Surges | A Selection from Lungs of My Earth by William Henry Searle
Our first offering of 2015 is Lungs of My Earth by William Henry Searle. In the words of Sir Andrew Motion (UK Poet Laureate, 1999–2009, President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England) “Lungs of My Earth evokes particular places dear to the author, sweeping them into our imaginations with a rush of delighted language to create ‘a luminous map of the sacred’. Part field-work and part sky-dreaming, it is at once exact and exultant—a vibrant song to the earth and echo chamber of the earth’s own singing.”
A winter memory returns, an image enframed in frost that melts in the warmth of my rejuvenating attempts to remember it: Once, as we strolled in the brisk night air on the cliﬀ –top my father stopped to point at the stars above the sea. He began to name out loud popular constellations, passing over in silence those golden anomalies that seemed beyond naming and which, even now, I have no desire to know; my frail attempts to retain secrecy in a world of noise. Seeming a huge dark column in the night with an outstretched arm, a gloved hand, and plumes of breath veiling those stars, he spoke in a voice that was the wave’s ventriloquism. Mouthing, standing, breathing, imbued with a power, a still force that was not his own but the sea’s and the night-sky’s reply to his presence, I was enthralled into a magnetism that was not arresting but liberating beyond any sense of freedom I have attempted to muster into comprehension since that stroll. I cannot look at the stars without thinking of that mysterious night of instruction as though he were preparing me for this venture of re-discovering the dark heart of the sacred. Father, stars, sea, and I: a mythic night on the high edge, the cliﬀ– altar, rearing up and out into an immense darkness that makes nerve-ends reel, tingle, and Being itch with an excitement of being touched by something quite wondrous.
I think that beyond what can be name, beyond the alphabetical summation of human experience, is a darkness that is dark because it is no colour I know. It was to that coloration of a spirit and to the accompanying dirge of the sea that my father was pointing to, or more accurately, what was pointing my father towards. Out of that darkness various shades of light emerged – toppling fragmented white-lines of peaked crests, glimmerings like terra firma stars running amok in love with recognition and contact, and chalk cliﬀ s at the far end of the bay bearing themselves up like spires or icebergs of the moon. Out of that eerie creation the odd house window-light behind my father and I on the quiet road flickered into stasis like rituals of a community signalling rapport to the glistening of the stars. What is this constellation of everything suspended in its own element? Why is it that the sea empowers me with a remembrance of a weightless planet of atonement that existed, exists, will exist? That memory swelters into vision; then subsides into its frost– crypt guarded by winter as the sea, in my imagination, threatens to resurrect those memories in a tidal surge.
—Excerpt from “Surges”, Lungs of My Earth
William Henry Searle, Ph.D., born 1987, in Dorset, UK, is a spiritual ecologist whose work draws on the world’s diverse spiritual traditions, philosophy, ecology, and personal lived experience in the outdoors to revive the sense of the natural world as inherently wild and sacred. He holds a doctorate in creative writing and environmental philosophy for which he was awarded a three year studentship to study at the Royal Holloway University of London. Lungs of My Earth is his first book.