When I was small, I used to wonder if I was the only person that existed. I don’t know when exactly I decided that I was not alone, even with this thought, or even that I can prove that there are others with independent consciousnesses. Mostly, I’ve decided to leave the whole thing alone. But from time to time, it occurs to me that I was right in the first place.
I don’t know what kind of mind-shape you have, but I find that my thought processes are usually in word form. Sometimes, though, an occasional, if solitary image does penetrate. They are mostly seemingly solitary images, like me.
Years later, I lived in Spain. I was sitting meditating when I found myself running up the stony path that stood for a road in those remote parts. Only I was a deer. Don’t ask me to prove it or analyse it – I was. I was running and I was quite happy running and not thinking too much about it. There were other images, coloured shapes no doubt, of my inner self; but those days, they seem so distant.
When I was not meditating I also saw things that were simply, I suppose, natural phenomena. Up in the hills, walking, I saw this hawk. Light and dark brown, head down, meaning business. Knowing where it was going. It swooped, levelled out and plummeted. Only in a horizontal plane. It effortlessly zig-zagged in and out of cliffs, chasms and trees, following almost exactly the path I was taking.
Other times I would see this hoopoe whose swooping, undulating style of flight would make me think it was a Glasgow magpie dressed up in yellow feathers and crest. Of course it wasn’t – it was something else altogether.
The solitary, most thoughtful times would be at night. It was my favourite time. Sometimes I would get up deliberately in the middle of it all, and for a change I would ignore the satellites passing by overhead and refuse to stare at them. I would walk through the holly oak and herbal scented scrub with no fear of stumbling, as the moon would be full. The wild pigs that in daylight I would often hear, but not see, would be out with me, moonlit and unbothered by my presence. I would see many things that were not to be seen in daylight. But it was not just the seeing, it was the feeling. It felt open. Happy, I suppose, is another word I would use, but then again the word would not have occurred to me. Seeing clearly was all that seemed to matter. Breathing in and out, that was enough. There was no sense of burden, hardly anything to hold on to. And that suited me.
The friends that I spent time with were exactly that – friends. Sometimes though, exasperating, as they interfered with my sense of what should be. They were nothing if not true friends. Nitya would go on about boats that he had built, the details boring me to death, almost. We would often have verbal gitano knife-fights over words. Occasionally a dull but deliberate blade would drag across each others’ egos and we would lose it, whatever it was. We would nurse our wounds and go back down the cliffs to our shared hut.
At one point, Nitya started sleeping on the roof of a shrine/meditation building that we and others helped build. He would watch the stars until he fell to dreams. I had the hut to myself, and that suited me. I liked it there on my own. But when I got really ill, Nitya was the one who brought me food and drink or anything else that I needed.
When I got better, I took to wandering the hills and cliffs again. I saw myself as a kind of semi-mad shaman. Divine bliss-kid trying to see through things. Well that’s not totally true. I often did not have to even try. It would just happen. Looking at photos from that time is like viewing a old and strange cave painting and trying to work out what the painter was thinking about when he painted it. The eyes are pure, even mad. What I would not give for that brown-skinned madness again.
My eyes penetrate. But they’re soft. They look, but they leave you alone. They are me, and they are not. No that’s not totally true. I remember meditating and wishing my self well and happiness in my future self, which then I had no way of imagining. So when I look at photos such as this, it is also like me meeting myself as I was, as I am now. The fact that this can be done used to astonish me. Now, I am simply one part grateful, one part longing, the rest just being happy to look.