We didn’t mean to go to sea, and what on Earth (or on the Ocean) do we do now? I don’t know what to do, or how to handle it, I don’t have any answers, my life is not so different to the way it was before, and I have lived through many different, and not so different situations, and my mood was similar in most of those ‘thens’ to the way it is now.
I ask myself daily what it all means. I feel unhappy, what does it mean? I feel happy, what does it mean? One minute I am happy, the next I am angry, the next I am sad, sometimes I am bored, others I am content. Occasionally I feel motivated, seldom excitement occurs. Often I am tired, there are so many feelings and some seem to relate to circumstances, other feelings appear to exist on their own.
Moods sweep over me, gloom that with a life of its own stops me in my tracks, nails me to chairs to stare for minutes or hours at the floor, at the mess, at the ocean. Like a sudden gust of gravity the mood falls into my lap and disables me.
Just as suddenly it can leave, it takes wings and flies away, like the seeds from a dandelion clock, blown by and invisible wind, maybe back from whence it came, I am left feeling lighter, I can move and do things, suddenly my heart is light, but I have no idea why, the surroundings are the same.
If I believe my moods are circumstantial I have no control, if I believe they come from within me do I have any more control? I think of the wealth of poetry and mystical writings that say things like
“You wander from room to room,
Hunting for the diamond necklace,
That is already around your neck.”
This is a Rumi quote, apparently I told it to my daughter years and years ago, and today she reminded me of it. I vaguely remember other Rumi poems that say similar things, when you stop looking for God, or happiness or whatever you want to call it, there it is in front of you.
What does that mean? Does it mean stop doing? It can’t mean stop living, or you would actually stop living. You would die. It means something else. It must mean that happiness is right here on my little boat in the middle of the dark blue ocean, it must mean that happiness is inside me.
What does Rumi know anyway? Was Rumi happy? Or was Rumi just hoping? Yes, yes all right Rumi is considered to be one of the classical poets, he was a teacher and a theologian and a Sufi mystic. Where are the Rumi’s of today? Perhaps we don’t need them as we have the Rumi of yesterday. And anyway that would still be looking outside of myself, and if I wasn’t looking outside myself I wouldn’t have found Rumi all those years ago, so surely I need to look outside of myself to know that I should look inside myself. It is all very confusing, and perhaps I am taking it all too literally, but what else can I do when I am me? I am not you, so I must look inside myself, and I am someone who hears things in a literal way. But surely if Rumi says the diamond necklace is already around my neck there is no other way to take that statement than literally? Not just because it is literature, it’s called that for a reason you know.
“Why are you so enchanted with this world when a mine of gold lies within you?”
This is also a Rumi quote, I wonder what it means, the wonder of being me. I like that idea, I am good at entertaining myself, there are plenty more stories inside me, when I look for them I find them waiting, sometimes late at night, well usually late at night, because that is when the menagerie is quiet. But also it is a strange quote, because the world is so wonderfully enchanting. “The Ocean is continuously creating” – that was Lalla, 14thC Kashmiri mystic, Lalleshwari, her verses are the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language.
But of course I have probably quoted her out of context, and gone off on a tangent, if that is even possible in this rambling meandering story.
The Earth is magnificent, the ocean is spectacular, even the sky is a majestic scene of remarkable beauty. But I am the seer, as in the person looking, (not like the Asterix seer, I’m not looking at entrails, or am I?).
Perhaps the gold is in the ability to look at what is there and not listen to the incessant chatter which would judge the scene, but the ocean is not within me, although I hear we are what, ninety percent water? How come we don’t leave wet marks wherever we go?
If there is a mine of gold (every time I go to write gold I accidentally write God, not that I’m putting any significance in that) within me I must be looking in the wrong part of within me! In any case gold is useless to me at sea, but that is not what Rumi means, I know it is a metaphor. Metaphors are beautiful artful ways of expressing things, but they are not particularly helpful to people who take things literally. God on the other hand could be useful to me at sea.
So I am looking for the metaphorical mine of gold, the mine seems to indicate that there is a lot of it, perhaps even an endless supply. What is my gold, and is it even for me? If I had a lot of gold (God/glod/godl) I would want to share it. Mining is hard work, the miners get dirty and sweaty and sometimes they die. Is this me getting too literal again? Mining takes time. When I was in Australia I went to Coober Pedy, the opal-mining centre of the world. It was very, very dusty. I didn’t do any mining, but I did stay in an underground campsite, this was the strangest campsite I ever went to , the ground was completely solid and I don’t remember how I managed to put up my tent, mostly I remember the wonderful feeling of walking down into the ground and the change in temperature from stinkingly unbearably hot to really rather lovely and cooling, and as an extra bonus there are no flies down there as they won’t go more than ten feet from the entrance.
We also went inside an underground church, it was strangely beautiful in an inside out sort of way. We walked down a long tunnel and into the church which was all a deep warm sandstone kind of colour, with lovely carvings, apparently they found a big enough opal while they were digging it out to pay for all the carvings.
In Coober Pedy there was a public noodling heap. I repeat: a public noodling heap. When the tourist information told me about this I felt somewhat nervous, my mind boggling at all the possibilities, what it actually meant was far less strange than what I imagined, or perhaps more strange, and certainly hotter.
A public noodling heap is several large piles of rocks and gravel that the miners have finished looking through, and the public are allowed to go and noodle through it, in the hope of finding opals that have evaded the miners. Only Australians would call it noodling.
It sounded very exciting to my girls and I, and we went there in the mid afternoon, having being warned to avoid midday, because of the heat, and late afternoon because of some other dreadful thing that I can’t remember and don’t have the gall to make something up. We were at the noodling heap for about half an hour, I have to say that I lost interest in searching through the giant heaps of broken up stone very quickly. Just wondering if this says something significant about me. I did however find a piece of opal that I still have, it is very small and very very beautiful. My children also found a few little pieces. Why did we leave so quickly? Think needle, haystack and scorching heat, and I don’t particularly value treasure. Don’t get me wrong, I love my gold earrings that belonged to my mother and possibly my grandmother, but the love of them is more in connection to ancestry and sentiment than the fact that they are gold and shiny and smooth and just lovely, oh ok I do like treasure a bit.
If gold is such a distraction then why use it as such an important metaphor for what lies deep within all of us? Currently worried that my short time on the noodling heap is indicative of my willingness to ‘look within’. But in my heart I know it is not.
I leave you with this poem, again by Rumi, I first discovered it more than ten years ago, and it is still uncomfortably relevant for me. Such is my life, but I do keep getting up and trying again.
Fastened to a Pole
I keep turning around this misfortune,
this troubled illusion I call myself,
when I could be turning around you,
the giver of blessings, origin and
presence. My chest is a grave you
made a rose garden. What goes in the
grave? What fits in that two-by-two
by- seven? Not soul, soul cannot be
contained by the sky! I turn around
God. I have become a mirror, yet I
turn for these few days around a piece
of white wool. If I were a rose in
this spring, I would change into
a hundred rose bushes. I turn around
this frustrated body, tethered in a barn
of words, when I could be free in the
infinite pasture. Free. Why do I keep
turning as though fastened to a pole?