Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: Jeb Loy Nichols

19th December 2016

…In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back on the past twelve months and share their moments;

TALKING TO HEDGEROWS ABOUT TRUMP or TEN THINGS I SAY TO THOSE BEASTS AND PLANTS THAT CAN’T ANSWER BACK (WITH OTHER LISTS THROWN IN) 1. When I was child and lucky, with a gentle father and a mother who listened, I was told two things. Don’t be a bully and don’t trust a bully. Good advise. It’s been my experience that bullies are dull and without the necessary subtleties to make life bearable. They can’t tolerate small beauty. Neither can they tolerate silence nor weakness. They have a profound distrust of difference. They hate any animal or plant not immediately useful to them. 2. Be very frightened of Mr. Trump (I tell the hedgerow as I walk on the puddled lane). He will make your life difficult. 3. Don’t be frightened of Mr Trump (I tell the hedgerow and the multitude of beasts therein). He will pass. He and his kind. You were here first, you’ve staked your claim, the day and the night and the endless seasons are yours. Your life is already difficult. Made more difficult by them. And yes, I’m one of them. But we are various and unpredictable. 4. Listening to music helps. Often in the morning quietly, and then later, louder. I play music that helps me forget, just for a moment, about Mr. Trump. What I’ve been mostly listening to this year is: 1. Joe Bataan – My Cloud 2. Merle Haggard – Chill Factor 3. Ralph Stanley – Bright Morning Star 4. Ornette Coleman – Friends And Neighbours 5. Renee Acker – If I Had A Magic Wand 6. Danny O’Keefe – Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues 7. Kenny Cox – Clap! Clap! A Joyful Noise 8. De La Soul – Eye Patch 9. Lambchop – The Hustle 10. Van Morrison - Satisfied 5. I have a friend in New York, (I tell the robins and the finches and those small, dark, unnamed birds that are heard but never seen), that wrote me an email after Mr. Trump was elected. This friend, thirty five years ago, introduced me to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. He’s now worried about Trump and the Trump-like behaviour of some of his fellow citizens, but he’s determined to do good work. Sometimes, (I tell the hedgerow) people are better than you have any reason to believe they might be. 6. Did you see the moon last night (I ask the few remaining hazel leaves)? The way it silenced its way across the sky? Nearly but not quite orange. Untouched by clouds or birds or those irritating satellites that blink blink blink. Could Mr. Trump, in his over-lit world, a world he’s built and set ablaze, see it? From his towers and his castles? Did he try? Is the moon, in its remote uselessness, of any interest to him? 7. Reading a book helps. A few pages in the morning and then, later, chapters until I sleep. What I’ve been mostly reading this year is: 1. Gary Lutz – I Looked Alive 2. William Butler – The House At Akiya 3. Alan Cheuse – Paradise, or Eat Your Face 4. Barbara Comyns – The Vet’s Daughter 5. Nancy Hale – Black Summer 6. Douglass Woolf – The Timing Chain 7. Philip Whalen – Imaginary Speeches For A Brazen Head 8. Natsume Soseki – Kokoro 9. Noel Clad – Love And Money 10. Robert Boswell - Tumbledown 8. I ask the hedgerow if it’s familiar with the poems of the Zen poet Ryokan. It gives me no answer. I ask again, louder. Still no answer. In reply to its silence I recite one of Ryokan’s poems: If I had known how sorrowful this world is, I would have been grass or a tree in a deep mountain. 9. Mr Trump, I say, is rich, very rich, rich beyond wonder. He is not (I tell the birch seedlings) to be trusted. Neither is he to be feared. He is to be opposed and challenged and even, now and then, hated. He is to be mocked and ignored and irritated. He is to be scorned. He has no patience. He will give up. He has no imagination. He is built of all the wrong stuff. He will pass. I say these things loudly, as if I trust myself. 10. I tell the hedgerow how pleased I am to be able to walk out in the morning like this, to have these talks. How pleased I am to share these hills. I thank the hedgerow. I wish it and its attendant beasts well. I tell it something my neighbour once told me: Gwell fy mwthyn fy hun na phlas arall. Better my own cottage than the palace of another.

Jeb Loy Nichols on Caught by the River/on Twitter