Sunday, 7 September 2014

Paradise


Where the rolling turquoise ocean
meets the sun-hot silver strand
where the breakers level out and touch the sky
there's a place that no-one's named yet
because no-one's ever been there
and gazed upon the scene and wondered why

If we never came to stand here
just to witness all there is
and to wonder at the sight before our eyes
is there just a tiny chance that we
could possibly imagine
it existed without us - are we that wise?

I'd like to think that somewhere
there's an island beach untrammelled
by the cankerous and offensive hand of man
but if you ever hear of it,
I beg you please just leave it
to exist without us, leave it if you can.

©Rob King

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Hedgerow Oak

It was after seeing the following beautiful picture, taken by my friend Dawn Alford, that we were in conversation about the tree, and its significance, and she told me that sadly, the tree was no more. It has taken a little while, but I knew it had a story to tell .......

Photo - ©Dawn Alford



Just a humble hedgerow oak
she was never destined for greatness
- born too late
to be seen
by the Royal Navy surveyor
who, in another time
would have stripped her limbs
for the knees and ribs
of the man-of-war
and sawn her body
through-and-through
for planking and decking
- too young  to be noticed
by the local builder
who had laid low her parents
and aunts and uncles
for the cruck and hammer beams
of the manor house
where, grey with age
and bearing the mark
of adze, axe, and shave
they still reside
preserved in time
as an historic lesson
in building technique.
No - this young lady
had another part to play.
Throughout her life
she has stood as a landmark
- an addition to the sky-line
and a silent witness
to the comings and goings
of all about her
from the lowliest insect
foraging over the lichens on her branches
to the snuffle and jingle
of the ploughman's horse
with head in nose-bag
while the weary carter
eats his bait
in the shelter of the hedge
with his back against the tree
and out of the cutting wind
midway around the headlands.
She has observed the bitter folly of war
- even taken, unmoved, a lead ball
in her thick hide
though now buried deep
within her structure
the wound long-since healed
and forgotten.
She has heard the ringing laughter
of children
as they collected
acorns to feed dad's pigs
or helped with stooking
the itchy rustling sheaves
in the stubbled shortening days
of harvest.
She has heard the parish bells call to worship
more times
than she can bear to remember.
She has stood firm against wicked winter storms
sighing at the feeble attempts
to tear her limb from limb.
She has breathed the foul air
and made it fresh
that all may breathe again.
She has in all that time
never ventured an opinion
nor hurt nor betrayed
a living soul.
But yet,
as is the way with all living things
her time has come.

While in her very prime
disease struck
and leached the very life
out of her,
and slowly
while her bark decayed
and the boring beetles fed
and her fingers fell
never to be replaced
she became a skeleton
- the bare bones
of her former glory,
her sun-bleached naked arms
reaching up as if in supplication
against a timely backdrop
of the setting sun
only
to fall
one Sunday morning
to the raucous rasp
of the farmer's saw.
With a final creaking groan
she stumbled and succumbed
her limbs shattering
and spiking the sod
and her back broken
revealing
the scourge
that was within her.
No more a familiar landmark
but no more a liability
to passing traffic.

Her final act of kindness
was to warm the home
of the man
who laid her to rest
across the furrow.
-----------------
Little more than five paces
from the ring-marked solid table
that remains
a testament to her
one hundred and ninety four summers
one of her children
has his head above the hedge
spared by the slashing tractor
for being too close
to the road sign.
Young and slender
and of tender years
He peers out over the landscape
and breathes in
the spring air.

©Rob King

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Luck of the draw



The wind fizzed through the seedless grass stalks as I lay there on the hillside. Not yet warm enough to remove my shirt and feel the sun on my skin, but certainly a promise of a better afternoon than yesterday. I had seen enough of cloudy days for a while, and was in need of a little warmth to restore my vitality.
Peering through my eyelashes, I could just make out the fine traces of the mares’ tail cirrus clouds appearing stationary in the sky, like sweeps of white paint from an almost dry brush across the cyan canvas. Feeling the warmth of the sun through my sweater, it was hard to imagine that those clouds were crystals of ice, hung out to dry on the jet-stream, travelling at high speed. It was only the fact that they were six miles above me that made them appear so still, unlike the occasional fluffy cumulus  that blocked out the sun for a few seconds as it chuntered past and over the hill.

