"Humour" by Dhiraja
The Sun is rising, the dew thick on the long grass. The other members of the family slumber still but I have slipped out of the house to the fresh world.
As God blesses the morning sun,
He blesses my morning heart
At the same time.
(34 349, Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 35, Agni Press, 2004)
I have put on Nicholas’s gumboots when leaving the house.
Down in the front paddock, Pedro, Lazarus and Inia bleat their cheery goat greetings to me. They trot over and I pat their sweet heads; tousle their long, floppy ears; ask them the latest morning news.
The hens are already busy with the day’s scratching – breakfast of salad and bugs. Chester the rooster concentrates more on being important. I grew up tending hens so squat down happily amidst the flock and enjoy their feathery, murmurous talk.
I pass the giant, gnarled macrocarpa trees – twisted and arthritic – down to the heavy gate of wood and iron designed and built by the country’s most revered Maori artist and out and up the road.
The higher I go, the broader the view. It rolls out below me – the hills, the trees, the hedges, the few houses – down to the sweep of Blueskin Bay. Blue it is and Sun-struck in the early light but it was actually named for the Maori chief of the area who was heavily tattooed …
A girl on a bicycle greets me.
When I reach Green Road I sit down in the grass by the side of the road. Climbing up I had taken them to be goats but from here I can see that the flock in the paddock below are actually sheep – horned and with their fleeces piebald with dark brown patches they give an almost biblical cast to the scene. In the silent morning the sound of the tearing of grass as they graze drifts to me along with the occasional deep, contented bleat.
‘If peace is not
In Nature’s beauty,
Then where is it, where?’
(48 327, Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 49, Agni Press, 2008)
I call a salutation to the grazing creatures and head back towards my own breakfast.
Sri Chinmoy writes, ‘The main reason I keep animals is because they give me tremendous joy.’ He explains further that every time he looks at an animal ‘they bring forward extra love, affection and concern from me. When I pour affection into a bird, this affection flows into the Universal Consciousness. Anything that I offer in the form of love, affection and concern, the whole universe receives.’ (Friendship with the Animal Kingdom, Agni Press, 2010, pp. 1–2)
David Abram – philosopher, ecologist and magician – also writes of the joy to be gained from immersing oneself in the natural world, and of communicating with the natural world and its many inhabitants and aspects.
‘I’ve already spoken of my songful method for diminishing the threat posed by another, larger creature unexpectedly encountered in the backcountry – a simple way to convey that I intend no harm to the other. I should now report that my clumsy attempts at more nuanced communication with a wide range of animals, over many years of getting myself lost in the wild, have also made evident a uniquely efficacious way to bring one’s specific intentions across to a member of another species. The technique – obvious, I know, yet only stumbled upon after much costly trial and error – consists in bringing your wandering attention entirely back to your own limber and sensitive body, becoming at ease with yourself and the slow rhythm of your breathing, and then just commencing to talk to the other animal in your mother tongue – in English or French or Inuktitut, or whatever language is really most comfortable. For if you speak honestly, then the audible modulations of your voice, along with the alterations in your visible musculature, and the olfactory emanations from your skin, will all be of a piece with the patterned meaning of your words, and so will readily convey something of your intent at a palpable, visceral level to the keen senses of the other animal.
‘Even when simply addressing a maple tree, or a boulder-strewn hillside, you can be sure – if you are honest, and so relaxed within your flesh – that there are sensate presences out and about that are affected by the sound and the scent and perhaps even the sight of your gestured intent, whether they be squirrels, or a swarm of termites chewing its way through the resonant hollow of a fallen trunk, whether a small, silent bat flapping erratically through the night air, or the airborne insects that the bat is hunting, or even the impressionable air itself absorbing your chemical exhalations and registering in waves the sonorous timbre of your voice. And so your loquacious utterance is heard, or felt, or sensed – and it would be wrong to believe with certainty that you are not being understood. The material reverberation of your speaking spreads out from you and is taken up within the sensitive tissue of the place …
‘To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples that still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion.
‘Nor is this power restricted solely to animals. The whispered hush of the uncut grasses at dawn, the plaintive moan of trunks rubbing against one another in the deep woods, or the laughter of birch leaves as the wind gusts through their branches all bear a thicket of many-layered meanings for those who carefully listen.’
(David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, Pantheon Books, 2010)
I have never felt much affinity with horses. They seem aloof and uninterested in humans, particularly when compared to their bovine cousins. Perhaps being sat on has given them a jaundiced view of humanity.
Only once have I sat on a horse myself. His name was Mr Plod – not because he was a policeman but to denote his preferred gait. That suited me fine. From my point of view he could equally well have been named Mr Long Way Off The Ground and I was very happy that he was not inclined to move at high speed. I found even Mr Plod a little intimidating.
I descend the road from chatting with the sheep. The bees are thick and humming in the harakeke flowers, and tui – their dark, iridescent feathers golden with pollen – join them at their breakfast feast of nectar, belling and chortling as only they can.
Nicholas has four horses grazing on his property. I think it only polite, despite my reservations about their species, to go and talk to them before heading for human company and breakfast.
I am unsure how to approach them. One lets me draw near and pat his nose. It is soft and feels good. I feel emboldened.
‘A horse goes into a bar,’ I say, ‘and sits down and orders a beer. The barman says, “Why the long face?”’ I fall about laughing. I have never told a horse joke to a horse before. Is that just the faintest whicker and little smile on those delicate, equine lips?