Rhythms of Life
posted on Saturday 16 Apr, 2011.
“The greatest form has no shape.” Lao-tzu.
I am really enjoying a journey with Barry Lopez, while reading his book “Arctic Dreams”.
Barry reflects on the rhythms of the Arctic after many travels there. These are “indigenous” (his word) rhythms or patterns, not rhythms imposed on it.
There is an annual rhythm of long winter and short summer around which “life carefully arrange itself”. Like the 250,000 lesser snow geese who migrate along ancient corridors older than the nations they fly from. Every autumn they arrive at the Tule Lake. I loved the feeling of living in harmony with this environment, although in the Arctic this can be tough – it’s a harsh environment. To live here is to call on your deepest resilience.
There is a second rhythm of long stillnesses broken by sudden movement, such as the silent arrival of caribou into an otherwise empty landscape, or in the middle of winter when huge pieces of sea ice suddenly surge hundreds of feet inland, or the long wait at a seal hole in the ice for prey to surface. The Eskimo call this kind of long waiting “quinuituq” or deep patience.
Barry suggests that to really, deeply understand a landscape and it’s relationship with it’s creatures, it is crucial to understand these rhythms without any preconceptions or overlays from other landscapes.
When I concentrate on his words, and try to see and feel and hear what he seas and feels and hears, I discover the sense of a rhythm or pattern or form that is far older and greater than any living thing. To paraphrase Lao-tzu, I discover an almost limitless form that has no shape.
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