Cosmology — fragments

say the world is filled
mainly with emptiness

gaps
between trees

space
between stars and planets
atoms and particles

tiny fragments
of presence
surrounded by absence

sounds break up silence
into song, measured and measurable
ordered on mathematical principles
numbered and arranged
in defiance of zero
of nothing
of space

vain desire that there be
something rather than nothing

lonely beauty of a dying star
on the remote edge
of a galaxy
a billion light years away
spinning and whirling
on the edge of annihilation
dancing and singing
its brief being
into the void

is it just a habit of mind
this conflict between something and nothing?
Manichaean tendency to believe
that everything requires an opposite?
polarizing instinct to divide
rather than blend?

say
we are atoms thrown defiantly together
we are particles cast out from stars
we are energy
time and motion

and when our time is done
cast off again
thrown together again
reused and recycled

old notes for new songs
new arrangements of old harmonies

in the end there is silence

that music had a dying fall
but does nothing follow?

the musicians put away their instruments
the audience departs, the hall is empty

say there will be other songs, other performances
other musicians and audiences

say each performance will be something new
or a remembrance of something that never was
and never will be again

maybe it’s a failure of imagination
that I don’t believe

in angels or gods, or
feel a connection to something beyond

that I don’t fill emptiness with purpose
suppose that planets have plans for me
or that they rest on spheres moved by celestial harmonies

that the inert remembers
the briefly living, that there is justice
more satisfying than dissolution

although I sometimes hope for a thread of memory
stitched into a corner of the fabric of time

I do not know how things begin
or end, or even if

or say
beginning and end are one and the same
seen from different angles

a lone whale sings her grief
to an almost empty ocean

in the middle of Ireland
stones still hold the shape
of an old church
carved and carefully stacked
into walls defying entropy
which has already claimed the roof
ruined the choir
where now even birds are not singing

other stones remember
lives no one recalls
history does not remark

only a fugitive cow grazes in the long grass
honeybees stir the pestles of wildflowers in the shade of a stone wall

and I have stopped to capture a moment in a photograph

how much longer will these stones cling to each other?
to the idea of order that placed them here?
how long can names and dates resist the wind and rain?

one year and eight hours away
I sat on the bench near my father’s stone
having cleared away the encroaching grass
and dirt that filled in the letters
of his name

and I spoke to him as if he were alive
spoke in a way I never did
while he was alive

I spoke as if he could hear me
as if it were a prayer

the wind stirred the leaves in the trees
and brought the rainclouds closer

somewhere a bird sang
a melody I couldn’t follow
and a hare stopped briefly
to consider my presence
then carried on with his day

 

© Mark Milner, Burnaby, BC, July 2019

Backing and forthing

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog. Being busy isn’t really much of an excuse. It’s not like there haven’t been hours wasted each day that I could have spent doing something productive. If this is, in fact, productive. For the most part, I think of it was talking to myself on (virtual) paper – a way of sorting through the flotsam of my mind, and trying to make some sense of it all. It’s been a strange few months.

A good friend of mine, who I’ve known for more than 30 years, has moved more than 7,000 km further away than he was previously – from Calgary to St. Petersburg, Russia. While I’m excited for him, and support his decision to leap into the unknown, what I feel mainly is loss.

In the past 25 years, since I moved back to the west coast, we’ve really only seen each other two or three times a year, at most, and rarely spoken on the phone more frequently than that. And yet, I’ve always felt a closeness, like kinship, to Scott. He was the best man at my wedding. He’s always been there when I needed him, and I’ve tried to do the same for him.

That he’s no longer an 80 minute flight, or 11 hour drive, away feels strange. To visit him now will not be as simple as booking holiday time and a flight. It will require planning. I’ll need to get a visa, for example, and won’t really be able to book anything until I have one. None of this is insurmountable, of course, and I can’t help feeling I’m being entirely selfish in focusing on this as a problem rather than an opportunity.

And yet, it still feels like loss. Scott was the first of my close friends to ride a motorcycle, and one of the last, too. Most others had given up already. My first long road trip on a bike was with Scott. We rode down the west coast and into the desert. We rode through eight western U.S. states and two provinces in twelve days. By the end of it, motorcycling had become part of my identity.

I’ve done two long trips since then, and numerous shorter rides. One trip, with another friend, who later gave up riding after a crash, expanded on that first adventure. Twelve states in 21 days. And then last year, I rode solo around Ireland and the UK for three weeks.

Since that last trip, though, I’ve barely ridden at all. A handful of short rides last summer and early fall. Nothing really since then. In part, it’s likely to do with not having many people nearby to go out riding with. But mainly, I just haven’t been motivated to do it. Riding in traffic has become a drag, and there just aren’t that many good routes nearby that I haven’t already done, in many cases multiple times. There’s certainly nothing on the level of the roads in Ireland and Scotland. And so, with all that, I’ve put my bike up for sale.

This, too, feels a little bit like loss, although it was entirely my own decision. Seeing my bike in the garage every day, and not really feeling the urge to ride it, was beginning to bother me. Keeping it insured and maintained, but not riding it, seemed like a waste. It’s a great bike. It deserves to be ridden.

I think, more than the annoyances of traffic and the declining number of fellow riders in my circle, my identity began changing last year. I started to think of myself more in terms of playing music than in terms of riding motorcycles.

I’m not very good (yet) at playing music, but I’ve improved quite a bit over the past year. I’ve now got a collection of five instruments – two bass guitars, an electric guitar, an acoustic, and a keyboard synthesizer. Where my YouTube stream used to be filled with motorcycle videos, it’s now full of music-related things.

Are my motorcycling days done forever? I don’t know. It’s entirely possible that I’ll want to do more long trips in the future. Or that a period away from it will reignite the passion I used to feel. We’ll see. For now, though, I’m indulging other interests.

And of course, Adele and I are preparing for our pilgrimage. Dates in calendar are often closer than they appear. We’re just over two months from flying off to Portugal, and then walking to Spain. If I weren’t me, I’d be jealous.

I expect a lot will happen between now and then. Locally, Bard on the Beach has begun it’s 2019 season. We’ve seen Taming of the Shrew (which was brilliant!) and have two more plays coming up this month, and one in August. We’ve also recently seen the Claypool Lennon Delirium – one of the best rock shows I’ve experienced – and have tickets coming up for The Raconteurs, ZZ Top and Iron Maiden (although Adele has already said I should find someone else for that one). Add to that the walking we need to keep doing, the songs I want to learn, the books to read… And… and… and….

Well, this has been a bit of a pointless ramble. My apologies if I’ve wasted your time. But it was your decision, as much as mine, to keep going. If you expected there to be a point to all this, whose fault was that? But I’ll tell you what: I’ll try to do better next time.