here with dirt beneath my nails, by Lorna Reay
Here with dirt beneath my nails
and sweat upon my heated brow,
the sweetness of the Earth assails
my senses with the sense of Now.
And something in my heart erupts
and brings a tear into my eye –
how dazzling, shaking and abrupt
the knowledge that this person ‘I’
is vaster than the universe
and standing somehow out of time,
no time at all takes to traverse
the space between your heart and mine
For that space is a fantasy
spun of delusion’s sticky web.
If we can bear the ecstasy
we’ll feel that sad illusion ebb.
I was raised between moorlands and clifftops, with views of the wild waters of Scapa Flow and the Orkney Islands from my bedroom window. The Earth breathed her songs into me there, with only the cry of seagulls and peewits and always, in the background, the sighing or crashing of ocean waves.
I couldn’t wait to leave. Such is the urging of youth, like a fledgling taking flight, heedless of all but the need for novelty and adventure. At seventeen I left home to live in Edinburgh, where a music agent found me gigs, playing my guitar and singing my own songs in concerts around universities and bars. At nineteen I travelled overland to India by bus; a solo adventure, although I made friends along the way. I was held captive for a while in Kashmir before being rescued by Christian Missionaries – a long story. Suffice to say, it was a worthwhile experience, boosting my confidence in my ability to out-manoeuvre an adversary, as well as teaching me to dilute trust with caution!
At twenty, I moved to London and joined a professional folk-rock band. I married the bass player (often the fate of the lead singer, I’m told) and for several years we worked as a duo, with residencies in Scandinavia, tours of Europe, Central America, India and radio and TV appearances. We visited many Oxfam-sponsored projects in India, taking photos and later giving fund-raising talks. I also wrote for a national music paper, writing weekly reviews of recording studios around the UK.
My beautiful son arrived when I was thirty. I began teaching instead of gigging; piano, guitar, flute, singing and saxophone. Somehow my marriage slipped through my fingers and when my son was seven, I left the marital home.
There followed my Seeking Years, studying shamanism and exploring Africa, Mexico, Peru and the southern states of the USA. I was given several solo exhibitions of my paintings. I sang with a jazz band. I had a few articles published in magazines. But my lonely spirit only found true solace when I started to attend Buddhist meetings. Buddhism has been a mainstay of my life ever since.
At the age of fifty, I began a music technology and composition course at the University of Hertfordshire. Four years later, with a master’s degree under my belt, I was invited to teach there. I’ve been lecturing there ever since, in composition, performance and world music.
The earth is still breathing her songs into me, and her poems and paintings. I know She is dying and I don’t know if my beautiful grandson – or my son – will survive to live out a ‘natural’ life span. But beauty still surrounds me. I simply step forward day by day, giving thanks for all my blessings and opening myself as a conduit, as much as I am able, for wonder and gratitude.Lorna Reay
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash