Diary of a Romney Marsh by E. L. Grant Watson

Diary of a Romney Marsh by E. L. Grant Watson

May 20th. — On a hillside of waste land grow gorse and heather bushes. The air is still and the noon sunlight draws from the vegetation a moist, sweet scent. I have been lying indolently listening to the voices of birds and the wings of insects. In that seeming idleness, my senses became each moment more alert, more separate, each one from the other. The blurred complex of experience, which passes for personality, became differentiated, crystalline with separate facets. Sight, touch, hearing, scent, each in distinct knowledge, interpreted a universe of significance and wisdom. In the quickening solitude, the senses are wide-open gates, through which the inflow and outflow of universal being passes. They open not only upon well-loved fields and pastures, but upon limitless cosmos, upon the furthest most ultimate mysteries. The imagination is then naked and exposed. Blake has written, "I can look at a knot in a piece of wood till I am frightened at it." At this phase, beauty and terror are intermingled. Thus it is also with sound. There is a point of intensity which we can bear no longer. I have listened to a nightingale singing in the early morning, before sunrise, and have been compelled in fear and wonder to walk away. Touch has also its climax of mystery which cannot be supported. With the sense of scent there is a difference. And because of the warm sunlight upon the moist earth, this open gateway of perception has seemed to me the most alluring, has seemed to be the one which reaches most powerfully back into the past.

I pushed aside the grass stems, and pressed my face down into short moss and weeds, taking deep breaths of the magical, sweet odor of the soil. What memories are stored in that familiar scent! The unclouded delight of childhood mingles with tears of bitterness and failure. What diverse scenes and faces return to me as I draw in through my nostrils the rank, strong quality of the grass roots. Here there is no climax of pain or fear; in its place there grows a quality of calmness and consolation. The complex of memories: pain and happiness blend in a kind of half-conscious oblivion. I cannot have enough of this rank, familiar scent; pressing my body closer to the earth, I am content to lie still.