19 July 2008

This is the world now

Pohangina Valley mid winter

This is the world now. Without leaves with herons grey and craning high in branches like omens over winter water; a hawk turning, turning, in dull distant air above a ridgeline a cold wire fence the desiccated heads of old dead weeds. The world now is a pair of yellowhammers each on its own post then gone slipping sideways off on the elsewhere wind. The world now is plovers stepping in damp fields stopping and stepping and stopping a ripple of sky in a trough where black and white cattle moan and wait; wait for the truck and the hollow clang of a cold iron gate and steam from silage rising into the grey world, not knowing they're waiting for the end of winter the end of mud and rain and dark days, grey days, cold days in damp bones a skull eyeless and broken turning green under skeletal branches sinking into the earth, into the earth into the past. Sheep cough in the dark under a pale moon gibbous drifting beyond torn cloud.

Back yard view
The world now is strange days when bees out of season feed on one tree and why not the others and why in mid winter when all but the solitary queens have gone and those quiet in abandoned mouse nests deep in spring dreams yet here they roar among the pale flowers. The world now does not make sense. The world now is changing. The world now is grey the future is grey and black and white. The future is full of colour. The world now grey, the world now black and white, is luminous with dreams of colour.

1. Five weeks of intense contract work did this. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible soon.

1. Western skyline, Pohangina Valley.
2. View from the back door
(click to enlarge it).

Photos and words © 2008 Pete McGregor


MB said...

Pete, I like this post very much, with its accompanying images, although I don't know that you like the place you wrote it from. Wishing you the return of color and soon.

Emma said...

Strange and beautiful. Dream-like, even, from this vantage point.

Speaking of dream-like, I've got my hands on a copy of Invisible Cities. Am forcing myself to read slowly rather than scarfing it all down. It's gorgeous. Thanks for the recommendation!

Zhoen said...

Strange how appealing this is to me, trapped in heat and dry.

Beth said...

No matter what season, there's always the light. Thanks for this haunting post, Pete.

Theriomorph said...

I love this. The language and the way of seeing make perfect gorgeous logic. Thanks, Pete.

P.E.A. said...

You seem to have changed into Dylan Thomas. I wish a bit of editing could do that to me!

Duncan said...

Worth waiting for Pete, and that second photo, as good a landscape as I've seen, the work of a master.

Anne-Marie said...

Superb photos Pete, especially the second one. The writing - well, it's unusual for you in more ways than one.

I too long for summer and warmth again.

pohanginapete said...

MB, perhaps surprisingly, given the apparent mood of the post, I'm happy here. Despite the sombre tone, there's something delightful about this kind of weather and the season, but I doubt I'd feel the same if I thought it would always be like this. But I'm glad (and not surprised) you appreciated the post :^)

Emma, yes, it felt dream-like. After such protracted and intense concentration, I felt as if I were walking in a dream. Unreal, like Calvino's marvellous cities. (I wish I knew where my copy got to.)

Zhoen, heat and dry sounds mighty appealing to me.

Beth, you're right. Even when the light is so flat and dark — and apparently hopeless for photos — the mood can be found and pictured. Sometimes one has to search a little harder, though, and sometimes the image is better shared verbally.

Theriomorph, I'm not surprised you got it. :^)

P.E.A., that got me thinking. It's been a long time since I've looked at anything by D.T. (what appropriate initials!), but I see what you mean. I must point out that my effort was achieved without recourse to one of his typical forms of inspiration ;^) Seriously, when you mentioned the editing, I wondered whether what I'd written might have been a reaction to all that scrutinising, deconstruction, analysis, and brain-racking; perhaps that part of my brain simply closed up and went on holiday. A hard way to encourage a few words, though (although I don't know of an easy way).

