I woke this morning with the sharp edges of failure-dream fragments abrading my memory and an ache in my jaw that marks a night spent grinding my teeth. There was nothing wrong, no dire event I could place the blame for my dreams on. It’s just my mind’s way of reminding me that it’s worried about things it can’t control and that if I won’t listen to it during the day, it’s going to say its piece while I’m sleeping.
Sometimes my mind is like an overactive dog that howls when it feels ignored. The only way to make it stop is to take it for a run or to feed it. I’d had a bad night. I wasn’t in the mood for letting my dog-mind off the leash, so I fed it instead.
My wife, who knows me better than I know myself, bought me a copy of a poetry collection called ‘Stressed Unstressed’ which describes itself as a collection of ‘Classic Poems To Ease The Mind’. I reached for it and browsed the section on ‘releasing’ and searched for a bone to throw to my dog.
I hit the jackpot with a poem from Les Murray. an Australian poet with a talent for turning rage into poetry. What better poem could I give my dog to chew on than something called ‘The Meaning Of Existence’?
Here’s the text:
The Meaning Of Existence by Les Murray
Everything except language knows the meaning of existence. Trees, planets, rivers, time know nothing else. They express it moment by moment as the universe. Even this fool of a body lives it in part, and would have full dignity within it but for the ignorant freedom of my talking mind.
I loved that ‘ignorant freedom of my talking mind’. It’s exactly what I was feeling. Words are all I have but I know that they stand between me and the things that I describe. I could live with that (not that I have a choice) but it’s the asking of unanswerable questions, the involuntary pattern recognition, the compulsive expression of problems that make me feel as if my mind is a Collie with no sheep to herd. Obviously, Les Murray knew that and used his words to skewer it to the page.
I turned aside from my book, looked out my window and let myself think of what Murray says trees, planets, rivers and time know. This is what I saw:
I realised that, suddenly, it was Spring. The cherry tree knew that and waved its blossoms like a cheerleader. The birds knew it and sang their hearts outs in mating calls, crying ‘Choose me. Choose me. Choose me’. Even the sun seemed to know that today was a day to dry out the decking so I could sit on it and take in that sauna smell of damp wood in sunshine.
I put the poetry book back on the shelf, accepted the release it had given me and headed out into the garden.