contemplating a sunset with…w h auden

isolation retreat 74th day

W H Auden: “Refugee Blues”

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew;
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.

The consul banged the table and said:
‘If you’ve got no passport, you’re officially dead’;
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go today, my dear, but where shall we go today?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said:
‘If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread’;
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying: ‘They must die’;
We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors;
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

Moving Poems, Refugee Blues by W H Auden, by Dave Bonta

Set to the verses of W.H. Auden’s 1939 poem, the multi-award winning “Refugee Blues” charts a day in ‘the jungle’, the refugee camp outside Calais. More intimate and unlike much of what has been seen in the mass media, this documentary poem counterpoints the camp’s harsh reality of frequent clashes with the French riot police with its inhabitants’ longing for a better future.

skycape photography: Nikon D750 f/8 1/400s 150mm 400 ISO edited in Capture One and Photoshop

30 day assignment: same lens…camera wide open (3)

winterwalk

Nikon D750… f/1.8 1/800s 35mm 200 ISO

“FRIDAY MORNING, 9 O’CLOCK. People complain about how dark it is in the mornings. But this is often the best time of my day, when the dawn peers grey and silent into my pale windows. Then my bright little table lamp becomes a blazing spotlight and floods over the big black shadow of my desk. … This morning I am wonderfully peaceful. Just like a storm that spent itself. I have noticed that this always happens following days of intense inner striving after clarity, birth pangs with sentences and thoughts that refuse to be born and make tremendous demands on you. Then suddenly it drops away, all of it, and a benevolent tiredness enters the brain, then everything feels calm again …”

cited: Trans: Arno Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, pg 69.

lens-artists photo challenge: narrow…

or it seems so at the end of the tunnel.

striving after true inner freedom…

stop

Nikon D750 f/4.2 1/2500 38mm 800 ISO

“21 October, After Dinner

It is a slow and painful process, this striving after true inner freedom. Growing more and more certain that there is no help or assurance or refuge in others. That the others are just as uncertain and weak and helpless as you are. You are alway thrown back on to your own resources. There is nothing else. The rest is make-believe. But that fact has to be recognized over and over again. Especially since you are a woman. For a woman always longs to lose herself in another. But that too is a fiction, albeit a beautiful one. There is no matching of lives. At least not for me. Perhaps for a few moments. But do those moments justify a lifetime together? Can those few moments cement a shared experience? All they can do is give you a little strength. And perhaps a little happiness. God knows, being alone is hard. For the world is inhospitable. In the past I used to dream of giving it to one person. But it was not to be. And when you reach such painful truths at the age of 27, you sometimes feel quite desperate and lonely and anxious, although independent and proud at the same time. I have confidence in myself and I shall manage by myself. The only measure you have is yourself. And the only responsibility you can shoulder in life is responsibility for yourself. But you must do it with all your strength. And now to ring up S.”

cited: Trans: A Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1983. pg 46.

Image and quote from Etty Hillesum’s diary submitted in response to the World is a Book’s lens-artists’ photo challenge: narrow.

early morning reading: unease

first I myself must find the right pattern, my own pattern

“4 July. [1941]. I am full of unease, a strange, infernal agitation, which might be productive if only I knew what to do with it. A ‘creative’ unease. Not of the body – not even a dozen passionate nights of love could assuage it. It is almost a ‘sacred’ unease. ‘Oh God, take me into Your great hands and turn me into Your instrument, let me write.’ This all came about because of red-haired Lenie and philosophical Joop. S. reached straight into their hearts with his analysis, but I still think people can’t be reduced to psychological formulate, that only the artist can render human beings down to their last irrational elements.

“I don’t know how to settle down to my writing. Everything is still much too chaotic and I lack self-confidence, or perhaps the urgent need to speak out. I am still waiting for things to come out and find form of their own accord. But first I myself must find the right pattern, my own pattern.”

cited: Trans: Arno Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diary of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943. pg. 26

I grew up…

I grew up in the time of war…The wounds of war in me are still not healed

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching, pp. 4-5
wounds of war…persist

My youth

an unripe plum

Your teeth have left their marks on it.

