might not end up releasing lots of rain, or they might move across and leave sunshine in their wake. The trees might bend in a strong wind or their leaves might just rustle gently in a soft breeze. When things are unfinished, everything is possible.
I have no idea where this is going. I’m just sat here letting my thoughts meander, looking at the pottery jar that holds my collection of feathers, symbol of my shamanic heritage, and Shantideva’s Bodhisattva prayer, symbol of my Buddhist heritage, and my son’s mother’s-day card, the desk lamp Mr W. made, the bright yellow beaker my middle sister gave me that holds all my pens, the photo of my beloved ‘borderline collie’ Henry whose non-physical presence is still so strong at times. The feeling of the endless multitude of everything that makes up a life is overwhelming to me, and also comforting. I’m bound into all of this, interwoven, another layer of all-that-is. And I am grateful.
OK – enough already! Time for another cup of coffee. In the sheep-mug that my little sister gave me years ago, one of those ‘I saw this and thought of you’ occasions… Here’s wishing you all a wonderful day. And maybe a glimpse, an awareness of the multitude of everything, and how we are part of it all, and how unimaginably magical life is…