yet, neither is Mind. Rather both together are faces of God. And God is Nature, infinite, perfect.
One day, adrift among the foreshore dunes, my hands ablaze with melting sunlight, I spoke a prayer. Why? What did I say? I don’t know, but it was a prayer, and the waves on Kenfig Sands were suddenly a singing voice, a chorus – yes, a chorus of immortals had come. The play stops. I have stepped outside. All is still. The audience appears, biting its tongue. And the chorus speaks: Show me, it says, show me what I have shown you.
ZB: I never know love – deep, ecstatic, life-changing love – until the day that my first son is born. For nine months, I pray, promising all kinds of things, if only the baby will survive. And here he is.
In those first few months, it is deep winter in America when the snow sculpts itself to the shape of things, drifts against the front door. The curves remind me of the beaches at home: peppery sand grains wind-blasting the cheeks; sand banks giving way and drifting against sea walls. Perhaps the same wind that here lifts the powdery snow, also gales across the Atlantic to shiver the sand on the shore of Wales.
I don’t even mind that the baby is born in winter and we spend our first months snowed in. I hardly sleep at all. I don’t want to write. I just want to look at him.
One morning I lie him on his back on the middle of our bed. A mobile is hanging down and he makes a joyful snatching movement with a tiny hand, pedalling his legs as if that could bring it closer. Out the window, everything is dusted with snow, and the trees have grown long, shiny icicles like hard, cold fruit. It is all so incredibly beautiful – the contented baby on the bed, the snow outside moulded so carefully to the shape of things – and I want to stop time. I don’t think I have ever been as happy as in this moment. My baby and I – we are so close that we know every fluctuation of mood in the other. He is still a part of me, but as with all children, he grows into separateness, the journey away from the mother, away from home that every one of us is forced to make.
KE: Where am I now? Flagstones under my feet, a soot-black roof-beam above, a fire crackling in the hearth. I live on the edge of the dunes at Kenfig Farm, tucked in the lea of the legendary Kenfig Pool, sheltered from the wandering sands. This has been my home for fourteen years – my son was born in the bedroom – but I can never bring myself to believe I belong here. You’re still a truant, I tell myself. None of this is your own. But the house is over four hundred years old. Perhaps the first stones were laid even as Descartes was writing his Meditationes de prima philosophia.
Our attitudes to the natural world have been profoundly shaped by Descartes. He came to believe that we are divided creatures, split between a rational mind, and a mechanical body. The mind is a little pilot, guiding a lumbering machine through a dead world of soulless machines. Animals are robots, without true feelings. Matter is inert. In many ways, this materialism is still the prevailing ideology among academics and intellectuals in the west. It’s the philosophy that drove both the industrial revolution and the British Empire. It continues to excuse our ecological crisis, and the mass extinction of species. Nothing is sacred. The world is simply a heap of free resources. You are almost obliged to exploit it.
I stare at my hands, capable nimble fingers, forty years old. I scoop sand from my doorstep. Sand that slips through itself unseen, falls forward silkily against its own
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