14 February 2023

Landscapes of gone-time and going-time

A Jak tree close enough to distinguish the older, somber, dark green leaves from the light-green hopefuls. Jak trees too far away for shade distinction and yet have leaf-signature but will, soon enough, turn into silhouettes and eventually have identities merge with the night sky.

There’s a gigantic bo tree, its many arms outstretched in all directions. The leaves appear golden-brown and even from here where I can look over rooftops the endless dance of leaf and leaves is clear enough to replay for me the immemorial and incomparable songs that the wind-leaf orchestra has played in primordial composition.

There’s an arecanut grove between me and the bo tree. It’s the wind, I know, but it’s like a dance to the music the wind carries towards me. Two araliya trees of lesser height, yellowish-white and more-red-than-white which might have exotic names I am ignorant of remain unmoved. Not their kind of music, maybe.

Some houses or rather parts of houses: different roofs, tiled and with ridged asbestos, dirty brown-red and bright red. White washed half walls discoloured by sun. The hierarchies of height. Far away, the Lord of Concrete has risen, but is as yet half-dressed. There is a scaffolding in attendance. A white coat is in the process of being worn.

There must be hierarchies within the structures and among them, lives. People. For there are residents, owners and tenants. There are people moving along streets and lanes, perhaps going home or just passing through in cars, motorcycles, bicycles or just walking.

Between light and light, in the hours of night, time may curve, slip, u-turn and u-turn back, circles and straighten-out. Lots can happen while we are asleep. But maybe none of that is true: no rift in time-space continuum, no dimensional scramble, things are just as we imagine them to be apart from flights of fancy and the multiple narratives that a maverick imagination can generate.

It’s morning now, as I write. That which was black became grey and greyish silver. From blackness emerged silhouette, and silhouette got detailed. Trees took shape. Leaves recovered form. The hierarchies of height were reestablished. Evening sounds were gone but morning sounds didn’t sound less familiar. Evening skies were not splashed with fire, not at yesterday’s dusk, but morning skies are different.

The leaves of the jak reflect bright sunlight now. The bo leaves have a golden hue and from this distance its like an intricate pattern of lace cascading from and spread on either side of arterial boughs, painted in colours dark enough for better contrast. There’s no wind. The leaves are still asleep, but movement, song and dance are imminent, I feel.

Dish antennas seem to have sprouted from many rooms during the night, but that’s just me and poor observation. A water tank on top of a metal tower strike a sentinel pose. Someone has swept fallen leaves and got a small fire going for there’s smoke painting giving a dreamy blush to all that’s before me. Maybe this is the time for burning trash for there is smoke billowing from beyond the last houses visible.

Yes, there’s wind. The smoke tells me so and the bo leaves nod in agreement.

Sitting in pensive-land measuring time by the play of eye and object, with frail powers of concentration, the doors were open to multiple invasions and poetry from a long ago. The year 1985, for example, when I first read Ezra Pound’s translation of a poem written by Li Po in the 1st century, ‘Poem by the bridge at Ten-Shin,’ and a line I’ve never forgotten: ‘Petals are on the gone waters and on the going.’

The trees will bear fruit for those yet unborn. The music that the wind makes in the company of bo leaves will be heard by others. There were no buildings here not too long ago. Landscapes get transformed. Civilizations rise and fall. The verities of birth, decay and death will be comprehended by one and all, as they were by those who came before. And also a poem from seven years ago:

Something brushed the surface
of a gin and tonic moment
something sank into liquid sorrow
in the retelling of retold stories
something cut through night
in the imagined stillness of the dark
something waited for expected word
in the thrill of vacancies that fill
something about hours and nights
wrote a story that will not be forgotten.

It was a story of all-this-time
of suffocating love
the mines of ownership
it was a story of a river
and a friend
one still and the other not
it was a story of a waning moon
a first-time observation
of light overpowered by darkness
and the terror of Amavaka.

‘And the inevitable re-emergence of reflected light and its increasingly brilliant march towards the inevitable fullness of pura poya,’ I should have added.  

Landscapes in flux offer true dimensions, nurture humility. Identities are formed, are accentuated and eventually fade. Eternal verities go unnoticed. In gone-time and going-time.
['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart The allegory of the slow road