Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Pablo Neruda’

Who are those who suffer?

I imagine that we all feel that we have been hard done by, unfairly or unjustly treated at some point or, probably, several points in our lives.  Whether or not we have credence for our cries is always a matter opinion and reason generally dictates, a matter of more than one point of view.  Some will have much more valid laments than others.  But wherever it registers on the Richter scale of righteousness, it stings.  Today, as the world hoots and hollers about aggressive posturing that may or may not lead to a fearful battle, I ask you to think about those who really do, inarguably have it tough.  Be it because they live in a warzone, because they are born into poverty in a place that has no opportunity for education and a free ride out or because they have been born in the wrong body by dint of their sex or sexuality, their race or their ability to use that body freely and efficiently without assistance, or simply that the body is worn out by so many years of use. Those.  They are all around you if you look.  Who are they? They are you but for the grace of that accident of birth that gave you a better chance.  I am prompted to this by my savvy linguist friend at Zipfs Law who is currently in Guatemala interpreting (as he has every year of the last five) for Surgicorps International.  He does it because he can.  It’s as simple as that.  I was moved to give a little to help.  Really it was a very little.  This is what he wrote to me:

“Osyth, thank you so much. Your donation pays for a complete surgical pack. To give you an idea of some of the surgeries that we did yesterday: reconstruction of a hand for a teenager who I’ve seen every one of the five years that I’ve been coming here, as it’s a complicated surgery that has to be done in stages; removal of a mass on the right wrist of a woman whose job involves writing with a pen all day, and who therefore was losing the ability to support herself in a country in which there is no such thing as unemployment insurance, or disability support for people who can’t work; repair of a cleft lip for a kid who otherwise would have been unlikely to find a spouse, in a country in which your only social support net is your family… Your support is really making a contribution to these people’s lives.” 

Levelling.  Horribly levelling.  If Guatemala seems a long way away I can guarantee you there is someone right under your nose who could do with your kindness.   Give it a go, for Blanche Dubois was not alone in her reliance on the kindness of strangers.    Pablo Neruda, champion of Chile wrote reams and reams and dazzling reams on the plight and struggle of his own people.  The woeful disgrace is that these decades later, it applies to so many in this ever-smaller earth place of ours.  I give you Neruda’s ‘Mountain and River’ to take to your heart and ponder who might benefit from your act of kindess today. My pledge to Neruda many moons ago, when I first read this poem and imagined myself his little red grain of wheat, was that I would accept his eloquent, searing call to arms.  So long as I draw breath I will keep that promise;

DSCF2091

The Mountain And The River

In my country there is a mountain.
In my country there is a river.

Come with me.

Night climbs up to the mountain.
Hunger goes down to the river.

Come with me.

Who are those who suffer?
I do not know, but they are my people.

Come with me.

I do not know but they call to me
And they say to me: “We suffer.”

Come with me.

And they say to me: “Your people,
your luckless people,
between the mountain and the river,
with hunger and grief,
they do not want to struggle alone,
they are waiting for you, friend.”

Oh you, the one I love,
little one, red grain
of wheat,
the struggle will be hard,
life will be hard,
but you will come with me.

Pablo Neruda

PS:  The picture, captured by HB² (my husband, if you are wondering) in the Atacama Desert of Chile responds to the wordpress challenge titled ‘Elemental’ and, as ever, you can see the glorious gallery of  interpretations of others here.

And here, because it would be rude to resist her, is Blanche:

Saving the trouble of thinking for oneself

Today I give you three quotes.  I’m supposed to give you one each day for three days but I am far to discursive to stay on task for three whole consecutive days so I have invented my own rules for this lovely challenge set me by three lovely people:

Life With Molly – written by a young woman to her future children with quite extraordinary maturity and insight

White House Red Door –  A true teacher who shows us how to nurture with her beautiful achievable food matched by her lovely words

Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet – Can do Cam suggested me  months ago so I hang my head in shame whilst urging you to take a look at his blog

These are my quotes.  Randomly trawled from the murky depths of my cobwebby mind, they’ve all kept me company for decades  which might imply they are the right ones to share.

