Surely if wind can, if rain can. But which cannot be held never be held and is no flower – Cormac McCarthy
And a river runs through it – Norman Maclean
Who made the world, asks Mary Oliver in her poem The Summer Day. It’s a simple line I return to. She changes the usual approach, about the meadows, birds, flowers she loved. It’s not a question related to a weekly book with white robes and singing, but personal and shamanic. She sings her own way, learned to do so as a child, wandering the woods and meadows.
Many years ago I read a Castaneda book and bought three more. I forgot the others because you get the idea with one. There was some fuss about the truth of it. He submitted a thesis, saying he’d met the sorcerer Don Juan and it was an anthropological study. Then, no, it was make believe and he’d fooled you. Some of it is factual referring to shamanic ideas where power is at the centre. We must hunt power, stalk power, and need allies for the task as you find with rainforest communities. There’s a film, not notable but interesting, where they take a powdery drug then experience themselves as soaring birds: The Emerald Forest and we join, on the screen, with the bird above the trees.
Nature gives us allies and poetry is a form of shamanism in itself, not too distant from spell making. I don’t read poetry all the time because my greater pleasure is with the luxurious expanse of a novel. I want a landscape not a glimpse, although The Waste Land provides that describing recent history and present malaise substantiated with myths, the River Thames, and dialogue from a pub: hurry up please it’s time.
The first film I ever saw was Bambi. “There’s Bambi!” is what I said, while standing for dramatic effect. Some years later, like a scene from Cinema Paradiso I stared, really stared, at the subdued light in a Sinbad cinema. It was his evil opponent which got me going, a magician, black head scarf and words which made things happen. If he can do it I can: light, go out! Then it was back to the silver screen, fighting the many armed enemy, in that dark and hypnotising room.
But who then made the world, with the meadows, trees, flowers, and with what intelligence or design. I’ll never be Oliver, Eliot, Shakespeare, Ishiguro or Murakami. But ask me about the end of the first chapter of Klara and the Sun: and I have things to say. It’s a luminous moment where the writer clears a space for meaning. I cried because Klara has a special power which makes her unique, singular, unrecognised but loved for it as she loves. That’s what it is, but you don’t initially realise, in the ostensibly sci-fi novel where she has no will or power over circumstances. Regarded as a disposable machine, but she’s not. Here, then she’s gone, and who made it so.
So who made the world, and the silence which underlies it, where you call and nothing happens because they’re not there. What do you do in the world but sing, in a rock place but with allies of evening meadow, summer flowers, sun.
I write like this is a magazine column. With research, references, and a lot of time. If you like it, perhaps you would support me.