31 Days of Lunasa: Day 27 — “Caught in that sensual music”



I’m riffing on W. B. Yeats’ poem “Sailing to Byzantium” this morning, taking a line for my post title, context be damned, and seeing where it might lead — and later, where it might fit back into the poem again, after it’s had its way with me. (How else, after all, should I read?)

Because late August is sensual music in the northeast, the season ripening, the excesses of hot, wet summer beginning to subside into the moderation that is early autumn. The light has shifted more than once from Solstice, though the melody of the sensual music still entices with hot days and the hum of insects. “Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long/Whatever is begotten, born, and dies”.

Spring and Autumn together — the Spring and Autumn period in Chinese history

To commend whatever is mortal, to live in the middle of limits and celebrate what they offer, is one of the most Druidic things I can do. (Easier said than done, easier done once than done daily, which is what our lives ask of us.) We’ve all been sailing to Byzantium, which the first line of Yeats’ poem reminds us is no country for the old. Yet it’s the return voyage that ripens us, if we’re paying attention, if we make it that far. True voyage is return, whispers U K LeGuin. We harvest, can, dry, pickle, bottle, husk, butcher, shell, ferment, bake, smoke, salt, freeze. We process the lives that we’ve encouraged and nourished, watching the cycle shift under our fingers.

We cannot change without touching, and we cannot touch without changing.

What that in turn means is different for each individual life, and as much as we may look for a rule to guide us (or to defy, thinking rebellion is the key, the true noble stance of hero-on-a-quest), we find what we’re given, more deeply, is a rhythm instead.

Yes, the rhythm has a pattern, but everyone knows how a metronome deadens the ear after a while, while rhythm is something else again, a living thing, dancing in and around the regular to remind us that great music has blood and flesh in it. The beat we hear most often is a heartbeat. We each lose and find its rhythm for us dozens of times in a human lifetime, knowing when we’re out of harmony with our own existence, and when we’re back in it, exquisitely centered in ourselves, and things “work out” without the stress that other times seems to dog our heels. Those are the moments, as Yeats puts it, when we’re “sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal that knows not what it is”. Our mortality can be a subtle thing, a difficult gift.

Our restlessness can be a guide to grow and change and expand. Will I let the seeds I’ve planted finish their cycle?

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Posted 30 August 2021 by adruidway in Druidry

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