DSCF4304

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart”

‘The Little Prince’ Antoine de Saint Exupery

DSCF4408

“Of all the words of mice and men the saddest are it might have been

‘Cats Cradle’ Kurt Vonnegurt

(I should note that Vonnegurt was paraphrasing a much earlier poem by Maud Muller which I read much later hence, perhaps,  my loyalty to his tenor.)

DSCF1656

“Take bread away from me, if you wish take air away, but do not take away from me your laughter”

‘Your Laughter’ Pablo Neruda

All of these quotes stand beautifully on their own and are bookmarks in my mind for the most important things in my life – my heart;  laughter of those I love and  of strangers; and to sieze the moment, to make it happen and if whatever it is doesn’t transpire to move on with no regret. I rather hope that they might pique your interest  sufficiently to want to explore three consummate writers and their work.

DSCF2338

And there is a bonus – the title is A A Milne who said “A quotation is a handy thing to have lying about, saving oneself the trouble of thinking for oneself – always a laborious business”  in his essay  ‘The Record Lie’ which I also highly recommend … it’s not ‘Winnie the Pooh’ though those that know me know that I have a particularly high regard for the Bear.

I now have the pleasant task of suggesting the following to take on this challenge.  As ever it’s a feel free to pass sort of challenge but I do love these bloggers and I do think they would do the challenge great justice.  Take a look at them and those that suggested me, they are all praiseworthy.

Poshbirdy in Quillan – Feisty and funny writing of the feast and famine of renovating a house in France

Not the Average Mama – certainly not average this is a wonderful blog written by a remarkable stepmother

Write on the Beach – a brilliant writer whose stories of England and France are truly compelling

Give me silence, water, hope

I like silence and I like water.  In truth, I am really not quite happy living away from water.  I love the sea, rivers, lakes, even puddles.  I like rain.  Not all the time but I love the soaking showers that spring gives us, sudden fat wet summer rain, misty autumn rain, freezing winter rain and the chance, that teeny chance that you might see the perfect rainbow.  I have many rivers and volcanic lakes to choose from close to home and I have tried and tried with my myopic point and shoot camera technique to learn to photograph it.  I therefore present to you, quite proudly, my first good picture of moving water.  Movement  assigned by the weekly photo challenge is represented beautifully by many other entries here.

DSCF1656PS:  The line pinched for the title is  Pablo Neruda in ‘The Heights of Macho Picchu’ in which he painfully eloquently cries for the men who went before him, the ordinary men of the past and in so doing brings their voices, their lives before us to honour and respect as we ever should but so seldom do.  Today, I think of those in Nepal, their lives ravaged, ruined through no fault, no deed, no action of their own and wonder how long before we all move on and forget them again.  I urge you to remember and to give whatever you can to give them hope.

I love you straightforwardly without complexities or pride

‘Minimalist’ is the title of the Weekly Photo Challenge.  And for me it is a real challenge – an everyday challenge … I have a daily notion that I would like to lead an uncluttered life and yet even clearing my mind often seems to be an impossible hurdle.

This image, taken on a deep winters day between Mauriac and Riom es Montagnes in Le Cantal of a tree naked and stark against it’s monochrome background was captured in full colour, not edited and yet has the purity of a black and white.  Perhaps winter should be the season to rehearse my inner minimalist …

DSCF4886

PS:  The title is from Pablo Neruda (Poem XVII – I Do Not Love You)

 

<a href="http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/minimalist/">Minimalist</a>

 

