Whale experts are concerned that noise pollution in the oceans is shutting down the whales’ long-distance communication systems. To me, this seems a paradigm for our own fragile state as we cling, increasingly disorientated, to our beautiful planet. Our understanding of the sacred, our deep awareness of the mystical power of Earth, our tribal wisdom, is threatened by the busyness of our lives, the ‘white noise’, the stress, the pollution. In these poems I am trying, in my own inadequate language, to express some of what we do not have words for, something that may be lost, some otherness we need to honour, to celebrate and to protect. It is that ‘ghostly language of the ancient earth’ which Wordsworth understood so well, which the Druids celebrated on sacred Iona, which the Maori inhabit in their marae, which the Tibetans enshrine every day in their sacred rituals, which native peoples everywhere still have ‘whale language’ for. It is that still spirit, the numinous, which links us to the mystery of Life.
Whales off the North beach: Iona
They come together in blue water,
Black, glossy tails glinting in sunlight.
Unhurried, exactly equidistant,
They stroll the sea beyond the black rocks,
Where surf threshes the edges of land.
Even across the distance of the bay
I hear them, their inaudible
Their presence fills the bay with silence
And deep speech.
I am drawn into the circle of their being,
Aware of stillness,
Creation weaving its web,
The rub of particle and molecule
Between sea and land,
The endless sexual game of thee and me
Between edges, and frontiers, the journeys between,
The journey the sea makes, its language,
How we share its tides in our gut,
How these black-tailed whales sing our songs,
Dance our dance.
We wave to one another
In our steady progress,
Me in the hayfield above the machair,
They in their own place,
Cutting diamond water, while
simultaneously ruminating on the state of the world,
and rewriting Hamlet for whales.
Manawatu Te Ra
A Maori speaks for the World’s tribe
The word is in the wind. She hears it.
I do too, this Maori blessing on the day,
echoed in her rituals of grace,
her tobacco, the different coloured
cloths – the green, the white.
Om mani padme hum
Here too is the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus,
here the Tibetan spins the prayer wheel,
Prayers, invocations. Fly up above the river
into the Great Sky. She is like the earth,
listening to trees, speaking in Earth’s language;
the blessings of the day are written in her blood.
But something else. A move to spirit, to stand, listening:
Manawatu te ra. The Maori woman
stands in the heart of the day, her tribe
circling about her, protective, those ancestors
bringing wisdom to the wheel; the prayer wheel
for the Tibetan, the fastness of mountain.
Here the Maori weave flax into sacred pouches,
honouring punamu, holy jade, stone, Earth.
Dreams, death, birth.
Not only in the wind, but in the silence after,
the spirit wafts about us, singing tribal songs.