I don’t do time.
I realised this as I sat eating breakfast while watching the sands of Mont St Michel disappear beneath the waves. Victor Hugo wrote of how the tides move à la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (as swiftly as a galloping horse). A bell tolls as the surge begins for, like many a medieval pilgrim, people still drown making their way across the tidal flats. The force of the rolling waves creates ever-changing fields of quicksand which confuse even the locals. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a trapped rider and horse, with the Abbey of Mont St Michel clearly visible in the background. Other riders are being rescued, with Hic Harold dux trahebat eos de arena embroidered beneath; (Duke Harold pulled them from the sand).
The grey sands literally do vanish; in the time it took to spread butter on my croissant and have a sip of my café au lait, another island of sand had disappeared.
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I’m not really sure what an intellectual life truly is. I’ve no intention of sitting in an ivory tower, pondering the movement of the stars while life carries on below. With all that is going in the world at the moment, however, there is many I time I simply want to shut the front gate and banish the influence of all that happens beyond it from my own little world.
Gardening is a start. For many philosophers, manual labour was seen as a way to clear the mind. (I first learnt this reading Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, through Larry Darrell who rejects a conventional life in search of existential meaning.) For me, literature has introduced me not only to great stories and characters, but also led me into the expansive world of ideas – whether it be philosophy, travel, the art of gardening, literary style, history; it is all there, a smorgasbord so vast I feel I have only taken a few bites.
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