A few weeks ago I stopped part way round my morning tour of our “estate” with the sudden realisation that I had made a ritual of it. Doing this, doing exactly this, was what my father did every day, every day that I could remember at least, in his long life, a life which sadly ended on this day one year ago.
With this realisation came one of those insights of knowledge-by-comparison. I was instantly aware that this was not just a habit or a routine of his, I became suddenly aware of my reasons and at the same time his.
My father was my hero even from a young age. He was not the sporting enthusiast that some men think they are compelled be for their sons, he was almost always at work, gardening or in his work shed and was never that involved in daily family life. He was however THERE, coming and going, an all pervasive presence like a ships engineer with his bag of tools, his stock of parts and his applied intelligence, there with that resourcefulness and generally unflappable nature of his which was so dependable. He kept the engine purring along, the ship on an even keel, the compass true and our destination assured. I only ever wanted to be like that, like him.
As a tobacco labourer working in a local cigarette factory he should not have aspired to own property or provide a good education for his sons but he did achieved those things and a great deal more. He epitomised the redemptive power of self-sufficiency, routine, economy and the accumulation of security through work and home ownership. He was generous, but generous with his life and his time which he devoted to his family and the building of their place in society.
With this came a justified pride of ownership, ownership of his house, his plot, garden, shed, skills, tools, greenhouse, knowledge, books, boxes, collections of things, accumulations of life, decisions, principles, rights, tastes, likes and dislikes, everything in fact that made him the self made man that he was. It was not simply for security that he scratched or inscribed many of his belongings, especially tools, with either 1705501 (his army number) or SM71 (his works number). They were extensions of his self.
It became his routine to go round in the morning, every morning to inspect this “estate”. I know now that in so doing he was inspecting himself, reminding himself who he was and what he had made. I do the same.
I Go Up and I go Round
Being inclined to wonder if that sunborne flittering
Is the larger or the smaller of the white butterflies
I go up and I go round just as my father did.
In any case the post-tea observances are overdue
So I go up and I go round rattling the ritual keys.
I open up for today’s business
Check out the front for deliveries
And conduct the rite of looking up and down.
* * *
Actually I go up to plan and to think
Considering if this would this be better there
Or over here where I began some days ago,
Or should I branch off on another plan,
Abandon this and start afresh?
I go up to re-confirm if all that now remains,
Complete or incomplete as it was left,
As it stood the day before, is still a work in progress
Still marked for when the page at last must turn.
I go up to where my compass reigns,
To see if sullen memories thrive
In their imperative relevance
Or if they lie becoming or already quite as dead
As their long forgotten binomials.
I go up to breakfast without restraint.
I gorge upon a feast of death and life
To nourish my definition,
To steal away the breath of chance.
I go up as far as the farthest extent of my demesne,
I note which demarcations need repair,
Inspect for boundary violations, unlock locks,
Check the lockables and stockables
In their various agglomerations
And make a measure of what is and what is not.
I go up because my story is mine to unfold
Poking about the focus of this plot
Alone, sufficient, unafraid, adding it all up.
I go up to see my loves and to pluck out my loaths
I prune, I snip, I chop, I amputate
To maintain the balance of pride in my pride
Still trying to arrive at an accomodation with pain.
* * *
I have made a truce with being.
I want only what was and what is
Because it was and because, as such, it is,
A static delineation, an artwork of perpetual existance
Frozen in the severity of my dominion over it.
I go up because I must, because I can,
I go up because I learn, relearn, recall, forget, reverse, advance
My life from end to end on each and every circuit.
I go up without guilt, fear or delusion,
I go up because I follow
The measured pace, the studying gaze
Of a man who was no mystery to himself,
The man I try to be, my prototypical mortal soul
Mindful but accepting of life as it is
Undeluded with false hope
Allowing only one faith, a faith in myself
Believing it will all turn out right in the end.