Notes on the Verses (19 - 21)
A high winter rainbow;
behind me, a sea of orange.
Then all dissolves into grey, the magic moment gone.
This was suggested to me by a beautiful winter evening I witnessed while driving home from the Melbourne suburban area, as I entered Coldstream, and then proceeded eastwards to Healesville. The sun was setting behind me, although I could get glimpses to the west because the roads I was taking turned around a good deal. It had been raining quite a bit, although the sun had come out just before setting, and there was a huge rainbow reaching high up into the sky almost as if it were a gate to heaven, and to the west the sky and land seemed filled with orange and yellow liquid light. The whole scene seemed very watery, no doubt because of all the rain that had recently fallen.
Minutes later, it had all dissolved, and it was just a grey twilight.
Streaky sky in winter dusk;
Pools of mist near the river:
A hidden world below the world of sky.
One winter evening at dusk, I was driving out of Healesville westward towards the Melbourne suburban area. The highway crosses a flat area of pasture before crossing the Yarra River, and ascending the hill on the other side of the river. Looking to the right, where the low flat area extends for a mile or more, I could see a thick grey mist settled over the entire area to a depth of 10 feet or more, like a thick blanket. The air above it was quite clear, making obvious the mist's subjection to gravity. The clarity of the streaked sky, with those magical cirrus clouds in sunset colours, contrasted with the murky mist- covered ground, made for an unusual and beautiful scene.
Highway corner at dusk,
Three quadrants of blue sky:
A magic spot in the making.
The inspiration behind this verse is very difficult to describe in its full subtlety, and I'm not even sure if the verse itself adequately captures the feeling that inspired it, although that feeling itself is one I've known all my life.
Somehow roads and highways have been in my consciousness from early childhood, when I was fascinated by them, and used to enjoy going out driving in the hills or countryside. I used to draw maps of imaginary cities, countries, and islands, and always depicted the roads therein with great precision, and had fun imagining the landscapes they passed through.
This fascination with roads per se is probably not now what it was once, but, as a mere function of the fact of learning to drive a few years ago, and living in a location where driving on an everyday basis is a near-absolute necessity, roads certainly have come back into my consciousness to some extent. It will be noticed from various explanatory notes to these haiku verses that some of the verses have been suggested to me by scenes observed while out driving somewhere. And this is another one of those.
Another kind of phenomenon that has been an important part of my consciousness - what I sometimes call my inner landscape - has been celestial phenomena generally: stars and planets, sunsets, the moon, clouds, the sky, and so on. Again, it will be observed that many of my verses mention such things. These have always been linked with those feelings I regard as spiritual: a sense of the numinous, a sense of wonder or magic - and the haiku verses I've written in recent years have always been concerned with spirituality in some form.
So this verse seems to have been inspired by a conjunction of these two areas of my life. And this is where it gets difficult to describe properly. Let me begin by describing the physical situation:
When I leave Healesville, the town east of Melbourne where I live, westwards is the direction I am most likely to be driving, because the places I go to are mostly within the Melbourne suburban area. If it happens to be dusk at the time, I will be driving into the sunset, so I see a great many sunsets while driving, and get to observe the many moods and colours of them; and I never cease to be amazed at the huge variety of colours and moods sunsets can have. There are red sunsets, yellow and grey ones, blue and white ones - and so on, depending on the configuration of sun, clouds, and sky.
On this occasion, the sky was almost entirely clear, although there were thin films of cloud in large areas, giving a wonderful, misty effect. The stars were starting to come out; and I think it was the kind of evening that should have had a moon, but I don't think it did - or, if the moon was up, it would have been well in the east at the time, and not easily visible. (The uncertainty results from the fact that I don't remember exactly what day I saw this scene, although I think it was some time over the Easter period, Easter Sunday having been 31 March. To be more precise, it was either in March, no later than Thursday the 28th, or it was in April, no earlier than Wednesday the 3rd. I know this, because in between those times I was with my mother in suburban Melbourne, and not driving anywhere at all.)
The Maroondah Highway leads out of Healesville, and goes mostly westwards towards Lilydale, which is on the outer eastern edge of suburban Melbourne, although it does curve around a bit in some places. About halfway to Lilydale, it goes in a completely straight line due west for a few miles, and then makes a gradual turn south. At this point, it's as if there is a right angle where the road turns which has been rounded out to allow the road to curve smoothly. If you imagine that this angle hadn't been rounded out, and that the highway followed the sharp turn of the right angle exactly, there are dirt roads which turn off the highway at either end of the curved part, which more or less continue in a straight line, following the path of the actual right angle. They allow access to one or two properties which are nearby, and are lined by grass and trees. But this is wine-growing country, and most of the surrounding countryside is very open, and you can see rolling hills for quite some distance, with the occasional line of trees on a ridge, or marking boundaries between neighbouring properties. So at this location where the highway turns south, the overall effect is one of great openness and spaciousness.