Allowing my eyelids to close again, I took pleasure in the thought that I had chosen to use today as an opportunity to take off and spend time communing with nature, in the company of no-one, and to just let the day wash over me. It was pretty quiet out here – just the breeze to sing to me, with the occasional lark trilling overhead as I’d slowly climbed the hillside. I was in no hurry to get to the top. I had no need even to arrive there at all. This wasn’t a conquering climb. I was more interested in the journey than the destination, and that journey could take all day as far as I was concerned. If I thought I had discovered the right spot – this hollow out of the wind but facing the sun – I might not even go any further.
I had breakfasted like a king – a solid meal that would last me all day, so no need to carry anything with me either. This was really how I liked to travel, wearing just enough to keep me from the cold - not overburdened with unnecessary items “just in case” there was rain, or I got hungry or thirsty. Sometimes it was good to have to make the best of what you had – no insurance, just resourcefulness or resolution. Besides, I was no more than an hour or two from comfort in any direction – nothing much would harm me today.
Lying supine like this with my face to the sun was more than pleasant, it was positively heart-warming. It was almost impossible not to smile at my good fortune at the situation I had arrived in. I breathed deep and slowly, making each breath take a little longer than the last, stretching my lungs to their full extent, and exhaling until there was no breath left inside them. This really was just what I needed –  a complete change of air.
The feel of the turf beneath my back was pure delight – sufficiently yielding to allow my bones to rest easy, yet supportive enough to not create pressure on any particular part of my body. There wasn’t even any jutting stone or misplaced pebble to cause me discomfort. It was as if the earth had been moulded around my form, then sown with grass years earlier, in preparation for my arrival at this place, at this time.
The slope of the hillside was just sufficient to allow me to look straight across the valley to its southern side if I lifted my head slightly. The shadows were long on that side, as the sun was  not high enough in the sky to have long been shining over the ridge. I picked out a house high up the valley side, at the end of a road that ran like a shallow diagonal slash across the hillside, and I thought how unfortunate its inhabitants, to always look out on sunshine, but to live most of the year in shadow themselves. Not for me, that one.
Relaxing my neck, I closed my eyes again, and sank once more into my reverie.
Oh yes – this was the life for me, alright.

I’d had enough of people for a while. It wasn’t that they were uncaring, it was more that they were just too busy to see beyond their own manufactured misery; constantly chasing after the next style, the next acquisition, the next necessity, the next whatever, and getting into all sorts of debt to do it. The problem as I saw it was that they never actually appreciated anything that they already had, and didn’t take the time to learn to enjoy it before moving on to the next big thing.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m no Luddite – whose only desire is to stay put on this earth and never learn anything new, or do anything different. I’m as inquisitive as the next man – possibly even more so than him. It’s just that I find it difficult to get caught up in the perpetual tail-chasing that is modern social living.
I’ve always worked hard in my life, and enjoyed doing so – never thinking that the world owed me a living, and never coveting what I couldn’t afford. Of course, there have been times when I have wished that life could have been a little easier – times perhaps when I could have thrown caution to the wind and taken a little more  time out, but looking back over it all, I am satisfied that all has gone very well.
The sun continued to shine, and I felt myself drifting, with nothing more to think about than the smile on my face, and the knowledge that I could do this anytime I liked, now that my six numbers had come up.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Chainsaw

He quietly cursed as he pulled on the starter rope. This was the third attempt to get the chainsaw started , and the second time he’d adjusted the carburettor settings. It was always the same when he’d had the machine apart for cleaning; it never liked to start first time. Putting his toe back in the handle grip, he gave the rope another sharp pull, and the saw spluttered – Excellent! Pushing in the choke lever, he pulled again, and the saw chugged into life. This was the dodgy bit. He mustn’t try revving it up yet, or it would die on him, and be the very devil to start again. The sound of the exhaust was almost like laughter, the saw teasing him, and urging him to pick it up and flick the trigger, but no, not yet – it wasn’t warm enough yet. Let it run another minute. The saw slowly settled back to a more regular chuckling noise, and he recognised from the changing tone that the engine was warming up now, and the playful pixie in the engine had given way to a more workmanlike wizard – one who was ready to magic its way through any log  that it was rested on.
He picked the saw up and tickled the trigger, the saw burst into life, and the chain whirred, flicking sticky chain-oil forward. Tweaking the trigger again, he immediately pushed the back of his wrist against the safety bar, which jumped forward, and the whirring chain stopped dead. It was said to stop in milliseconds, but a chain could still do a lot of damage, given the speed it was travelling at full tilt. Still, a few milliseconds was better than seconds in the event of a kick-back or snag,  or stumbling while working which is such an easy thing to do.
Thinking to try out the newly cleaned saw, he revved it and gently laid the chain against the bark at the butt end of a recently felled tree. The chain started to bite and a shower of chips streamed out from the underside of the blade, shooting out behind the saw off to his side. The cut felt good and even, each tooth of the chain cutting the same sized chip as the one before it, a smooth flow of minute slices which would make easy work of the log. Pushing the toothed dog at the front of the body into the bark, he pulled harder on the trigger and levered the saw to put more cutting pressure on the chain. The exhaust note deepened as the engine worked harder to take a deeper slice. This wasn’t necessary, as the saw would perform best if not under pressure, but this was a trial to see how the engine performed under pressure, and it passed with flying colours; no coughing or spluttering; the settings were just right for a change. There was nothing worse in his book than a saw spluttering or failing halfway through a felling cut, leaving him “out on a limb”, with little control over how the tree would behave until it was finally through.
He was pleased too that the newly sharpened chain was in excellent condition – he took great pride in his sharpening prowess. It had been the same with hand-saws – there were very few could sharpen and set a saw these days, very few who had even used a two handled cross-cut before, but that was how he had  started, and it was a fine introduction to learning how to “feel” trees, and just what was going on inside them. It just seemed to him that there was very little point in having an edge tool that didn’t have a sharp edge, be it a saw, axe, chisel, knife, plane or chainsaw. Sure, you could burn your way through a log with a blunt chain and a lot of brute force, but what was the point of that, when your saw could zip through a log like a hot knife through butter with the least effort on your part, and the greatest satisfaction of a job well done?

