A Bowl of Gourds
On the kitchen table in front of the window that looks across the paddock to the piggery reposes a bowl of gourds. I had always associated ornamental gourds with the exhibitionistic bric-a-brac of Victoriana, something which I could well do without in my small cottage. Then one day a friend gave me some seeds among which were those of ten gourds. Having never before imposed censorship on any form of life, I heeled them into the soil beside a trellis and forgot them.
Now, here upon the table is a bowl of colour, a bowl of shapes so varied that it seems quite illogical that they should all come from the same type of plant. Their names also are just as demanding for attention: Bishop’s Mitre, Ohio Squash, Red Turk’s Cap, Squirting Cucumber and numerous others. In the centre of the bowl is a warted gourd which, despite its bright orange colour, reminds me of the old fat toad who lives behind the water butt in the yard. We call the toad Bebe after the initials of her species Bufo Bufo, and if the sun is particularly fierce, I water her retreat to prevent her becoming dehydrated from loss of water through her skin. After all, one must take care of a creature such as Bebe who appears to be more effective of clearing the lawn of slugs than a hundredweight of poison and who knows, if it wasn’t for Bebe, perhaps I might not be gazing at a warted gourd at this very moment.
My thoughts are diverted from the toad to a Montgolfiere balloon of yellow and green vertical bands, and soon I am rising gently through slate coloured clouds into the deep blue beyond. What were the thoughts, I wonder, of the Marquis d’Orlandes and Pilatre de Rozier as they saw the Bois de Boulogne slip smoothly from beneath them in 1783. As the cheers faded, so came the silence. For the very first time man had lost all tangible contact with mother earth and the first step on man’s long journey to the stars began. The stars? I questioned the thought, for it would still take all of three thousand years to reach Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to Earth (apart from the sun, that is) should we travel at the impossible speed of one million miles per hour. Even at optical velocity it would still take four years and four months to reach our destination. The problem then is not so much one of distance, but one of time. Theoretically it is possible to condense time, and if we could condense it to a sufficient degree, man could circumnavigate the universe within his own lifetime. A paper by L.R. Shepherd, Ph.D., read to the British Interplanetary Society in 1952 explains through the medium of mathematics far beyond my comprehension, how a time distillation effect is produced at near optic velocities. If, for example, an astronaut makes a round trip to a local star and records a journey of three years, on his return to Earth he will have found that twenty one years have in actual fact passed. All the mathematical jiggery and pokery in the world however cannot possibly reverse the procedure; nature still gives us a one way ticket through time.
My mind came back slowly from its extra-galactic wanderings, back through our own milky way, through the local cluster to the fringes of our solar system. Thoughts travel faster than any quantum of light. Out there beyond the human eye, is a mass so distant that it is hurtling away from our own island universe at such a velocity that its light will never reach us. Yet the mind can flick to all corners of the universe in a second. Back come my thoughts past the giant planets, the asteroids and Mars, back into Earth’s sweet atmosphere, through the slate grey clouds and so once more to my bowl of gourds.
It is a bowl brimming with curves and circles reminding me of the rolling countryside beyond my window. It reminds me also of the time I stayed at a friend’s house in Kent. From his garden, heavy scented with herbs, I could see but one building across the small valley. It was a modern house of straight and severe line, not at all part of the natural scene. The lines of the countryside are soft and moving as the blue distant swell of the undulating hills; as the stem of the meadow fescue curved from the prevailing winds like the archer’s bow; as the blackened oak beams that rise from floor to gable of the labourer’s cottage and indeed as the back of the labourer himself whose broad shoulders have borne the weight of many years’ work. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does she abhor a straight line. But for that house across the valley time would not have existed. Its rigid lines cut across the flow and caused discontinuance. They shocked the mind back to the present from its meandering in eternity. They almost screamed, “This is now, this is NOW,” imprisoning the mind in the confines of time. We can release our minds into space, we can cast our thoughts out beyond the constellations and beyond the faintest nebula where time is meaningless, for the patterns above have altered but little since the dawn of man but we cannot plumb the depths of time with the same freedom. The mind is confined to now; always there is something to remind us that this is the present. Time is a gradation of eternity by conscious thought, therefore it is only when our bodies decay and conscious thought is no more that we can be truly free.
So man, upon his world so great
Has always wanted to create
Machines which, started once will never
Cease but carry on for ever.
Yet all the time O foolish man,
You’re merely part of that great plan,
A tiny part, hast thou not seen
This wondrous universe machine?
This motion so perpetual
Is the universe and all
That lies beyond in time and space,
E’en down to us, the human race.
There’ll be no end, there was no start,
There is no shape therefore no heart.
And to create it doth aspire
To use the debris of its ire.
Poor mortal look deep in your heart
And realise that you’re just a part
Of that which knows no boundaries,
Heeds not your trivial quandaries.
Servants of the cosmos vow
To play your part and take your bow,
Or servants you will always be –
Until you die, ‘tis then your free.
read the collected work as it is published: here
black & blue & green & light & orange wormhole: Drug Store, 1927
buildings wormhole: constant hummm
clouds wormhole: being in love – poewieview #26
creativity wormhole: the both passive and transitive / non-presumptive pre-conceptualist attenuation of being
garden & life & sun & uncle wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – autumn
oak & silence & time wormhole: The Boats of Vallesneria by Michael J. Redford – Autumn Thoughts
space wormhole: Saturday – poewieview #3
thought wormhole: ‘on second thought …’ – poewieview #27
wind wormhole: furl-reach
windows wormhole: the coming of ‘The Boats of Vallisneria’ by Michael J. Redford
yellow wormhole: between thoughts