I've seen this place many dozens of times, but for some reason I particularly noticed the sky this time, and the appearance it had stretching away to the west beyond the place where the highway curves - and for some reason I can't describe in words, it just seemed to evoke a whole world in some sense that felt deeply familiar, which somehow harked back to things I saw (or perhaps merely imagined) as a child. And the interest in roads and celestial phenomena which I had as a child seemed to tie in with that and somehow reinforce it. I can't even begin to describe the feel of it in words, but it had quite a distinct and recognizable atmosphere or feel to it.
Over my life, there have been various spots here and there which I sometimes call magic spots. They are usually locations close to where I live or ones I travel through often, so I get quite familiar with them. There are some of these fairly close to where I live now, and there were some of them in and around Adelaide, South Australia, where I lived as a child. They are not necessarily especially striking scenically, although they do tend to have some little feature or aspect that gives them some visual interest.
But the reason I call them magic spots is that, for some reason I can't describe, there is something about the atmosphere of those places that fascinates me, seems to hint at wonderful worlds hidden just out of the reach of consciousness, which I can't really grasp with my mind, but which somehow impresses itself on me obliquely in an intuitive way. I know that sounds vague, but I can't express it any better than that; but what is certain is that this feeling, although elusive, is completely recognizable to me. If there is a spiritual dimension to life, it's as if the actual location itself has a spirit of some kind which I can intuitively sense, although I cannot analyze with my mind why I get that feeling.
I have no idea why some locations strike me this way, and why others don't. I suppose it's possible that some of the more recent locations which seem to have this magic do so because they remind me of scenes I saw in my childhood, but which are mostly forgotten now; but this doesn't explain why certain spots I knew in my childhood had this feeling in the first place. But I could take you to several spots in or near Adelaide which had this magic - I still remember precisely where they are - although, because I have not visited Adelaide for quite a few years now, I cannot be sure how much those spots have changed, or whether they would still have any vestige left of that old magic. I guess places can lose their magic, if their character is destroyed or changed significantly. However, each magic spot seems to be magic in quite a different way from all the others. Even if any given spot is still the same, it is quite likely that, if you saw it, you would wonder why on earth I found it magic in any way. I wonder myself; I cannot explain it at all.
The spot where the Maroondah Highway curves southwards had not been a magic spot, although when I saw this skyscape at dusk driving near there, it began to take on some of that kind of magic. Perhaps before that it had had a smidgen of magic to it, but it became stronger now. Intersections or curves on roads are, I've noticed, some of the more likely places to become magic spots. (It would be interesting to know whether the Chinese art of Feng Shui can account for this in some way.) But possibly the magic in this instance was mainly in that particular dusk, and not tied to that location, because, as I drove on, the same feeling persisted for some time, although it died away shortly afterwards as the dusk darkened into night. I'm sure anyone who has carefully observed times of dawn or dusk will be aware that any particular feeling or atmosphere they have is short-lived, as dawn and dusk are, by their very nature, transient. (This is a concept I explored in my story Twilight Woods.)
Anyway, that's what inspired this verse - rather belatedly, because I didn't think of writing a verse about it at the time; but now, several days or perhaps more than a week later, the verse somehow popped into my mind as I remembered the incident. It will be interesting to see whether that location where the highway curves becomes a fully-fledged magic spot or not. It is not something I can foresee - and nor do I have any control over it, or any explanation for it. Perhaps it is one of those mysterious things of life that can help give one a sense of the spiritual.
I have written more about this phenomenon of magic spots, in dialogues with my higher self which speculate on a range of spiritual, esoteric, or mystical concepts. Please go here if you are interested to read more on this, and follow the relevant links. The dialogues which discuss magic spots are the ones for Tuesday, 22 September, 1998, and Friday, 2 November, 2001.
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Original text copyright (C) 2001, 2002 (verses and notes), by Michael Edwards.
Introduction - Front page, which leads to Contents|
Web Site of Michael Edwards - Contents
Writings by Michael Edwards
( How I discovered haiku and came to write them myself )
Notes on the Verses
Notes on the Verses
Notes on the Verses
Notes on the Verses (this page)
This page created on Sunday, 30 December, 2001;
last modified on Saturday, 6 April, 2002.