He knew that he’d never fell another tree. His forestry days were long over, and the Juggernaut logging machines had come to take the work from him. One man in a cab could fell, sned, cut to length and roughly stack a tree in a matter of seconds, and all without even having to lift his backside out of the seat.

Picking up the saw again, he gave the trigger a squirt, and turned, smiling, to the stack of logs he was to cut today.
All his cordwood was delivered these days on a truck, (all of it spewed out by the loggernaut machine) but nobody would ever deprive him of the pleasure of using the tool that had been an extension of his right hand for so much of his working life.


©Rob King 2014

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Internet

Since I've had access to the rest of the world via the internet - about ten years now - I've come to realise just what an amazing bunch of people there are living in this world.
People who connect, and are willing to share whatever it is they have in their lives, be it something very small and seemingly insignificant, or something blindingly life-changing. There are people from all walks of life, from all over the world, living in situations ranging from near poverty to having everything they need, doing all kinds of jobs, or voluntary work, or art, all with their own particular interests and passions, but the one thing they all have in common is sharing.

I feel very privileged to have "met" so many of these people, and to have shared friendship with them, even though I might never physically meet, touch, or talk to most of them. Even so, there is a bond between us all, like strings that connect us, and the more we give of ourselves, the more connections are made and strengthened.
I consider that I have friends in places and positions that I once never knew of, and every one of them teaches me a little more of their world every time we connect, and they learn a little more about me at the same time.
This connection is the remover of ignorance - the slayer of fear, and the unifying factor that should be in everybody's life, not just the lives of the chosen few.

The word love is used a lot among these friends of mine, and it has very special meaning for me, as it reminds me that we are all one, all of the same source, a part of the same universe.
I don't give a fig for religion - my personal belief is that religion is an artifice, a man made system that has been designed primarily to control, and I'll have no part of it. Let others believe as they will.
My one wish is that EVERYBODY could have the opportunities that the internet has given me - the chance to connect, without let or hindrance, to every other person in the world, and to share, and to love.

Hmmmm - that turned into a bit of a rant, didn't it?

I'll lighten up now with a pretty picture, and a poem from  2 years ago, all about love. :0)

First Date

We shared a bench for lunchtime
Miss Amanda Trott and I
she had a pot of salad,
And I had Grosvenor pie
I really liked her company
but couldn't help wonder why
She'd asked if she might share a bench 
with me.

The sun was very pleasant
neither too hot, nor too cool
and childrens voices cracked the air
down by the paddling pool
Amanda chatted easily so
I didn't feel a fool,
I just answered all her questions and 
we smiled

I could feel the threads between us
building layers like a rope
Her easy manner helped me,
made me feel that I could cope
and although I wasn't confident
It really gave me hope.
that we might do the same again
tomorrow

My watch relayed the message 
it was time for us to part
but I really felt attachment 
by these strings from heart to heart
so I blurted out the question
"Do you think that we could start
to see each other when we aren't 
here working?"

She looked at me quite kindly
and then she gave a wink
and she said "I'm doing nothing 
Sunday lunch-time - do you think
that if I gave you my phone number,
you could take me for a drink?"
and I just sat there with my eyes and mouth 
wide open.

Well, we couldn't leave the park through 
separate gates now, that was clear
although that was the way we entered 
when we first came here
so she took my arm,(the rope intact)
and I grinned from ear to ear,
and we walked back to work again
Together.


© Rob King