Losing Height And Depth

Ennui, the sense of the pointlessness and meaninglessness of life, is perhaps the characteristic emotion of the modern age. Medieval man might have starved, or been prey to wandering warbands, or (if all the film treatments of the Middle Ages are to be believed!) lived in a state of perpetually grey, semi-winter, yet he never questioned the point of existence. The sheer struggle to survive would have added a dignity to his everyday bearing, but then of course he lived in a world where the creator and sustainer of the Universe, and its despoiler, were in a life-long struggle for his soul. He mattered, and what’s more, even if the king or the bishop ignored him, God and the devil didn’t.

That belief has leached away in much of the West, and I do wonder how much this flattening out has been caused by the dulling our night-time skies. When you stand beneath a black dome, splattered with stars beyond number and suggesting even in its darkest reaches depths beyond depths beyond depths, there is both a fearful fall into insignificance and a breathtaking plunge into awe. Even if the world has become flat, still the stars shine.

But now we live in a flat world, and the stars have gone out. No wonder we’re bored.

The Stars Above

On our last night in Taynish, the sky was clear. I went out hoping to see the stars, and then stood there with my jaw open (admittedly in part because my head was so far back but wonder played its part too) looking at the numberless stars of heaven’s field. I’ve not seen anything like this for years. We were somewhere where the only artificial lights were our own, with only the faintest of horizon glows from the the direction of Glasgow, and the stars, the stars came out! Even where I could see no distinct points of light, there was an impression, a graininess to the darkness, that suggested impossible expanses of stars and galaxies receding into forever.

What we have lost with the light caps we’ve placed over our our cities, sealing ourselves away from any direct sense of the cold splendour and depths of the universe. Bring back the night, turn out the lights, and look at the stars!

Scotland Is A Different Country

My boys have never shown the slightest interest in doing museum quizzes, so we were somewhat nonplussed when, on being told by the kindly man looking after Oban’s small museum that there would be ‘a wee prize’ if they completed the questionnaire, they proceeded to hunt down every clue with all the diligence of dutiful bloodhounds. The quiz finished, and all questions answered, they presented their forms to the kindly man who gave them their stickers and certificates. They looked a bit nonplussed, but we put that down to their pleasure at completing the quiz. It was only outside that we discovered that they thought ‘a wee prize’ meant ‘a Wii prize’: a Nintendo Wii!

Scotland’s Rainforest

Tomorrow, we’re heading up to Scotland, to the Taynish peninsula in Argyll. When I looked the area up I found it is home to Taynish forest, a National Nature Reserve that’s subtitled, on the Scottish Nature page, ‘Scotland’s Rainforest’! We’re packing waterproofs (and life jackets – the place we’re staying has two canoes and a rowboat).

Taynish Peninsula
Taynish Peninsula

Drought’s Over

After a long period of getting stories rejected – must be about four months now – ‘Julie and Mr Henderson’, a foray into chick lit that started off as a writing exercise has been accepted for publication. If you will just pardon me for a moment – wooohoooooooo!

Ah, that’s better. Normal service will now resume. Thank you for your patience.

The Silence Of The Birds

As I normally get up at around 5am, I can track the rise and decline of the dawn chorus. It grows from what seems like a roundel of relief at getting through another cold night in January and February, building through the Spring months and reaching a crescendo in May, when the birds have usually already been up for an hour or more before I rise. Then it dies away until now, in August, the city seems all but bare of birds and the sun rises into a silent sky.

Rejection notes – no.1 in a series.

 

The normal state of a writer is one of rejection. But a rejection like this one from Brain Harvest is almost better than getting published!

 

While you are likely doomed wrt growing a mustache as magnificent as ours, you have succeeded in writing one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read since I started reading BH slush. And you also wrote, in < 150 words, a story that is surprisingly subtle, and that says something interesting.

 

And yet we’ve decided not to buy it for no good reason whatever — in this crop we got some things that suited our moods better, which is probably an infuriating bout of caprice from your point of view. I can only say I’m sorry, and thank you for this story, and to please send us others.