Monday, 9 August 2010

Books and rolling stones

I have just discovered that the American Zen teacher Robert Aitken died a couple of days ago. I was slightly surprised to find that I don't have any of his books, though his name is well known to me. Maybe I should honour the occasion by going out and buying one.

I haven't had time for blogging here for a long while, as Tiny and TinierBookworm have been occupying most of my energies, and we have also had a major house move. I am now living with at least two thirds of my book collection in storage, which would be frustrating if I actually had time to do much reading. As it is, I scarely have a chance to read the ones that I do have on the shelves.

Moving house has also meant moving away from the small Zen sangha to which I had become affiliated. Having returned to my cushion last summer, I am still there (still struggling*). I am now casting around for a Zen group in the area that will tolerate the patchy commitment that my family duties will allow. I have attended one zazenkai (day of silent Zen meditation) with a fairly local group. It was nice, among all the upheavals of changing location, to find something familiar in the zendo; but all zendos are different, and this group doesn't meet often enough for their way of doing things to become quickly comfortable. By the end of the day I was finding it somewhat gruelling, mainly just because the physical discipline eventually gets to my back.

* Zen has been likened to polishing a rock into a mirror: I am still chasing the rock.**

**I know: it is not the rock that is moving.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Consonants and Folk Music

Sho' Auntie Di! Some of Tiny Bookworm's tuneless singing can be a bit baffling. I am used to hearing fragments of nursery rhymes, but it took me a while to work out what "Sho' Auntie Di" could possibly be. After a while, however, a fuller version came out, and I realized that the folk music CD in the car was beginning to make its mark. "Sho' Auntie Di, sho' Auntie Di", warbled the child, "Twenty hats and Tor ishen why". Having been listening to the Yetties on practically every car journey for the past two months, it didn't take much to decode this as "Shall Trelawney die? Here's twenty thousand Cornishmen shall know the reason why!"

The initial syllable "tor" of "Cornishmen" is an interesting one, as it is shared not only (as expected) with "tor'akes" (cornflakes: consonant cluster "fl" omitted as too difficult) but also with "tornower" (lawnmower). Most words are now converging on a more standard form, though "lant" has only recently expanded to "elephant", there is still a little confusion over "the hungry callapitter", and the African animal with a long neck is still a "wirarsh".

I'm now just hoping that TB doesn't start producing recognizable sections of some of the other songs on that CD: I'm not sure what the nursery staff would make of "The Foggy Foggy Dew" or "Still her answer to me was No", and though "John Peel" is a piece of English heritage, I'm a bit uncomfortable with humming along "from the chase to the view, from the view to the death in the morning".