This year, instead of planting bulbs Anne waited till the potted hycinths in the shops were ready to bloom and bought one with blue blooms. It’s opening in our lounge – a splendid splash of colour. It’s a variation of one of our rituals, the annual autumn planting of bulbs, both labour-saving and giving an earlier season fulfilment.
Rituals provide a sense of secuirity. Unless of course they have become a chore. It which case they should be discarded or at least modified. I have been conscious all my life of our species quest for security. War, terror and famine have passed me by but I’m well aware of their possibility, let alone earthquake or hurricane.
Life by its very nature does not guarantee security. My father’s death when I was five illustrated this fact. But I was fortunate, my grandfather’s and then my stepfather’s farms provided stability and continuity and the high volcanic hills of Banks Peninsula gave the appearance of a safe haven. University was great. Teaching proved worthwhile. Then I ran into trouble. A move into the bureaucracy coincided with a period of unhappiness.
Here’s a poem I wrote over thirty years ago as my first marriage was collapsing. It reflects pain, distress, confusion, inevitability and, indeed I’ll admit, arrogance. It was a long time ago. It was truth at its time. Despite my present problems I’m pleased that period of anguish is long gone. Although I think now the beginning is very flat the torment of the soul comes through in the latter part of the poem. I also realise now I was chasing a concept of immunity from distress – an impossible concept – as much as security.
About security, they ask a lot –
old men, young women, the middle-aged;
we overlook the fact views turn
into prisons. Here twice daily
the mudflats come & go, the scene
clangs shut, you search in vain
for keys & mine are lost. What
can we unlock – the past, the pump,
the changing cells? A hacksaw would
only show the (waste) in the hourglass
& although tears pulverise both shores
they cannot always guarantee security.
Looking back that was my greatest period of insecurity. Since then (and things are relative) there’s been marriage to Anne, I’ve had challenging work, an adequate income and delightful gardens and homes. Now, although I have increasingly health’s insecurities to contend with I have a sense of achievement. That plus pleasure in watching the hyacinths open. As close to security as I’ll ever get. There’s still room for poems. They arise from the insecurities that lurk around us.