Farewell To Books?

When they excavated the library at Herculaneum they found hundreds of scrolls. Mostly stoical philosophy, but to have a library and a country estate two thousand years ago meant the owner had wealth. You can see them looking at the scrolls and after years of collecting knowing where to look for what they wanted to recall, taking them out to read, unrolling them to known passages. Annotating the margins.

You can see the same in libraries of books. The same passage of time from handmade books, to mass printed books. The worn pages, the signature marks of famous editions, the endless editions, the pocket ‘fold’ in garments to carry them around.

And now the digital editions when one won’t have to do anything, not even collect editions because they have been collected for one. No need to recall passages when the search engine will find it for you. A library of thousands of books on smaller and smaller metal surfaces. With pleasant voices to read them aloud so we never need to leave behind our childhoods. Eventually those voices will be people we love and know if we want them to be. They will even have the ‘author’ option and we can listen to the writers reading their own work. Agony!

In rare places people still make scrolls. People will still make books. The transfer of knowledge goes on, the conversation between generations continues. That never ends.

Henry 5th and Barbarella

They don’t go together do they. When I was twelve and reaching what the Catholics euphemistically (and ironically) call ‘the age of reason’ we had a small black and white Bush TV and Olivier’s Henry 5th was on one side and Barbarella was on the other. They crossed over and I wanted to see  this sexy space adventure but mum won and we watched Henry 5th, with me deciding to follow it in the text and call out ‘they cut a bit there’, every so often.

When it finished and we all went to bed I sneaked out and put the TV back on and watched the last half of Barbarella. I never thought Jane Fonda was a beautiful woman but I think I enjoyed it. I did not know for years mum heard me and decided to let me watch it anyway.

Of course when I went to school I had the best of both worlds because I could pretend to be salacious about the film and yet I did not find it so difficult to read the modern text of Shakespeare. Today I wouldn’t even think of watching Barbarella. I have seen Henry 5th in several forms and would be in the play in an instant if someone was putting it on nearby.

I am guessing the unexpected moment when one really chooses one’s path in life probably comes and goes without us noticing that much. I am not sure at all it was my Barbarella moment, but then none of us might be.


I have heard people say ‘x takes enjoyment from the little things’ and I have begun to wonder if ‘things’ give joy, are there any that are little?

We are very wrapped up in what we as humans consider to be minor and major elements of our society and most of them have to do in some measure with our ‘standing’ when viewed by others. To me this is all wrong. It doesn’t matter if a perfume is expensive or cheaper, if you made it yourself from rose petals or someone else made it by hand..all that matters is how you enjoy it one way or another.

The little thing you see are truly priceless but we have forgotten in our anxiety to put a monetary value on everything that just because there is a lot of something, it does not devalue its true worth. That kind of thinking is very dangerous for there are those who say there are millions of people who will kiss a few of them? Acceptable risk is not an ethical decision making process.

The little things may be worthless in terms of money but they are the things that make enjoyment deeper. A fresh day, a quiet moment, a perfect hedge flower, a dry piece of grass lazily dying down, a cool glass of water on a warm day.

Enjoyment comes from being able to live through everything you touch and see, to share your being with the moments and all they contain. Yes life is difficult without money, but it  is still enriched without any of the big things.

File And Memo

The human brain is an amazing thing. Just when you think you have forgotten something it comes back to you. Just when you wish you had forgotten something is swings into your mind in full colour. And all those childhood memories that lay dormant throughout one’s career grow back with stronger ties as one ages. If age leaves one with a mind to grow anything in, that is.

One of my friend’s at school told me the reason people of a certain age think their school days were halcyon is because they have forgotten how truly rotten it all was. We were boarding school boys, paying for the highest education. Which in those days meant small class sizes and a rounded set of achievements based on an agreement between one’s parents and the teachers.

Thankfully my mother told them to leave me alone and they did not dare argue. My house master said my mother was the only person he would be reticent to argue with, and I blithely thought that was a compliment to her. Now I know she throws things when she is angry I am not so sure.

I did not like school. I did not like the way young minds were manipulated and I did not like the way sport was thrown down our throats. And if I start saying I did, will you kindly point me to this post, because my mind will start to play tricks on me at sometime and I may think I should have been President of America but for my lack of chances.


People Ask Me

Where my poems come from. I don;t deign my work with the title poetry, I think of them as thoughts I idly write down. I am not a natural poet I was brought up by a natural poet and her work has always filled my mind. So, for those of you who want to know, this is some of my mother’s work.


And So I Danced

Upon Eden’s velvet grass
I danced –
I saw great Adam drifting past
And Eve in her snake-trance, yawn
Upon the velvet lawn –
Life saw me spinning with delight –
Called out, dance for me –
And so I danced

I danced out of Eden –
Thinking; It’s only for awhile –
Life smiled at my youthful steps
And led me mile by mile
Away from the lawns of silk –
The never fading flowers –
Calling, Dance for life –
And so I danced.

Great Adam haunted y sight,
Eve forever young, wept rain –
Again and yet again,
I searched for Eden’s path –
But in vain –
Life pushed me into steps of
Dancing pain,
And so I danced.

