“O why do you walk through the field in gloves, missing so much and so much?” ~ on being still and connecting with life

O why do you walk through the field in gloves, missing so much and so much?” ~ on being still and connecting with life

Last week I had the excitement of going into London to go to a service at Westminster Abbey. It followed on from a week off from usual activities that had originally been intended to be a week away but for various reasons, we stayed home except for one night away.

I enjoy travelling by train because it’s simple and because once you are on that train there’s nothing you can do to get their any quicker. You have to just sit there and wait. I enjoy looking out of the train window and watching the world go by. The late autumn landscape glimpsed from the train was full of wild life and very lovely; snapshots of life flashed by as the train chugged onwards. It’s not a terribly long journey from our nearest station and while we were aware we had to be in the Abbey by a certain time, our attitude was that should we not make it, it was no big deal.

Yet I noticed something about many of our fellow passengers that I’ve noticed before: a total inability to just sit and do nothing. On the return journey was a young man who was watching a film on his laptop, while playing a game on his phone; he’d also been trying to converse with a friend on the phone but got frustrated and angry because of poor signal. The call was of no importance, merely a chat about possible weekend plans and their mutual friends. But his rage and frustration at being obliged to sit on a train for an hour or so without full-on entertainment and company was palpable. Others around us immersed themselves in books, papers, electronic devices of all sorts. Only the occasional child gazed out of the window. A young soldier in civvies opened a conversation with us about half an hour out of London and that half hour passed in lively talk, and exchange of thoughts and a feeling of connection. For a brief time strangers connected and became potential friends. His concerns about a forthcoming interview for a job outside the forces had meant he had sought not distraction but rather connection and interaction. He strode off at Liverpool Street station with visibly renewed confidence.

Everywhere we went that day, we had to dodge people walking along so focused on their smart-phones that they were oblivious to their surroundings. I’m sure some of it may have been important or even vital but surely not all? I spend a significant amount of my time alone at my desk and I don’t get out much these days. I’ve always found long journeys hold for me plenty of space to think and daydream and since until the arrival of the Kindle I was incapable of reading on a bus(and often a train) without being rather sick, I couldn’t lose myself in a book.

It seems that people are terrified of being bored, of spending time in silence and their own thoughts. Every moment needs to be filled with entertainment or work or anything that is not the empty, waiting silence of the unacknowledged thoughts that wait for us to stop being active.

TO A FAT LADY SEEN FROM THE TRAIN

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?

Frances Cornford.   1886-1960

While I understand only too well how frightening life can be and how the desire and need to retreat can overwhelm, I would urge everyone this: Once in a while, take off the gloves, take off whatever it is that stops you truly connecting with life and other people. Touch life and let life touch you.

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8 thoughts on ““O why do you walk through the field in gloves, missing so much and so much?” ~ on being still and connecting with life

  1. Pingback: On Being Still and Connecting with Life | KungFuPreacherMan

  2. A wonderful piece – we miss so much when we don’t take note of our surroundings and our need to be connected to the wrong things – electronic gizmos – can leave us frustrated and angry. Terrific poem too…

  3. Reblogged this on let's talk! and commented:
    We follow this blog – zenandtheartof tightropewalking – and find it often deals with issues of importance to us here at The Terrace. This post is about our fear of engaging with the world around us, our fear of being bored and the lack of ‘connectedness’ in our lives. Our post about our Advent ritual illustrates how we work to ensure reflection is part of our lives. How do you work to stay involved with those around you?

  4. I’m a fidget, so usually need to keep my hands busy. This is why I always have knitting on train rides (love both!), but it’s always simple knitting that I can do while barely glancing at it so I can look out the window as much as possible and daydream away.

  5. Pingback: Random Friday | creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

  6. I love this piece, Viv. I’m just as guilty as anyone in seeking distraction. I see train journeys as quiet time to settle with a book, not to be where I am. Perhaps I should do the latter more. I love the bit about talking to the soldier. It’s so rare to strike up a genuine and meaningful conversation with a stranger – mainly because we feel threatened and uneasy about contact with unknown people – but this post is a reminder of the pleasures of connection. Good for you.

    • I have always seemed to be the one people talk to and travelling for work (though not a lot) it’s interesting to see who talks to me en route. I once did a fabulous swapsie in the loos at Ikea when I admired another lady’s brooch. She liked mine in turn and I jokingly said, “Shall we swap?” and she said, “Oh yes!”. Her daughter was appalled but the lady was determined she liked my brooch (net worth about a quid at the time) more than hers (a St Justin pewter celtic cross embossed shield)
      I’m doing a lot of thinking at present about connections and how our breakdown in society is perhaps down to poor connecting. There may be a post in this, on neurons and neural pathways in the Collective Unconscious.

  7. I sometimes wonder whether the collapse of structures, institutional, social, and communal has not created such apprehension of loneliness that busy distractions are the new defenses. Doing nothing, or taking risks both bring us up against that fear of responsibility so we make sure they have no leeway, and no opportunities. I think we are all in transition and have not yet accustomed ourselves to the cold winds of solitude. It a big place, but one we will have to find if only as a defense against enforced conformity.

    Today I have to wait in for a new fridge delivery because the ONLY way they will give me a time is via text message and I have no mobile phone! Resistance is very hard work!

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