Riches & Palimpsests

September London, bright days of sunshine,  the scent of autumn on the air, leaves turning to reds and golds, a chill on morning air, it’s a time of richness, of preciousness and here I am in Brexit Britain.

Having not experienced a real winter in three years I wondered how I would find London & Autumn. I have had one long summer ( with the aid of a few airplane tickets and seven countries ) In my  summer I’ve travelled thousands of miles, ticked off a lot of things on my bucket list and met a lot of lovely people.  So what now? London, the place I thought of as home, old haunts, familiar faces and places, streets & cafes, what am I doing, where am I heading. Wtf do you do exactly, after horse riding at dawn in the Sinai, or diving in the Red Sea & the Aegean, or walking up Vesuivius, seeing ancient temples in Egypt,India,Sri Lanka, crossing the Pyrenees, walking in the foothills of the Himalayas, swimming in the Nile & the Ganges & the Tiber, chasing Asiatic Tigers, Sri Lankan Elephants what exactly do you do then?

Well I am having some body modification, my feet to be exact, some time maybe five years ago I began to develop rheumatoid arthritis, a funny old disease if there ever was one, its an auto-immune disease in which your own body attacks itself, the joints to be specific. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I now realise that this was a harbinger, my body telling me that things were not going well, change was needed, it took me a long while and a few other messages from other sources, but eventually I did get the message, Martin you need to change a lot of stuff in your life. Right now it’s some surgical stuff, to patch over my toe joints, which are as one might say clinically a bit fucked.

The word palimpsest creeps in to my thoughts (the term for  a writing tablet used in ancient times) , made of wax or papyrus, on its surface is writing, under this writing can sometimes be found the traces of earlier script which was then washed or scraped away, for the whole to be re-used and re-written, often the imprint or at least some of the earlier texts remains.  I wonder at how many of us  are just like those palimpsests, rewriting our scripts, creating new texts, overlaying old with new & with it I wonder how much of the old writing remains, out of sight but still imprinted.

Autumn is a season of change, in the next few days the Harvest Moon will be at it’s height and then on the closest Sunday christians will mark the Harvest Festival, a celebration of the crops being brought in, the fruits of the earth gathered. Now of course Christians have been very good at nicking from everyone else,  Harvest Celebrations date back to Ancient Britain, you can also find them today in what was once Persia, with origins in Zorastrianism, far predating christianity or Islam, in Bali with Hindu rice festivals, all have a shared commonality, a celebration of the richness of the earth harvested for man, and an element thanking one deity or another for the bounty. Now decades ago when I was a choirboy I remember Harvest Festivals, there I would be in the choir stalls and beneath in the congregation people would place fruits and vegetables grown in gardens & vegetable patches, tins of food, piles of the stuff on tables that would groan under the weight. Me and my choir mates on cue  would warble away ( rather angelically ) about Harvests being gathered and how thankful everyone should be. I didn’t really get it, the harvest concept, it always seemed to be a lot of fuss piling up food, only to move it on later, but the tunes were quite good and I liked singing. Now with the approach of the harvest moon I have to say that this time of year is filled with a great richness and I am beginning to understand what that means.

Richness isn’t for me what you do or where you live, or the car you drive, or how much money you have in the bank. Richness comes in many forms, you can count it in the nights that you laid down on your back and looked up at the stars scattered across the heavens and felt a sense of wonder, or in the people that you met in your life that moved you, the places you found where the same thing happened, as much as anything richness is an understanding, it comes from experiencing the light and the dark, the things we call good and those we describe as bad, ultimately , we cannot comprehend one without having touched the other. Great richness is to be found in living, we are here for a remarkably short time and in that time every moment we spend with eyes and hearts & minds open brings rich fruit.

Autumn is a period of change, we can think of it in a sad kind of way as an end to warm days and the beginning of winter, or we can think of this time as being full of richness, and a passage onto the next part of the cycle. I intend having an Autumn full of richness, a golden September & October. Between you and me I intend to skip winter, maybe just one more time and head somewhere warm, but then as I am rich I can do that.

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