As long as you’re alive

As long as you’re alive

One day I decided not to rely solely on Charlton Heston’s interpretation of El Cid but to go to the original (with the aid of a parallel translation).  The epic Song of the Cid dates from around the second half of the 12th century and in places has a touching...
Oh you later travellers

Oh you later travellers

I’m always touched by people connecting to us from the past, throwing their light into an unknown future in addressing, in a human and friendly way, people not even born.  George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte do this by addressing readers directly, and you, reading...
Leaning into the light

Leaning into the light

The candour of this statement struck me, and also reassured me that my own paltry attempts at living a ‘moral and compassionate existence’ are no worse than can be expected of an average human in a human world.  I accepted very young that questioning is...
Of stars and Dante

Of stars and Dante

On this day, which many of us celebrate as being connected in some way to light and at very least to peace on earth and goodwill to all, let’s enjoy the little known fact that in the Divine Comedy: Dante ends each book with the word “stars”.And so he...
Grab hold of life

Grab hold of life

This year has seen a surfeit of old people whose hold on life has slipped.  Hoyle is an ornery character but one who nevertheless has the spirit of nuannaarpoq, partly by turning a health problem to good use: easily out of breath when he walks, he just walks more...
A matter of infinite concern

A matter of infinite concern

As Seamus Heaney describes it, this is a ‘heavenly father’ who makes wonderful use of the quality of omnipotence, by drawing on his boundless attention, energy and bandwidth to cherish every fallen sparrow, egg or other fragile life form, through all...
The most radiant conditions

The most radiant conditions

This lovely phrase, in a collection of essays by the poet Seamus Heaney, struck me as being in large part what the world is aiming for when it talks about sustainability, sustainable development goals and related rather dry terms. It is combined with an interesting...
We are love, we are

We are love, we are

Recently found a scrap of paper with a list of 1960s-1980s progressive rock and similar bands.  I believe I may have jotted them down in a conversation with one of my brothers during which we were revisiting songs we listened to at the time.  To show you how young I...
Letters of fire in the sky

Letters of fire in the sky

Balint is the protagonist of a wonderful trilogy chronicling the declining decades of the Hungarian aristocracy in the years leading to the First World War.  He is also one of its most thoughtful, endearing characters.  Here he ponders a moment beneath a night sky and...
Everything flows

Everything flows

Grossman quotes the Greek and also used this as the title of one of his books.  The eternal river, always flowing, always changing, and always the same. May it carry you safely.  “Everything flows, everything changes,” said the Greek. Source: Vasily...
In praise of the scruffy and marginal

In praise of the scruffy and marginal

I love hedgehogs and see them as an ambling, loveable, flea-scratching symbol of hope and freedom, as well as the rights of the scruffy and marginal to be scruffy and marginal.  If they can survive in your garden, your garden is healthy. If the species survives our...
These days of September

These days of September

A surprising insight by the author of All Quiet on the Western Front.  You will never see this month the same way again, here proposed as a metaphor for a stage of life, the ninth month of a lifespan of twelve.  So many fine aspects of a human existence, including...
Neglect nothing

Neglect nothing

This sense of completion in an artist’s life struck me, and it made me think about what I may be neglecting now. I take as read the implication that he means ‘nothing important’.  A no-regrets summary of life. It also echoes something my father has...
Far the greater number

Far the greater number

If you can die concluding that by far the greater number of people in the world are very good, you have had a good life or perhaps you have just lived it well.  Here, Steinbeck concludes his slim, rich account of a month spent in the Soviet Union at the height of the...
Here is a valuable life

Here is a valuable life

Lopez’s description of a tough animal encountered on a summer’s day, arresting him with its direct gaze, reminds me of the sightings of birds we enjoy in our garden. In one spot, we used a pair of terracotta pots, about a foot high and nearly as much...
Seven steps to heaven

Seven steps to heaven

Now I know why it’s called ‘seventh’ heaven – it takes only seven steps to get there. I stumbled upon this revelation while doing the Spring Circular, the 10km round robin walk with which I’ve been savouring the season’s renewal. A...
The texture of the everyday

The texture of the everyday

This thoughtful reminder of the splendour of everyday happiness made its way into the nuannaarpoq pipeline long before the world we love was swept by pandemic. How many of those in quarantined ‘exile’, or ill, or on their deathbed may be recalling with...
Impeccable integrity

Impeccable integrity

Barry Lopez came up with this touching idea of comparing perfect integrity in a human life to aspects of nature: the way light works, wind moves, birds sing, or seed pods burst. They are all good models for coherence in life. ‘I wish the order of my life to be...
Statistic of the day

Statistic of the day

I started viewing handfuls of healthy soil, forest or otherwise, with new respect when I learned of their teeming life forms.  That awareness has now extended to including rotting old tree trunks and stumps, smothered with moss and lichen and countless invisible...
Alive on this earth

Alive on this earth

Grossman’s essay on the Sistine Madonna by Raphael is one of the most splendid responses to art I have read. He deploys all his descriptive powers to encompass what it means to him and to us. Above all, it is a symbol of precious, tender, vulnerable, resilient...
The most splendid thing in the world

The most splendid thing in the world

Vasily Grossman, who lived through and witnessed some of the vilest episodes of human history, never lost his belief in humanity as embodied in the smallness of an individual human being with quirks, dreams, longings and a capacity for love and kindness.He is, for me,...
A slow creation

A slow creation

A marvelously succinct summary of the vast universe that is the evolution of a single human being, with all its subtleties and complexities.’A human being in this aged nation of ours is a very wonderful whole, the slow creation of long interchanging...

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