Whenever I saw a coil,
That slithered like a snake,
I’d remember Eden’s warmth –
And my soul ached
With mistakes –
I danced to music of the world –
Yet Heaven’s notes I heard –
From simple, small singing birds –
That circled Adam’s ribs –
But life called me to dance –
And so I did –

With grief I came to Eden’s gate,
It was covered by thick mist –
And only by a thousand chances –
Could I find the way back in –
Great Adam held his side
With weary hands –
Beautiful Eve moaned
In long, deep sighs –
I tried to push the gate aside –
And dance upon the velvet grass
But life called me to obey the dance,
And Eden’s gate was closed –
I could not pass the creatures of the dark –
And so I danced.

© Shänne Sands 2010

Love Sonnet

Only when I am with you do I have
A sense of everything: of possession
And possessed, of the liberty in love,
Of the frank and easy conversation
Dovetailed with the intensity of your
Eyes,of the waterfall of your ideas
Growing closeness like crystals in the pores
Of my skin, of the shadow which appears
And disappears with your departure and
Return – for your breathing is my heart beat
Your voice my blood flow, your desires my hands
Your caress my voice, your arms my retreat –

I have nothing left of myself but this,
In us I have everything self could wish.

If Blue Skies Are Not Enough

My uncle once looked into the distance from a road and pointed to a hill on top of which grew eight large trees. He looked at their shape their crowns made and said, “Only god could make that.” I was a teenager and felt it churlish to point out that the trees had been planted by people with just the right distance between them. But even if the individual moment was touched by human beings, the general idea was nature’s whole and complete.

I have learned that we tinker. We are like children with a huge great toy, and we explore and pat ourselves on the back at how brilliant we are to ‘discover’ this and that. Nothing we do is above nature, everything we ‘discover’ is her’s by right and her’s first. We are not inventors nor creators, we are simply people who explore what is already there.

And like children often we enjoy taking things apart to see how they work more than we enjoy putting them back together. But in taking them apart how much understanding do we really achieve? For all those with the deepest wisdom and knowledge say taking them apart is only to uncover how they are put together. Yet in so doing we often destroy what we already have.

The time has long past for us to cease being children.

King Arthur

I used to love reading about Camelot which is really strange when you think what the knights were really like; I didn’t find reading about the Crusades half as appealing not did I take to reading about Charlemagne and Roland. And it wasn’t the dragons, evil witches, or eventful love-stories I enjoyed most. It was the dedication to honour. To be someone whose word one can trust. An idea that could have the substance of corporeality.

I remember my teacher at school saying it was a time when a man would take a veil from a lady, hold it next to his heart and sail off to fight. A time when there were hundreds of pages written about how to fight justly. How to be an honourable enemy. That whole idea of going out and righting wrongs did for me.

When I read Don Quixote, a book of supreme bliss, I realised I was far more like that old man, at sea in a world that did not believe in honour any more, that counted Courtly Love an absolute joke ( and a lot of it is) and all crusades were personal. Ideals were foolish.

I don’t think dressing up and learning to fight holds any honour in and of itself. I don’t think keeping silent when you are in love means anything. But somehow the simple idea that I mean what I say, that I will not mislead, that I can be predictable in a world where human beings are seismically riven with falsehoods, still means something.

I don’t mind being thought of a fool and being relatively poor I would mind more if I let people and animals down.

Travelling With Four Legs

The first dog I ever remember was a Labrador/Boxer cross who lived with us until I was nine years old. She had two puppies and the father visited to see how they were the day they were born.

The fastest dog I ever knew was Bella a terrier cross who outran a Whippet in our local park. I used to throw sticks for her and run the the opposite direction. I never got away. She was with us until I was fourteen and illness and the sadness of my mother’s life lost her to us.

We had a long period of time without any dogs but when we came back to live in the countryside we started by buying a collie who was over bred and was put down when he was three. The second collie we bought from a farmer and he was the cleverest animal I have ever know. I used to hide behind trees expecting him to seek me out but after doing this a few times I noticed he did not come to find me. When I peered to the side of the tree he was looking at me from three trees away… from behind the one he was hiding behind!

We rescued a little girl Welsh Collie who lived with us for five years and was as gentle as a lamb. Momo who is downstairs as I write has hurt her foot, she is some kind of terrier  abandoned on our hill eight years ago. And our newest family member Queenie who is mum’s gift to herself, a rough collie to remind her of Scottie who used to greet her off the school bus when she was a child in the fishing village of Porthtowan in Cornwall.

Personally, living without dogs would feel unnatural to me now and walking in the fields strangely lonely.

How To Make Wisdom

The first thing you have to understand, and it is not easy, is that you do not have to be human to be wise. Some people, of course,  find that perverse and strange but the reason it is important is because we often say ‘nature is wise’, and many other times we say ‘it happened for the best’, and whilst both phrases are explanations meant to allay fears and placate, they do point to one of those most difficult ideas to grasp: the thoughts of thoughts.

