In this stone, we see a plethora of creatures. I would go so far as to say that this stone represents day six of Creation, as related in chapter one of the Book of Genesis, which is when God created the land animals – cattle, creepy-crawlies, beasts of every kind (domestic and wild animals and insects) – together with man. In the middle of the upper half of this stone is a creepy-crawly, a spider perhaps, its legs outstretched as when it balances on its web. Indeed, slung across the paths of Ithaca are numerous fat spiders waiting on their webs. But there are the faces of other animals, also – I see a happy dog, laughing and playful, barking to receive a ball; a dinosaur looms out of the primitive forest, gone but not forgotten; and there is the figure of a seated child with its shadow, that insubstantial form that follows us about and sometimes takes our attention.


Meanwhile, in language, some Church Fathers claim that at our death our souls will be released from our bodies and have to pass through a series of toll houses as they ascend through the sky. It is as if there is a net slung over the world, preventing our escape, and “net” in reverse reads “ten”, which is the number accorded to humans in the celestial hierarchy, after archangels and angels. How are we to get through this net? Well, we are fortunate in that a net has meshes, those interstices – is that the word? – those gaps in the paper, those gaps of silence, through which, if we are lucky, we can wriggle to our freedom. They are like the tiny pockets of light we glimpse in the leaves of trees when we look upwards, which, if they are caught by the sun, turn into blazes of light that can blind us. This is how I understand Christ when he says that, like camels, we must pass through the eye of a needle. This seems impossible and yet, caught at the right angle, perhaps the eye of a needle is vast. “Net” and “mesh” – they are perfectly connected (steps in the alphabet, m-n and s-t, with the addition of breath, h). So let us not lose heart. If we have our eyes set on the light, we can swim to freedom.

Thick-Billed Bird

There is a quite remarkable bird perched on the right of this stone, with a thick bill. What impresses me about this stone are the thick, charcoal-like lines. A face looms out of the central part of the stone (again the thick, charcoal lines). To the left is a sea with dotted islands and, above it, another face points upwards, but it is the bird with its thick bill that draws our attention, perched on white, the different parts of the drawing emphasized by meandering cracks in the stone.


Meanwhile, in language, that white space continues to attract my attention, spiritual elevation through purification, we must cultivate silence, not fill our surroundings with bits of ourselves, noise, loud laughter. Silence, when allowed, grows and gives understanding. The letters of “silent” rearranged spell “listen” – to listen to the other, we must be silent in ourselves. The letters of “silence” rearranged (with a shift in the vowels) give “cleanse”. So is this what silence does, it cleanses us? It also makes us “sincere” (phonetic pair l-r). The white space that takes over, just for a while, and makes us whole again.

Cattle Grazing

Ithaca is known, above all, for its goats and sheep, and is said in the Odyssey to be unsuitable for horses because it is a rugged island. Here, however, we see a cow that is grazing in an open field next to a stone wall, being observed by the figure of a girl. On the left side of the wall is a tree, and there may be another tree behind that, on the boundary between two fields. It was cattle that God created in chapter one of the Book of Genesis, together with creeping things and wild animals, on day six, before he created man in his own image, so I take this stone to refer to the story of creation, since most of the animals I have found on the beaches of Ithaca have been cattle and creepy-crawlies.


Meanwhile, in language, there is a strange correlation between “fear” and “heart” and indeed, if we breathe in a little too deeply, it is often fear that we feel deep in our hearts. “Fear” can turn to “rage” by a step in the alphabet (f-g), and “rage” can turn into “anger” (addition of n). This can easily lead us to nurture “hatred” in our “heart” (addition of d), but our hearts were meant for love – love of God and love of our neighbour. Hate is something that is associated with the past – “hated” gives “death”, just as “lived” gives “devil”. If we want to have a future, we must lay aside our hate and embrace the other. We will cultivate fear of God. This “fear” is “safe” (r-s) because it teaches us to be humble in God’s presence, not to want to place ourselves on a level with him. And then we may find that “fear”, this kind of fear, gives way to “grace”, whereby we work in conjunction with God and allow his love to pass through us.

Outline of Fish

In this drawing of a fish, the fish, whose eye is just visible, is surrounded by a marked line. This reminds me of the account of creation in chapter one of the Book of Genesis, when God created the dry land, scenery and vegetation, fish, birds, land animals and humans. He drew lines around individuals, so that we were one. In English, this is represented by the indefinite article, “a/an”. We use the indefinite article when it is something we can (literally or metaphorically) draw a line around. If it is something abstract, too large to be contained, such as love, then we don’t. Objects with a line around them are known as countable, and I often think that a lot of human life is about how things that are countable relate to each other.


Meanwhile, in language, I used to think the act of translation (which is everything we do) involved activity, doing things. There is the horizontal act of preparation over time, tending the ground, when we look up unknown words and references, consult the author and so on. But the act of translation itself should be vertical, a question of listening, a slit in time, from which we extract and pass on meaning. And to listen, to hear the voice of the translation, we must be silent. Listen-silent.