A good few weeks ago, I stumbled across a TS Eliot quote and I have been meaning to write about it. It’s from Four Quartets, in fact ‘Little Gidding’, and reads:
‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time’.
When you read something for the first time, then read it again a while later, different references and resonances occur. I read it first and just liked it. Reading it again just now made me think of East Lothian and of reading Hugh MacDiarmid.
East Lothian is relatively straightforward to explain since I just finished writing the post ‘Tantallon’ that appears here in the next week. I have been thinking for a while that with distance I am building a whole new relationship with my home county. When you are from a place, and live within it, you tend to take it for granted and become blase. The resentments and chips on your shoulder tend to cloud your objectivity. I go to East Lothian and it isn’t home any more. Glasgow is. But East Lothian is familiar and it is a place I care about and is very much part of me however far I live from it. Each time I go back, I notice something different. I begin to see why people like it so much, visitors as much as incomers, and when I visit other places, it makes me feel lucky that where I grew up is so beautiful and full of history. When I go back, I know some parts of it almost as if anew, while others are too familiar ever to feel new. Luckily they feel comfortable like a pair of slippers, ready to be slipped into just whenever you like.
Just now, I was thinking about another place I know fairly well. It came to my attention earlier today when I was browsing Twitter and found a Tweet that had been Retweeted by an account called Crap Views.
Now, I actually know the Crap View in question. It’s in a part of Dumbarton called Dalreoch and I used to work up there. In fact, for a few months, I worked in a building across the road and so I got defensive. It isn’t Las Vegas but there are worse places to be. I walked past this place every day and without fail there was a cracking smell from the Chinese next door. It always made me hungry and invariably tempted me to get a Chinese when I got home. Anyway, in defence of Dalreoch, here are two photos of the cracking views from a couple of hundred yards up the hill:
Anyway, I’ve got a bit sidetracked from TS Eliot. Reading the poem ‘Little Gidding’ reminded me of Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘On a Raised Beach’ and particular its lines about how a bird flying high or a stone are wholly open to experience and appreciate the world without preconceptions:
‘The inward gates of a bird are always open.
It does not know how to shut them.
That is the secret of the song,
But whether any man’s is ajar is doubtful.
I look at these stones and know little about them,
But I know their gates are open too,
Always open, far longer open, than any bird’s can be.’
When we go out into the world, we automatically see it through the prism of what has come before. Can we truly approach something anew, especially a place we have once known so well? I hope we can. It might be a conscious decision just to let go and to see where life takes you, even for that moment, for that day. I think, however, that you can see new things in the familiar because often we don’t look and we miss so much. We just assume it is the same and it isn’t. It takes a new light or a change in circumstances or even a turn of the head to make us see. Our inward gates might be as open as a bird’s, or a stone’s, but we can at least keep them ajar amidst our explorings and maybe see the world continually anew, like a wave crashing to the shore, every one new and generated just before it falls to earth, before it all begins again.