and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree

Last Tuesday was Mardi Gras – the last day of eating fatly before the Lenton fast.  It’s an important day in the calender here, as it is in all Catholic countries – the children dress up and in many towns there is a carnival atmosphere with costumes and fire-works aplenty as well as a healthy dollop of unhealthy gluttony.  Mercredi des Cendres (Ash Wednesday) follows and it too is well marked.  People attend Church and the Priest marks foreheads or forearms with crosses of blessed ash that come from burning the palms left over from Palm Sunday. The ashen marks should be left to fade naturally rather than washed off.  The bells in all the churches ring peels and peels and peels all day long.  This is a reminder that they are being ‘cleaned’ in readiness for their journey to Rome to be blessed.IMG_2512  The bells (yup every single bell in France) fly on Good Friday night taking with them the grief of those mourning the death of Christ and the following night these Cloche Volant will fly back laden with treats which they will drop into the houses of the good people.  No bells will be heard during this period because, quite simply, they are not there and the joy that the people feel when Les Cloches de Paques sing out on Easter morning will prompt many to embrace in the streets.  Now before you go where Two Brains went – this is myth … the stuff that I taught my children is a story that is so old that no-one can remember if its true or not.   But I hope the cloche in the village remembers that I am partial to a chocolate egg if there happens to be one spare on the night.

It’s fair to say that I am not a Catholic (though as the mother of four daughters, I do know what it is to be riddled with Catholic guilt) and that my relationship to Easter began and ended with the Bunny.  Ash Wednesday of course I had a passing nod to, but in reality it was just the day that followed Pancake Day.  This year, though,  it felt significant.  If you will indulge me, I can explain.

In France, schools are divided into three zones (A, B and C).  Here in Auvergne we are Zone A.  Winter and Spring holidays are staggered so that ski and beach resorts are not all descended on at once.  Here in Zone A we were last this time which meant that school broke up on March 1st and will return on March 17th.  The significance of this for me is that the Ecole Maternelle, above which I live is silent.  The 12 little children whose voices normally provide the sound-track to my day from 9-12 and 1:30-4.30 are absent.

The silence coincided with my husband going away for a month.  This is quite normal for us but normal does not necessarily equal easy.  DSCF4886So the week started a little melancholy.   Mardi Gras passed me by except to note that there was a wake in the Salle de Fete, which you may recall is at the bottom of my drive, within ‘our’ park.  About 10 cars bore the mourners.  Carrefour supermarket bags bore the food.  Black-clad adults chaperoned children-off-school trying visibly to behave with decorum.  There was that huddled feeling that tends to accompany a funeral.  Mardi-Gras was no-where to be seen. Later that evening, on the phone to Two Brains, he tells me that his assistant (you will meet) had the news that his wife’s only surviving uncle, a fit, healthy man of no great age,  had succumbed to a hospital born infection in Florida and they would be flying out to attend the funeral once arrangements had been made.  The heaviness was not abating.

On Wednesday, sitting exactly and precisely where I am now, up popped a message from one of my oldest friends.  She apologised for being out of touch and explained that her beloved older sister had died quite suddenly on February 3rd.    Anna was an actress, vibrant, warm and loving.  Her loss,  is felt acutely by many and the pain of her sister is absolutely raw and tangible.  I had been reading a blog I follow called ‘Wife After Death’ and a post on a different blog about the death of a dog called Dobby – doing that thing that I do when I am sad … making myself even sadder.  It rather felt as though death was surrounding my every move and I sat feeling stunned and numb as though I was the bereaved.  Which of course I was not.

I messaged back to my friend.  And I have written a proper letter because I feel from experience how important those things that you can physically touch as you read, re-read, you can put away in a special place or rip up into tiny pieces and fling in despair and anger, then drench yourself in Catholic guilt and remorse because you haven’t maintained the decorum that the children at the wake mustered.  How important something physcial and tangible can be.

DSCF3749

So as the sun gathered strength this week (we are basking in an early Spring with temperatures hovering around the 70 and holding our collective breath in the hope that this is not just a flash in the winter pan) I decided that the only decent thing to do is to LIVE this life.  To relish this place and to be considerate of those who are grieving by being positive and glad of everything that I have.  So I am.  Instead of skulking at home I am out and smiling.  Because I can, you see.  And one day I won’t be able to.  That’s the only sure fire certainty in this life.  That one day it will end.  And given that life is a lottery, I don’t actually have much, if any,  control over when that moment will come.  And for me, it seems that the most appropriate way of respecting the dead is to be content.  So I am.

DSCF5164

PS:  The title is a line from the very beautiful ‘Only Death’ sometimes called ‘Nothing but Death’ by Pablo Neruda here translated by Robert Bly:

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.