Friday, 29 February 2008

Earliest hints of Spring

As the post-viral effects wane and I no longer find myself totally exhausted by the exertions of my ride to the office, I am able to see the tentative appearance of nettles, cow-parsley and hawthorn buds in the hedgerows. (telling me that I am behind in my own seed sowing for the allotment!)

It is so easy to be anthopomorphic about this and see behind it tiny elemental creatures helping spring on its way. From under the translucently skeletal oak leaves, poke first little elbows, followed by little tanned wrists which shake in released tension as a small, langourous high-pitched yawn is heard.
The snowdrops, having passed their prime, are left to their own dull green devices as the little fellows turn their attentions to other, more topical matters.
The energy in the ground is palpable. The force behind the bursting forth of the buds from formerly lifeless brown twigs is a tangible thing and, you know, I feel it too! Like the smallest green shoot, poking up inside my chest, the life-force of spring winds its way up through my kidneys, past my breastbone and up towards my trachea. I FEEL different. And rationally, I know it is just a diurnal thing with the lengthening days and the barely perceptable temperature rise.
But its so much more interesting to feel small hands present and responsible in the progressing fecundity all around. It is so tempting to take the slowly emerging feelings of vitality inside to be the manifestation of some vital life force, than the effects of hormonal and limbic action; The sudden pang of excitement, largely sexual i find, in the scent of the first cut grass of the year.
And really, that's what most of it is about isnt it. Soon it will be easter and fertility will be implied all around and I will be walking around mostly distracted with a stupid, dazed expression on my face. The same forces that drive the frogs in my pond to burp and croak so loudly all night is present in me, and quite properly too (I would miss it were it absent). And though the influence of this in me does not cause me, as it does with the fogs, to bellow "Choose ME!!! I am the best! I make good babies! I have good genes! Look how big and healthy I am!"
I wonder to what extent, we still signal some similar message in ways only barely consciously detectable, whilst unconsciously screaming out to those around us.

But before that, complacency must be tempered: Snow could yet happen, frost will almost certainly claim some of the frogspawn in my pond. My pumpkins could, like in 2004, be cruelly nipped in their youth by a late frost in April and my potatoes blackened in their hopeful foliar enthusiasm.
But me, I feel Summer coming inexorably, and i sense that, somehow, we are only really alive in Summer and winter, for all its stark glory, is a time we unwittingly shut down large parts of ourselves.
So, I rejoice in the approach of the warmer seasons, wink in response to the knowing gaze of my terracotta Green Man on my wall here, and stand aside as a tiny wizened figure carrying a daffodil bulb, scurries past my ankles.

Saturday, 2 February 2008


I did an experiment once, just out of interest, on a myspace clone site, a pretty poor one actually, where much use of "lol", "nite" and "wkd" seem to imply a lack of respect for spelling and grammar. Sorry, i am an old pedant, but I do think language has precision and nuance for a reason.

So, anyway, on this site, amongst the honest-desperate, the tattoed male biceps and ladies who should know better in pvc nurses uniforms, I put up two identical profiles. One with the pic of dear Oddbod which currently graces my profile, and one actually of me, looking, dare I say it, quite artistic and buff.

Oddly, though worded the same the latter profile got a massive response, whereas the former got no views; A bit like the few I have now which I suppose must be out of curiosity.
Further, I wrote various, fairly light-hearted but eloquent unsolicited messages to random people and again, poor old Oddbod was really persona non grata, whereas, shiny archery bloke in nothing but leaves got very favourable responses.
Both profiles are now defunct, alas impossible to delete, but effectively abandoned.
Ok, now as an anthropological study, it is hardly conclusive. But I do think it tell us a lot about first impressions.
Now, it is largely irrelevent what I look like as I am not really looking for sexual partners or dalliances and even if i was, this is not how I would go about it.
But it seems odd that "attractiveness" is the main driver for whether we find someone interesting enough to contact or not. Are we humans so shallow?
And so, as I stood in the garage yesterday, awaiting my turn to pay for my diesel, I noticed there was a monitor above me which showed the next person to pay, in this case myself, observed from some hidden video camera.

And i was aghast to discover that the easy going smile I was certain I was projecting onto my face, being of a generally amenable humour, was in fact a rather stony faced almost-scowl. I was horrified! How grumpy I must seem!

So, I turned up the gain on the smile amplifier until it was a recognisable happy face but before that point where it becomes a gormless gurn.
And the smile-intention seems to have to be a lot stronger than I thought to actually register as something approachable.
And this lesson I have taken to heart, to see if people become more well disposed to me in my everday life.
I think the main message i take from this is: What we think we are, or what we intend to be, is probably not what we actually are. The result is pretty much always something else, while we don't actually know his.

And so, how therefore can we actually let the world know we are cheerful souls who would happily engage in a conversation given the chance?
I suppose we have to take our cues from the people we interact with.

But this Oddbod, will, in future, be using his smile muscles a lot more forcefully.
And don't even ask me about the Frankfurt Smiling Experiment...!

Friday, 1 February 2008

tyranny of feelings?

A woodsaw through the heart, cotton wool in your mind, sunshine in your stomach, a heavy cloud over the oily, indolent sea of your motivation.These things appear and we are in thrall to them. Or so it seems.
What can we actually do about feelings. Thoughts we can redirect o happier, more constructive places, but when emotion are involved, they seem to be able to have their way with us, regardless of our wishes.
I remember the days when a vast grey cloud would come rolling in from nowhere, when gravity exerted a tangible and inhibitory force on my will and everything seemed full of despair.
I remember also, the lightness of the spirit, when some action or prospect caused the Sun to shine inside my chest. A euphoria so powerful I would want to leap, and indeed, often still do so, for sheer delight at being alive.
And how to get from the former to the latter? Do we have a say in this.

I would like to say a resounding "Yes!" because that would seem the more hopeful perspective. But really, I am not sure.
Feelings seem to come unbidden. Sometimes there is an obvious trigger; seeing a friend who cheers us, an unanticipated smile from an attractive person of the opposite sex (for me). Oh many things.

Conversely, the appearance of the greyness often seemed unanticipated. Often, I could sense I had not-quite-consciously stumbled into a thought that had upset me, but it was beyond reach of analysis and therefor, could not be tackled.
And, I think my provisional conclusion must be that, to engineer our mood, we must necessarily choose which lines of thought that lead us there.
We seem, at least I and those I have discussed it with, seem, to be unable to control feelings; they will have their way. But thoughts are within our control, mostly, except at times, as I know, when some circumstance or condition takes over your brain and leads you to dark places.

The other thing that strikes me, and I don't know if this is universal, or even common, but I feel different emotions in different parts of my body.
Joy, euphoria and happiness I feel just inside my breastbone. Rage is in my back, beteen the lower reaches of my shoulder blades. frivolity and a sense of mischief, I feel in my outer calf muscles and impatience in my forearms.

So, maybe this works in reverse? Perhaps if i think of my lower legs, I can engender frivolity and silliness. I will try this out for a while and let you know.
And now, I must do some work, so which part of me do I move my consciousness to in order to be productive?