Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Be Thou Whole

Most of my life people have treated me very kindly.  I think I am treated a little like a foreigner towards whom kind people naturally feel considerate.  It doesn't seem to matter where I am, in this country or abroad.  I  always seem to be from somewhere else.

This afternoon Ember shed her light on us again with a new greeting from an older time.  "One of the oldest English greetings, from which come the greeting "Hello!" and "Hallo!" is the phrase: "Wes hal!" It means 'Be thou whole'." 

Be thou whole.  I can hardly think of a more beautiful greeting, or anything I would sooner wish for anyone.  It is lovely to think that is what we are really saying when we say hello.  If I greeted people on our walks with a smiling "Be thou whole!" or even "Wes hal!" I could hardly be received with more kindly curiosity than I am now.  Thank you Ember.

Tonight I am greeted by a very interesting question, "I'm hearing from you that time cannot exist OUTSIDE of place because the only opportunity we have in which to experience time is right where we are, and that to truly experience the present moment one needs to be anchored in the body which is the primary place of beingness/sensory awareness... The BODY is the primary experiencer of time and not the mind, so the body is an inseparable 'part' of place, and when place is experienced, time is experienced as well?"

Be thou whole Pam!  I have read your question over and want to try to answer it as well as I can, begging your pardon first that I am a foreigner to some of these ideas. 

The experience of ordinary time to me has always been a source of suffering.  When I find myself caught outside the enclosure of what I call "Place" I feel trapped, like I cannot breathe.  There is never "room" enough in such time to me.  How strangeanswering your question makes me see it for the first timeI feel trapped when I am outside of "Place," as another might feel trapped inside.

In "Place" I experience time very differently.  In some ways it makes more sense to say that in Place I simply do not experience time.  My word for it is "timeless time."   It is not as if day does not pass into night, or summer into winter.  But in the bounded space of Place time seems to forever circle round upon itself without breaking free and running wild. 

This is the time of the woods.  I think a great many people experience the same thing in nature.  Perhaps that is what Laurel and her husband go to seek in beautiful Vermont.  You can almost see the difference in the eyes of those you meet in the woodsa reflection of the ancient of days.

The very great difficulty seems to be maintaining this older day in the midst of modern life.  It is what I first glimpsed at the heart of the ancient cities of Europe.  The heart of Paris in spring had that quality.  Salzburg in winter.  Burgundy at harvest time.  It is what my husband achieved for me at last in Innermost House. 

So in a way I am only aware of time when I am out of Place.  Then time seems to blow through the landscape and literally make me restless, like the "ill winds" called the Santa Ana's in Southern California where I grew up.  To me the Santa Ana winds are bearers of a dry desert sickness and hot weather wildfire.

Such time seems to do something to places.  It is really what set us on our search for Place.  Most modern landscapes of suburb or city feel to me as if an ill wind had blown all the life out of them.  I cannot perfectly explain this, but to me it is a landscape of suffering.  I do not mean that the people in it seem to be suffering.  Mostly they seem not to be.  It is as if the landscape itself were suffering.

But I have learned to take shelter, and shelter is always to be found or made.  In the enclosure of nature.  Within the walls of ancient towns.  In an old beloved house.  Around a fire.  In a room conceived for the purpose.  In the corner of a room.

If it is the body that is the "primary experiencer of time"and I almost think I know what you meanthen to me it is when the body of Place encloses time inwardly that I am at rest.  That is what I call timeless time. Then in my whole body of experience I am at peace.

Tomorrow I want to talk about some of the ways we have taken shelter and found, even in the midst of the modern world, sanctuaries of timeless time.  


  1. Thank you Diana! I loved this post. "This is the time of the woods" stopped me dead in my tracks. I ran to the north woods of Maine at a young age, leaving Suburbia far behind. I wanted to write, and all I knew at the time was that I was in love with the writings of May Sarton (a wonderful recluse), and other Maine writers. Suburbia and all it entailed was cognitively overwhelming to me. Bright lights bothered me as well as noises. I STILL refuse to go into a supermarket unless I have to. I was needless to say "different".
    I don't remember it being difficult to just get in the car and rent a cabin deep in the woods with a woodstove for heat. (Yes. I learned the hard way!). I took a college class in Writers of Maine and spent many years living the life of Solitude. I don't remember being unhappy at all.
    After 20 years of "life" happening in between, I have FINALLY found my way "home" to the "ocean-prairie-woods" (that is the only way I can describe it!). I have SO enjoyed sharing your journey..and thank you so much for the fond memories of mine.. I look forward to tomorrow's post!

