Uncommanded

            the victory of a revolution is immanent and consists in
            the new bonds it installs between people. What Is Philosophy? 

Early in the month, a great serpent-dragon of cloud with a feathered crest coils around the island, noses in across the coastal peninsulas from the southeast and up along the river valley from the sea. It rains for days, heavy sheets of water that twist in the wind and slap against the east facing doors; towards the end, lightning circles northeast, north, northwest, west, southwest, so close that we hear the crackle as bolts cleave the air before the shockwave goes out. Each bolt is followed by a deluge as the cloud that carried the charge collapses, released from the static tension that holds each raindrop or snowflake apart from all the others.

Snow falls on the peaks, tanks and dams fill. Water birds feed, delighted, but other birds and all the furred creatures hunch and wait it out in whatever shelter they can find. I’ve seen this pattern several times over the years, usually after a long dry spell – the arrival of a vast rain-creature that circles, encircles, its head coming to rest in the southeast before the huge body revolves eastwards and disperses. 

The winter flock of black cockatoos continues to gather – sixty or seventy so far, making the rounds of pine windbreaks and plantations along the valley. They arrive in an aggregation of family groups, five or six or ten together flying in wavering lines, at angles to each other, wailing and chattering. Every now and then a single bird loops away from the flock to investigate something – me for instance, staring upwards and calling – before it swerves back, rejoining. The ground under the pines is carpeted with torn-apart cones and chunks bitten from rotten limbs where the birds have feasted on seeds and grubs.

Recovering from whatever it was that laid me low for a few days last month, I dose myself with a decoction of elder leaves. Known for its antiviral properties, all parts of the plant are medicinal in various ways. I boil the leaves in water and simmer the resulting tea to reduce it by a third, then add alcohol as a preservative. I think it has helped – the herb and maybe the brandy too! At any rate, energy returns quickly as I feel the plant-self spread through me. 

After the storm we have clear, glittering days, everything drenched and still. Before dawn, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus – brightest! – rise in a near-vertical line that points the way for the sun. As if in response, a tremendous noise of ravens goes up in the predawn dark. At first I think they’re in the dead tree west of the house but when I look out there’s no one there – the sound is coming from deep within the leaves and branches of a stand of living trees to the south.

In cold sunlight, a yellowthroated honeyeater dives again and again into the bath outside my window – no new hollands in sight to harry it away – where are they? Perhaps they’ve gone further than usual in search of food – the nectar-bearing grevilleas they love and claim as territory are only just beginning their winter-long flowering. A green rosella lands on the climbing rose, nips off a ripe rosehip and holds the stem with its right foot while it bites open the fruit capsule to get at the seeds, spitting out the hairy matrix in which they’re embedded. When it has finished it drops the stem and turns its foot to nibble into the creases of the padded underside and the folds between the toes, cleaning away the sticky remains of the fruit. A family of currawongs moves through the windbreaks, mostly ignored now by the smaller birds that aren’t nesting. Strong-billed honeyeaters work over the leaves and loose outer bark of eucalypts, looking for insects.

An immense spiral of cold air gathers to fill the ocean between the mainland and Antarctica. Freezing wind and sleety rain streams over. The sun is gone for days and returns only in glimpses. Fungi sprout – in the forest, tiny blue parasols and charcoal coloured spears; white and yellow jellies and fluorescent orange shelves of wood ear grow from rotting logs. Shaggy ink caps push up in the gravel beside the road; on the lawn near the birches, bright red amanita with their white flecked tops appear, and around them the peppery boletes that feed on their mycelia. Under the blackwoods we find rings of edible purple blewits; slippery jacks and saffron milk caps push through the duff of needles under the pines – and best of all, in the paddocks we find white and brown field mushrooms – some of them slug-eaten, but still delicious. Pages of spore prints lie on the table, brown on white, white on black, like delicate photograms.

A sliver of the old moon rises with the line of planets into the brightening eastern sky to float above the valley fog. There’s been an election in Australia and for a moment, there’s such a feeling of relief – a sense that change is possible, that the grinding cruelties of late capitalism can be seen and named, that sooner or later they will pass, though the unravelling is far from over and violence afflicts us inside and out. Though only a flicker in planetary terms, these cycles are long in human time – time for generations of ruined lives and lands.

As the days close in towards the solstice, in a dream of the long night I hear a voice say, words change, uncommanded by anyone. Our words, our worlds, part of a process as we go, step by step in the dark, a lifetime and a lifetime and a lifetime in each moment. A network spreads through everything to push up surprising fruits, worlding, wording, that nourish and poison and heal and bewilder us through the revolution that will show us our connections, immanent, with and among the peoples of land and sea and weather, seen and unseen, of all the worlds.

Reference

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. What Is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, p 177.


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