The tooth marks still vibrate.

I remember always,

remember always.

Since I learned how to love you,

the door of my soul has been left wide open

to the winds of the four directions.

Reality calls for a change.

The fruit of awareness is already ripe,

and the door can never be closed again.

Fire consumes this century,

and mountains and forests bear its mark.

The wind howls across my ears,

while the whole sky shakes violently in the snowstorm.

Winter’s wounds lie still,

Missing the frozen blade,

Restless, tossing and turning

in agony all night.

~Thich Nhat Hanh (cited: Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching)

early morning readings

Your imagination and your emotions are like a vast ocean

Etty Hillesum
shields pond…Nikon D750 f/4.5 1/400s 55mm

“…But let me impress just one thing upon you, sister. Wash your hands of all attempts to embody those great, sweeping thoughts. The smallest, most fatuous little essay is worth more than the flood of grandiose ideas in which you like to wallow. Of course you must hold on to your forebodings and your intuitions. They are the sources upon which you drew, but be careful not to drown in them. Just organize things a little, exercise some mental hygiene. Your imagination and your emotions are like a vast ocean from which you wrest small pieces of land that may well be flooded again. The ocean is wide and elemental, but what matter are the small pieces of land you reclaim from it. The subject right before you is more important than those prodigious thoughts on Tolstoy and Napoleon that occurred to you in the middle of last night, and the lesson you gave that keen young girl on Friday night is more important than all your vague philosophisings. Never forget that. Don’t overestimate your own intensity; it may give you the impression that you are cut out for greater things than the so-called man in the street, whose inner life is a closed book to you. In fact, you are no more than a weakling and a nonentity adrift and tossed by the waves.

Keep your eye fixed on the mainland and don’t flounder helplessly in the ocean…”

cited: Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943, pp.6-7

much to long…

Ricoh f/12 10.5mm 800 ISO

“At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, surrounded by women and girls gently snoring, dreaming aloud, quietly sobbing and tossing and turning, women and girls who often told me during the day, ‘We don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,’ I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and lay awake for hours letting all the many, too many impressions of a much too long day wash over me, and I prayed, ‘Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.’ And that is what I want to be again. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp. I lie here so patiently and now so calmly again, that I feel quite a bit better already. I feel my strength returning to me; I have stopped making plans and worrying about risks. Happen what may, it is bound to be for the good.

cited: E Hillesum, An Interrupted Life. p.191 Trans: A Pomerans)

early morning reading

“Klaas, all really wanted to say is this: we have so much work to do on ourselves that we shouldn’t even be thinking of hating our so-called enemies. We are hurtful enough to one another as it is. And I don’t really know what I mean when I say that there are bullies and bad characters among our own people, for no one is really ‘bad’ deep down. I should have liked to reach out to that man with all his fears, I should have liked to trace the source of his panic, to drive him ever deeper into himself, that is the only thing we can do, Klass, in times like these.

“And you, Klass, give a tired and despondent wave and say, ‘But what you propose to do takes such a long time and we don’t really have all that much time, do we? …

“And I repeat with the same old passion, although I am gradually beginning to think that I am being tiresome, ‘It is the only thing we can do, Klass, I see no alternative, each of us must turn inwards and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable. …'”

cited: The Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, pp.179-180.

Trans: Arno Pomerans

now I need so much patience

“…talking to you, God. Is that all right? With the passing of people, I feel a growing need to speak to You alone. I love people terribly, because in every human being I love something of You. And I seek You everywhere in them and often do find something of You. But now I need so much patience, patience and thought, and things will be very difficult. …”

~Trans: Arno Pomerans Hillesum, E. An Interrupted Life p. 16

Image and quote submitted in response to Travel with Intent’s Six Word Challenge.