Think of the human race, in fact think of the entire planet, not as an entity but purely as an idea. View it all from the point of view of theory and certain rather stark facts emerge. Human beings have grown around themselves not the opportunities of life but the chains of living. Propounding the long march to freedom they have not seen freedom as anything but the freedom ‘to do’ something. And those somethings are always linked to our nature not to our intellects: we congregate into countries when the whole world is one country; we congregate into tribes when DNA teaches us we are all cousins; we kill for flags when ethics repeatedly tells us killing is wrong. We lust for each other and money because one brings pleasure and the other brings power. We work tirelessly for the poor and homeless without changing the economics that creates them in the first place.

Sometimes being human is a hindrance to ever being wise.

Theme And Substance

I did my interview with Lars Larson, a very popular radio show host in America. I understand these ‘one theme’ shows are common but it came as a culture shock to me that a radio show would try to steer every conversation and every guest into denigration of one political faction.

I did suggest to him that we were both children of adversarial politics but this table-thumping goes beyond just being adversaries because there is no way at all some of these people would ever modify their thinking; you know exactly who they would have been a hundred years ago, what they would have been saying and what they would have believed.

However I wonder if I cannot say the same about me. The interview was pleasant enough and I side-stepped domestic American politics because I don’t know enough about it, and I would never run any discussion that was not balanced. It is just somehow I distrust anyone whose mind you could never change. However intelligent they are it strikes me as somehow ignorant.

I have come to live in a great deal of ‘chaos’ with much unresolved and I do not mind. I do not look for absolutes or certainties. Those people who do I feel, limit their vision because they will always find them.

That is the trap.

The Endless Search

I have heard many people talking about ‘finding themselves’ over the years and the myriad ways they go about it, I have often wondered what this idea of ‘self’ actually is. It is of course vitally important, perhaps the most important idea of any, as it does inform us of how we should act in the world.

Apart from the narrow versions that we are somehow more special than any other being it is both difficult and amazing to consider that our individuality flows from one egg and one sperm and that but for the processes of a second we would not exist at all. If you have ever considered being someone else’s children or being another gender you will have an idea of how odd it feels to think you could not be you.

Of the million, million accidents that bring us to birth and how that birth relies upon every coupling that has occurred in our ancestors since the dawn of life, and how everything they were is in us, self takes on an almost mystical essence.

It is way beyond name, nationality and something more than gender. It is a connectivity to the life, a voyage on a sea of perceptions, a willingness to breath and a passion to share. The self is nature’s gift to us to meet the challenge to understand all her ways and all her beliefs.

Far more majestic and more wise than our own.

Do We Understand Each Other

The simple answer is, ‘only if we make an effort.’

I think my upbringing, being with a single parent who happened to be one of the great beauties of her age and one of the most talented poets of the century, is not going to be typical by anyone’s standards. But I think if you love your mother and you see how the world treats her, any mother at all, you will have an appreciation of what I am going to remember.

It amazed me that my mother was often judged for her looks not her mind – it also amazed her. And even the men who loved her paid little more than lip-service to her art. My sister’s father told her poetry was a phase she would grow out of. My father told her he wouldn’t spend his life walking behind her. We are so wrapped up with our ego it gets in the way of understanding another person.

Then understanding the huge historical wrongs done to women and sometimes knowing that their own desires get in the way of their intellects too because after all, we are all human beings. But I thank my mother for bringing me up ‘just knowing’ things without having to ask questions. And sharing with me the way a writer does, all her experiences of her childhood. How she grew up and learned about the world. What it meant to be a daughter and  a mother and how marriage did not suit her and what bores men can be, and I know the genetic drivers that make them so.

It isn’t as if I have the best of both worlds but it is like having a mind more full of paintings than it otherwise would have been.

The Eve Of War

I know the sea is made of tears for I
Have wept them all; I know the air is made
Of sighs for I have felt them all and cried
Out all the world’s nightmares which cannot fade
With the dawn. There is no battle I am
Not weary from; no dirt that does not cling
To my clothes and pain flows just like flotsam
To where I stand on the beach of all things
Human.You can talk of borders, countries
International law and god’s commands
But until your arms learn to dry my eyes
I wade in the waves of sorrow which harms
The psyche of a wand'ring soul which yet...
In the name of all, blesses the sunset.

The Birds And The Trees

In one of the fields in which I walk everyday there is a copse of trees. There are about thirty trees spanning an entire corner of a field. I have no idea why they have been left there the land is ploughable, but there they are. Some are pine, the rest are beech, sycamore and ash. A few years ago the farmer tried some new planting but he lets cattle graze the land and they just sat by the saplings and rolled on them, or sat on them. Doesn’t help a sapling to have a quarter tonne squash them. There are a few dead trees there one leaning against a beech, they will make a noise when they come down. The three other fallen trees make a good catch-me-if-can excuse with the dogs who seem reluctant to jump over them the way I do.

Rooks and crows nest in them but they are all in bad shape and when they die off I suppose that will be the end of this copse. The trees there now are between a hundred and a hundred and fifty years old. Majestic, close, fragrant.

Every autumn I go I can stand in the middle of the field on a breezy day and the leaves scatter falling all around me. Mostly the beech tree leaves. It is one of those moments when great strength shows a delicate nature, and when the dying share beauty.

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