Monday, November 8, 2010

Primroses and wool tops

Two worlds, the logical, rational and explained world, the other a subjective world felt through the senses. So that is my bedside reading at the moment David Abram on Becoming Animal and A.C.Grayling on Truth, Meaning and Realism. The latter I can hardly understand for its complicated terminology but catch vague glimpses through the mist of his argument, Abrams on the other hand is succinct and easy to follow. Grayling argues from the mechanistic viewpoint, we can assert a truth, we can even back it up with facts (as known at the present time) but whether its 'truthfulness' holds water against other truths is yet to be seen, mostly we rely on belief in our own judgements, truth is defined in a social framework, an agreement between our human selves, more often than not subjective, factual evidence is taken for 'truth'.

To turn to Abram, we must feel through our senses the world we live in, just to take one aspect, do we live on the Earth, or do we live in Eairth, the air around us that gives us life, the dome of the sky above our heads frames this protective layer of oxygen through which we swim as breathing humans very much like the creatures of the sea.

There are innumerable distinctions to be drawn between the palpable phenomena of this world, yet each particular presence partakes of a common mystery; the unfathomable upsurge of existence itself. Each thing expresses this mystery in its own manner and style, yet each thing is equivalently outrageous, a clump of dirt no less than a roaring, marauding brown bear - each enacting it own tenuous and improvised way in the world, each gifting its own rhythms to the riot of life that surrounds it. Every gust of wind, every note ringing from the bell tower, each staccato step of a water strider along the streams surface has its own subtle influence on the beings around it. Simply to exist, or continue existing, is already active - already a doing - and hence no phenomenon is utterly passive, without efficacy or influence....

David Abram

Pondering this gives me dreams, why did primroses appear in a dream last night; their pale lemon flowers springing from a rosette of leaves, snuggled into the earth around the roots of trees they are harbingers of spring. Perhaps it is the talk of gales, rain, wind and cold weather forecast for this week that brings them to mind. But if I was to explain them, they would for me encompass the natural holistic world that I understand. Place them against the gaudily coloured cultivated primroses you can buy in your local nursery and immediately you spy the hand of man 'trying' to make the species 'better' and failing miserably in the process. The primrose in the wood on the other hand has found it natural place here in this particular spot, it thrives in the ecosystem provided by the trees, the dappled sunlight, the rich leaf mould that has developed over the years - it is at home in it its environment but take the cultivated variety and try to find a spot in the garden without it shouting out to you that it cannot blend with nature.

Its the same with my dyed wools, chemical dyes are often harshly coloured whilst the natural colours extracted from plants and trees will reveal subdued hues. When I spin, the tactile feel of the different types of wool as they run through my fingers tells me a great deal. At the moment I am spinning the soft merino coloured wool above it is to be the weft stripes of a rug I am thinking of making. The warp I have spun out of a cream Devon longwool sheep, coarse, it scratches my fingers, it has unruly little wisps sticking out from the main thread but it will make a good strong contrast warp.

The difference between the two authors can be summed up neatly, I could quote from an Illustrated Flora the attributes of the primrose, its place in the world is governed by photosynthesis with the sun, it transpires through it leaves, it takes from the soil the necessary nutritions for growth.... and yet this says nothing of its delicate colouring, the slight sweet scent, the cool touch of its petals and the way it will tumble in a glass when you bring it into the house. Gerald Manley Hopkins in trying to describe it says...

take the instress of brilliancy, sort of starryiness: I have not the right - so simple a flower gives is remarkable. It is, I think, given to the strong swell given by the deeper yellow middle... Grigson

The understanding of the space around us, the things that assault our eyes when we wander in the countryside, is purely subjective, a feeling, a sensing of the senses, an unconscious feeling that is felt by the mind that all the philosophers in the world cannot arrive at through a tendentious use of language.


  1. Some of the quotes here are a bit toomuch for my brain tonight [which is tired and stuffy] but I am moved by your thoughts on the primrose in the woods to wonder yet again how it is that some of us seem almost instinctively to see, marvel, and attempt to distill the natural beauties around us. To study a bit and learn more about plants or birds or wildlife, to explore different habitats, is to forever open and widen our senses and deepen appreciation.

  2. I think the philosophy book was a bit too much for my brain to be quite honest (although I should have got A+ for trying).
    But the little primrose is a favourite flower.....