From the first floor window of my flat I can see the backs of some houses and scaffolding erected on one of them. The scaffolders have left 3 or 4 poles standing tall and free above the building. It looks a little like the rigging of a ship. and this is appropriate, because I happen to know that building is, or used to be a pub called ‘The Flying Dutchman‘. You probably know that ‘The Flying Dutchman’ is a kind of mythological or ghost ship, or at least, we think that’s what it might be, and errm, we’d better check. Still, what interests me this morning about those protruding scaffolding poles is that every now and then a Black Crow comes and sits on one. It doesn’t stay for long and its probably not always the same crow, but whenever it comes and sits there it seems to complete a picture, to mean something to me that I can’t really explain.
In the end, I suspect that most of our lives are like that incomplete or momentarily completed picture which either way we can’t really explain. It’s no great loss, because, once you’ve acknowledged something as impossible – like living forever for example – you can and you have to just live with it. Having done so, you come to question the peculiar human desire to have and be things that we cannot have and be. Where does that come from, you wonder, and then dismiss that question too as yet another that you cannot answer and which you don’t have the time or inclination to dwell upon.
So, in the end, that crow might have taught me a lot despite being, in a way, incomprehensible. And would it make any difference to me if it were a Green Parakeet and not a Black Crow? Possibly, yes, as then maybe the symbolism would change. A black bird does have a deep rooted power in my ancient library of symbols, handed down through tens of thousands of years by my ancestors and their own questions and fears and meditations.
Perhaps I am that Black Crow, that singularity, that enigma, that momentary image.
I could end there, but no, I’ll write a little more. The sky is brightening now and the underbelly of the lavender clouds are faintly tinted pink. Most of this week has been occupied with the mammoth task of considering moving house and home, and of actually beginning to move house and home. I’m sure last time I did this, 10 years ago, it was far simpler. Now the task seems Herculean, but then, I’ve always considered myself a bit of a hero I guess. I am not one of those trendy ‘de-cluttering’ types, rather I am an unapologetic hoarder who keeps every single thing that I think is valuable – which usually means in any way unique or idiosyncratic, anything actually made by a hand and an eye and a mind, that might have surprised and pleased the person who made it. That covers a lot of objects here. On the other hand I don’t own any furniture: no chairs, rugs, sofas, tables, TVs, beds, wardrobes etc. So mostly, what I am moving from one home to the next is books, books, books, records, CDs, and archives of drawings, photographs, sound recordings, and memorabilia of events and exhibitions I’ve been involved with, and teaching experiences, plus a few tools e.g. computers, scanners, pots and pans, cameras and musical instruments, plus some artworks – embalmed, scrolled or framed, and oh yes, some clothes as well.
The last time I moved house I don’t recall having to pick up and consider every single object in my home and in my life, to turn it over and consider whether I should take it, give it away or dump it. That seems an extraordinary thing to have to do but that is what I am doing. It brings back many memories of course, while also repeatedly asking the question ‘just what is valuable?’, or ‘just what is value?’ It’s maddening in a way, but I haven’t gone mad yet.
I look up from the keyboard in the direction of the scaffolding, the Black Crow has gone but I just see the tips of a Seagull’s wings passing behind the frames of scaffolding above which the Crow sometimes sits, and I notice some bright powder-blue sky is pushing away the morning’s lavender clouds.