Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Ramble - Migration

Can it be? Another September has arrived in the world with its changeable skies, rains and winds, confetti colors and tumbling leaves. One of my favorite British poets, John Keats, called this time a 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness", and his words come back to me this morning as I tap away here at the keyboard and look out the window occasionally.  However one looks at it, this is a time of transcendent change, restless movement and migration.
A lovely word, migration has its roots in the Latin migratio, migrationem and perhaps the Greek ameibein, all meaning to change or transform.  In chemistry, we use the word to describe the orderly movement of an atom from one place to another within a specific molecule.  More commonly, we use the word to describe the seasonal movements of birds and animals from one climactic zone to another and then back again. We do not (and perhaps never will) understand the precise algorithms of migration, but it has long been speculated that sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic fields, the length of days and nights and the position of the sun and stars overhead all play their parts in the equation.
I am slowly making my way through David Lewis-Williams' The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art, and his weighty (but controversial) scholarly work is providing me with much food for thought. How interesting to think that in the beginning, humans were migratory animals too - we were compelled to follow the seasonal migrations of the ancient herds which provided our food supply along with materials for our clothing, footwear and tools. Somewhere along the line in our migrations, we discovered time and started to mark the passing of days and seasons on the walls of our caves. If Dr. Lewis-Williams is correct, and he makes compelling arguments, we discovered art, ritual and shamanic transformation around the same time, and we have never looked back.
After a visit to Lascaux in the early forties, an astonished Picasso told his guide that humanity had not learned a thing about art and creativity in twelve thousand years. He was wrong about the antiquity of the magnificent paintings in the French caves (they are at least five thousand years older), but his amazement and awe as he stood in front of the Chinese Horse echo down the years.  How far have we come anyway?

In autumn, the geese fly south, and snug in our bothies we listen, far from traditional rhythms of hunting, gathering and seasonal movement. Modern day human migrations are those of the spirit and imagination for the most part, but they are no less adventurous and transformational for all that. No longer compelled to travel from one place to the other in search of food and warmth, we curl up by our hearths, and from them we can indeed take wing.

This past weekend, a heron in my Lanark pond lifted her face and looked up at the flocks of migrating northern geese silhouetted against the clouds - it won't be long until it is her own time to go, and I suspect she was thinking of that.  As I watched her from nearby, it seemed to me that there was infinite patience and yearning in the tilt of her perfect head, grace and wordless eloquence in every curve of her expressive wings. It cracked my heart wide open, and if I could have held her in my arms, I would have.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo and thought provoking post. I always feel that change and restlessness in fall, too.

Mystic Meandering said...

How Lovely Cate! ...the "migration of spirit." Yes! I feel it too. I love the Great Blue Heron - "watching the 'signs' overhead with longing..." My heart cracked open too just reading your description of her! What wondrous Love pours out from these "cracked hearts" :) May our hearts fly with the Heron... Christine

Cindy said...

My spirit migrates to a soft place in the Fall, one where I can feather my own nest, bake, read, contemplate and wrap myself up in my favorite blanket. I used to feel restless, wanting summer to last and last, but now I feel quieted and watchful, looking for my own signs from above, beyond, and all around.

Guy said...

Hi Cate

A lovely shot of the heron watching the geese go by.


amy-rainflower said...

beautiful....the last paragraph especially so moving left me with tears. thank you.