Sunday, June 25, 2006

What's in a word?

What’s in a word?

This is a simple playing with words.  I enjoy such a game because it is a gentle pursuit, one I can do undisturbed.  It is tantamount to a meditation really, done slowly and freely and with awareness.  Writing is a special gift that so often surprises, as I never really know what I’m going to end up writing.  I love the effort of making words behave upon the page.   I sit and relax after a long day at work and watch, ready to be surprised at what will turn up.  Joyce called it “stream of consciousness.”  I call it playing with the imagination, letting it roam where it will, not having it strain at the leash.  Allow the imagination or fancy to flee like a dog just unleashed.  Let it roll in the grass, run free as the wind, bark till it gets hoarse, come back to its owner looking for attention.  This is where everything becomes exciting as something new is created, as images jump into the mind, and out of it just as quickly.  I love letting words tumble off my tongue like young boys diving into the harbour off the pier, going down to the depths and then re-emerging to breathe anew and thread water, and then to look at the coastline with different eyes.  This is my diving down.  This is my plumbing of the depths.  This is my encountering my demons.  This is my journey into the self and into awareness.  This is my attempt to listen to the music of the soul and be bewitched and enchanted.  And what a music that is.  It is one of depth and height.  It is one associated with the high cliffs and the deep seas of the Unconscious.  It is a mystical music, a haunting music, one that makes the hairs stand up on my neck; one that makes a shiver run down my spine.  It’s like falling in love raised to the nth degree.  It is walking on holy ground and you have to take off both your socks and shoes to feel the very sinews of the earth.  This is a pilgrimage into the darker caverns of the self; a journey into the labyrinths of self-knowledge.  It is a journey I can only choose to ignore at my peril.

“Go west, young man.” This was the call to the old American pioneers to set out to find their fortune in a new Promised Land of the virgin continent of North America.  And the westward journey into the setting sun was for many a deadly and death-filled journey.  Whatever about the Old West, the west coast of Ireland is a bleak and beautiful coastline comprising the sheer fall to sea of the Cliffs of Moher and the beauty of Clew Bay with its many, many islands.  The very music of the people seems to inhabit those cliffs, that sea and those islands.  I can hear the haunting pipe music of “ceol na bpúcaí” rising into the evening sky over Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry.  I can hear the strains of “Trasna na dTonnta” dancing on the waves and breaking in on the strands of Connemara, and the cadences of “Tonnaí Thoraí” calling from the North West of Donegal.

These are the sounds that words conjure up - sounds from the very landscape, the seascape, the mountainscape of my mind.  This is surely what Gerard Manley Hopkins meant by inscape.  Then, of course, there is escape.  Escape from all the problems or would-be problems that surround me in this world where we brush off each other and hope to help make it a better place for all of us to live.  And why write?  Why have this urge to set down these fleeting thoughts?  Why climb a mountain?  Why swim in the sea?  Why conquer the North and South Poles?  Why set foot on the moon?  Why travel into space?  Why?  For the simple reason that they are all there.  They are simply there.  I am there.  My thoughts are there.  Some day they won’t.  Someday I won’t either, but that will make no difference to anyone, not even to me.  Until then I will write these words lovely and lithe and slippery upon this page.  They are a witness to my existence - little ant on this giant anthill we call earth.

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