Many people go to the ends of the earth to find beauty. And certainly beauty can be found at the ends of the earth. The furthest end I have visited is Fiji and there I found one afternoon when the conference I was attending had ended a shadowy, green glade where immense trees grew amidst antique blocks of granite scarred by what seemed messages from the Gods. I was visiting a sacred place and there was an extraordinary, still, almost ominous beauty about it which I will always remember. That was a long way to go to catch that glimpse of the eternal.
Long excursions are not needed to discover beauty which often enough is there in your own backyard or not many miles beyond. A couple of hours out of home up the Essequibo there is enough beauty to last a lifetime without going anywhere else. Read in the latest issue of Explore Guyana the marvellous, beautifully written article about the Essequibo by George Jardim and you will see what I mean. In any anthology of writings about Guyana this piece deserves an honoured place.
Sitting on the shore of that great river – and, believe me, it is a shore and not a bank – late evening time I know almost exactly what the poet Robinson Jeffers must have experienced in his home by the sea in California years ago and expressed in one of his most quiet, greatest lyrics:
The ocean has not been so quiet for a long while; five night-herons
Fly shorelong voiceless in the hush of the air
Over the calm of an ebb that almost mirrors their wings.
The sun has gone down, and the water has gone down
From the weed-clad rock, but the distant cloud-wall rises. The ebb
Great cloud-shadows float in the opal water.
Through rifts in the screen of the world pale gold gleams, and the
Star suddenly glides like a flying torch.
As if we had not been meant to see her; rehearsing behind
The screen of the world for another audience.
Peace and beauty at home is the best experience of all since it soaks every day of life with contentment. When the moon grows big my wife and I place chairs under the trees in our garden to sit and watch the goddess of the night hold court amidst the flying clouds. Think of all the thousands of years men and women have done this, looking in wonder at the moon come up tangled in clouds in company of a star or two – whether above the pyramids of Egypt or the slopes of the sacred mountains of Greece or the remote outback of aboriginal Australia or afloat on a gleaming Kashmir lake or amidst the flurrying snows of Antarctica – or outside in your own garden in Georgetown, Guyana.
A while ago, after such a viewing of the moon, we came inside to take coffee and biscuits before sleep. I picked up one of my favourite anthologies of poems, Czeslaw Milosz’s A Book of Luminous Things, to read a while and one poem I read put the beauty of the moon, and all beauty, in one perspective it must always have – its inescapably fleeting nature. It is the common fate of beauty and ourselves.
This evening, the sturdy Levis
I wore every day for over a year
& which seemed to the end in perfect condition,
How or why I don’t know,
but there it was – a big rip at the crotch.
A month ago my friend Nick
walked off a racquetball court,
got into his street clothes,
& halfway home collapsed & died.
Take heed you who read this
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart
& kiss the earth & be joyful
& make much of your time
& be kindly to everyone.
even to those who do not deserve it.
For although you may not believe it will happen,
you too will one day be gone.
I, whose Levis ripped at the crotch
for no reason,
assure you that such is the case.
Pass it on.