  2. One social commentator I read regularly argues that just about everything built in America since World War II has been a massive mis-allocation of resources as we sprawl across the suburban and exurban landscape building cheap, disposable buildings serviced by infrastructure designed only for the private automobile. I see so many places that I characterize as "towns without a soul." The commentator goes so far as to say that we are building a country not worth defending. Really, who will lay down their life to protect the acres of asphalt between Walmart and Target?

    I like to hope there is a growing hunger for places that are real; for homes and villages built on a human scale around centers of honest commerce built on local economies. I thank Diana and Michael for showing us that there are other ways to live.

  3. Thanks, Diana. I think that both comments are wonderful. I totally understand the feeling of being somewhat not of this world, so to speak. Until IH, I just thought I was weird and that I would never be happy in this world.

    Al, you are absolutely right. I now know why I feel so overwhelmed when I have to go to large stores with all of the people, noise and concrete and glass. No soul whatsoever.

    I think this is my first post for a while, but I have been reading and every post is so wonderful and the comments are so unique and interesting.

    I can't really say that I am happy now due to the loss of my dear husband. But I have figured out how to make a new start with the support of my family. I think that they understand me better now.

    I didn't intend for this comment to be all about me, per se, but there are some things that are real and then there is the faux reality that obscures many people. Perhaps it is to hide from pain, but we have to go through it, not around it. It seems that people are hard and soul-less somewhat like a concrete building.

    What I am trying to say is that we have to feel the way we feel to be true to ourselves. Nothing else will work at all.

    1. You are so right there Sherry and we all grieve differently too and have different needs. Even when people have been through the same sort of loss its different when you're right in there.

      Lovely to 'see' you again.

    2. Thinking of you Sherry xxx

    3. We love to see your face! Be whole.

  4. oh! and I love "be thou whole". I wish this to all of you!

  5. Thank you, Diana. I think I now have a better sense of what you experience when you describe the 'time in Place'. I especially liked and understood more fully your description: "But in the bounded space of Place time seems to forever circle round upon itself without breaking free and running wild." What a beautiful way to describe one of the boons of living an eremetic lifestyle of simplicity and solitude. Within a confined space that holds time in stasis and promotes the natural unfoldment of the day's rhythms, time flows without going anywhere and therefore loses its power to delineate and separate one moment from another the way it does out in the world. I can appreciate that it would be very difficult to move from that kind of cloistered environment out into the hustle and bustle of daily activities in the bigger world. After a long period of living in silence and regularity in a space carefully designed to draw one's attention inward (or even in an 'old' place that holds the energy of time in controlled balance in its very stones and mortar and gives one a sense of 'anchoring'), being in the world of cement and metal and noise and crowds and loud color and electronic media and violence and the hungry ghosts of mass advertising would feel claustrophobic to anyone who has not become innured to its subtle (and more obvious) effects. I'm just loving your descriptions of how you experience your life in the world and am looking forward to hearing about how you have 'found and taken shelter in sanctuaries of timeless time'.

  6. "It doesn't seem to matter where I am, in this country or abroad. I always seem to be from somewhere else."
    How familiar is that experience! The number of times people have stopped us (my family and/or me) and asked "Where are you from?" We say "Hastings" or "England" and they look a bit puzzled and blank then try again - "No, but where are you really from?"
    We love it when films come on at the cinema about "our country" - always children's films, like the ones made of the Narnia stories or of Lord of he Rings or A Little Princess, or How To Train Your Dragon or - most recently - Brave. It's nice to take a break from being foreign for a couple of hours and be in a world where they know about The Magic.

  7. Here we come a wassailing! Be whole, be whole, my friends. Diana, I think when I am out in the wide world, I am claustrophobic, but when I am in my little home I experience the space as being bigger than eternity.

    I was thinking of telling you about my last trip to SUPER WALMART...but you can all well imagine how that went on your own...hehe.

    1. I had to go to WM to get some new pillows. The asphalt smelled like dirty dipers and vomit. The people looked like tired robots. The pillows I got were lousy...............

      I feel better within a certain circle of space. My home, my work, at my kids. The only place that would intrigue me would consist of yarn or art supplies. Not much of that around, tho.

      Yes, I am quite happy in my little house. Lonely, yes, but Idon't want to leave.

  8. Beauty... I can relate to this post (I have always felt not from here) I can remember taking a long hike along lake Erie, in the beginning I did not feel here (or there) by the time that I finished the hike....I felt part of it all (oneness) most of the hike I had an inner dialoge of push and pull, fighting and accepting. Nature has a beautiful way of shaping us. I belive so many have lost this touch nature has on us. I find beach glass out there also, when I look at its natural beauty, and how nature took something (so called broke) and made beauty....makes me wonder if the things man made where speed up to much. Anyways (time) will catch up to us all....or we will all become one with it lol out of the ashes we rise ;)


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