Duncan, many thanks — I'm honoured. Ironic it should have been at my back door, after all that travelling. ;^)

Anne-Marie, thank you. As I said to MB, I'm happy despite the apparent mood of the post. It's common in our kind of society to think of emotions like melancholy and joy as poles apart, but I think they (and other apparently dichotomous moods) are nothing of the sort — the relationships between the two aspects are complex and closely intertwined, to the extent that sometimes even describing a mood as 'happy and sad', for example, can be misleadingly superficial and polarised. But maybe this discussion's for a post of its own. :^)

Peregrina said...

Mmmm. After getting over the shock of not finding your usual precisely punctuated prose, I fell into the feeling of it. We, too, have had some spells of cold, damp, grey weather recently.

There's a little bit of ambiguity, which I rather like. For example, is it:

"a hawk turning, turning,
in dull distant air above a ridgeline
a cold wire fence ..."?

Or is it:

"a hawk turning, turning, in dull distant air
above a ridgeline a cold wire fence ..."?

Well, it doesn't matter. My mind's eye can entertain both images.

I particularly like "the elsewhere wind", and also the thought of the eyeless skull lying under skeletal branches. (Damp bones both dead and living!)

Your second image has the sort of light I love and have not yet successfully photographed - a heavy, grey sky with the low sunlight of early morning or of evening shining through a gap in the clouds. It always has a distinctive quality quite unlike anything else. Down here we most often see it late in the day when the sun slips below a nor'west arch, but if this is from your back door, then from the direction of the tree shadows I think it must have been the morning. (From the front, you look across the valley towards the western ridges in the top photograph, don't you?)

This writing does convey a feeling of winter in the Pohangina Valley. I found myself mentally breaking it up into lines, like a poem.

vegetablej said...

Reading this gave me the same sensation of movement I get when I'm looking at a great painting. Swimming, floating, expanding toward something beautiful, and then like an amoeba, taking that inside to be with me forever.

Thank you.


P.E.A. said...

That's a seriously interesting thought - that the processes of deconstruction and analysis can result in a quite different type of creative writing. I will try to work on that one. Thank you for the brain food - much needed. Glad it's not the D.T.s!

robin andrea said...

You remind me that I have forgotten the southern hemisphere. That your here is there, and mine is summer. Your long look around is beautiful, as always.

MB said...

It was your note that caused me to say perhaps you don't like being in that place. I'm with you on the ways one can feel apparent polar opposites at the same time -- poignancy, bittersweetness, mystery, all have their roots there in such muck. If you post on that, I want to read it! :-)

Marja said...

Hi my first visit here. I am struck how you make magic with words. Thanks. Suddenly the grey day I had here is as you said "is luminous with dreams of colour"

pohanginapete said...

Peregrina, that's precisely what I hoped to achieve by not precisely punctuating it. Well, perhaps not precisely, but punctuation's pretty good at removing ambiguity, and ambiguity can increase depth, and sometimes some things need to be said precisely simultaneously. I'm pleased you appreciated it and glad it got you thinking ;^) And, yes, you're right, the second photo was during the morning (about quarter past ten, a month ago today).

Vegetablej, thank you. Good to hear it worked on you like that.

P.E.A.: If nothing else, it's comforting when engaged in work like that to be able to remind oneself that it might actually (and unexpectedly) help with more important forms of writing. (I say “more important” with my tongue only slightly in my cheek).

Robin, thank you. Winter has its appeal, but I admit I'm looking forward to long days and warm weather. I'm not built for the cold.

MB: Ah, do I detect a prompt? You've got me thinking; maybe I'll start jotting some notes. Thanks :^)

Marja, welcome! Good to see you hear, and thanks for the kind words :^)

Avus said...

Hell! That "back door shot" is wonderful,Pete. I have always been a sucker for sunlit foregrounds with dark sky back drops.
As you say - after all your travels to find such paradise in your own back yard.

pohanginapete said...

Avus, thanks. This was one occasion when I hardly had to think about the photo — I saw it, turned round, and nipped back inside for the camera. I don't think I had much choice — the photo made me do it. ;^)

Danny Bayford said...

The now does not make sense, for now.