Tuesday, April 05, 2005

rapture in a beeswing

Dropping Julian off at the studio where he has taken the plunge into the large ocean of canvas which is to be his still life commission 'rich in autumnal fruits', I trotted off down the path of my old promenade from Crillon, through olive and cherry groves, past the church bells and scalloped roofs of Modene and St Pierre de Vassols, and back. In one of the groves I chatted to a very handsome peasant who was trimming his peace-branches on his artisanal stairway to the top of his olive tree, his barely lined face framed by a blue cap and the soft silvery branches, and illumined by the spring sun. He told me that his ancestry had made exactly the same journey; that he had never been further that the trace of my daily walk, and had no need to for he was, surely, in heaven.

On my return I felt moved to re-visit Mark Epstein's beautiful 'Going on Being'. I opened the book at a passage about rapture. In it he discusses the possibility that in Western psychoanalysis the importance of joy is overlooked as merely romantic, but how it is the foundation of Buddhist psychology and faith.

Residing in Nirvana-en-Provence, rather than Peckham (no offense Peckham, my Pa still lives there and is very enraptured by it), I often find myself face to face with the stark difference between my rusty inner rigidity and the outer beauty in which I live. Unlike those in war-ravaged countries or abusive families for whom finding some innocence within is their sole means of survival, here the challenge is not to presume I can feed off my full-of-wonder surroundings. I know that, for me at least, it is in the timelessness of an empty mind that a space for wonder can be found, yet when do I really allow myself to rest there in what our Nepalese guide called 'Empty Box'? When do I, rather than bump into everything with an armoured suit of expectation, stop and meet a bee, a painting, a sunset, or even my husband in the wondrous space between rapture and wisdom?

Today: Today I stopped by a blossom to look, and to smell; I saw the bee; I became the bee; I became full of wonder; I became enraptured.

Today is a wonder-ful day.


Blogger Jean said...

Hello Ruth. I loved everything about this (including that you like Mark Epstein - one of my favourite writers ever, I read his books over and over!).

Your conversation with the local man will linger in my mind for a long time, like the one you reported the other day, when your neighbour said "c'est vous les fleurs".

I've been meaning for ages to write something here, instead of just lurking - and even putting you on my blogroll - happily, but silently. You beat me too it.

So much of what you wrote today resonated with me. In many ways you and Julian are living my dreams, doing what I hope I might pluck up the courage for in the near future, and I love to read about that. But you also convey so beautifully that, even in a gorgeous place and pursuing your creative vocations, it's just life: normal, tedious difficult life, complicated relationships and inexplicable moods and nasty encounters as well as delightful ones.

"Here the challenge is not to presume I can feed off my full-of-wonder surroundings" - so well put.

gosh, wow, yes, I liked this a lot!

7:57 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:57 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

thank you Jean for your kind words. I adore mark epstein, and also pema chodron. do you know her? their books are friends for life!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I love the way you write. I love the things you write about. You have been blogrolled.

2:09 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

wow, zinnia, i've never been a blog god before. or any god at all for that matter! i'm chuffed, especially as i'm a bit of a fan o' yours too! (we had a sort of humanist wedding under a tree with rumi, bach and hymns accompanied by my mum on a monty python organ...) and the person who did the ceremony for us has since gone on and become a professional celebrant)thank you.

4:39 PM  

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