If you are four, and you have a Fairy Odd-Mother who lives near a pond in a wood where there is a huge ladder which reaches the sky, then you might like climbing the ladder with her, and sitting at the top, above the birds, eating a miniature picnic, and shouting "YES!" at the sky, in as many different voices as you can think of. (And then, maybe even more fun, shouting "poo and bums and big loud farts".) And if you are a Fairy Odd-Mother then you might feel honoured to be present at a four-year-old's act of creation. She floats an oak-leaf boat in a puddle, and on the shores of the puddle she names the world by season... here on this puddleside it is "Christmas," further on it is spring, there summer, and so on. We walked home, through a lane full of mud, mud, glorious mud... but we are not hippopotamuses, alas.
At home, my house-mate Penny has been creating a miniature waterfall at the end of the garden, making a virtue of necessity, as it has been raining for months, and the ground is waterlogged. He falls asleep in the wheelbarrow, and wakes up to develop a luminous theory of the co-evolution of the psyche between animals and humans. It reminds me of the wisdom which indigenous people know; that humans need to remember their communication with animals. Penny has made himself of this earth by tending this land for forty years; he finds his wisdom in the soil and gives it a home in his mind and in his beautiful poetry; words of love, words of anger against the destructions of modernity. The man is a mountain.
My other housemate Freddie is tinkering with his sculpture made from found wood; a tightrope walker falling. Part Nietzsche, part Icarus, part the wounded psyche of the mad, it is a work touched with genius. A friend of Freddie's is depressed and needs Freddie to help him to hospital; I mention Gary Snyder's line about how spooky and authoritarian are the uniforms of doctors and nurses; what should they wear? Masks and feathers, is Snyder's response. And, yes, of course they should. The shaman-healer, the transformer, the traveller in the world of birds. "Not angels," adds Freddie. Heaven-born they are opposed to the beautiful, ordinary world of earth.
I am trying to fix a date with a friend of mine, a Salish woman from Montana, for us to go to Scotland to visit land which one of her ancestors came from. I spent a week on her reservation recently, learning, learning, learning. One of the elders said that when they were young, they were told: "When you talk, talk from the place where the sun rises." Who learns anything so beautiful at school? And she took me to a hilarious Coyote Storytelling Sleepover, with puppets and stories and small boys and mischief. This morning, Lewis Hyde's book The Trickster arrives in the post, and I am delighted. His book The Gift is one of my favourite books of all time. And I have that familiar feeling of having to add it to the stack of thirty books I want to read but haven't had time for yet.
A friend of mine sends me an email from Bhutan, saying that he and his partner have just had a wee baby boy, something to add to the Gross National Happiness, for which the country has become famous.
I'll wrap up now, and go into the muddy garden and sloop out weeds. The only good thing about your garden becoming a quag is that the weeds pull up really easily.
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Jay Griffiths is the author of WILD: An Elemental Journey ? Tarcher 2007.