from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 1 October 2015

the goldenness

So I have been home, and in so many ways I'm restored. Just three days without phone or internet, routines or work, in hot sun on the West Cornwall cliffs and something has righted itself in me. 

My daughter and I and the dogs took the campervans down to a cliffside campsite to celebrate the equinox and my birthday. 

In those few days I remembered what it feels like to relax completely, and to follow only the promptings of what made my heart sing. Why is it such a luxury? It should be how we live. It restored enchantment, magic, deep longing of the inspirational sort, and the fulfilment of that longing at the same time.

Down here everything makes my heart sing: the cliffs, the sea, the granite, the many wildflowers, the light on the water, dusk, dawn, the charms of goldfinches on the hay meadows, the buzzards and sparrowhawks, the waterbirds, the herd of organic dairy cattle in the next field, so sleek and fit and shiny and healthy.  The walking. The dreaming. 

I'm reminded of something Einstein said: 'There are only two ways to live. One is to see miracles in nothing. The other is to see miracles in everything.'

There are some views that are so heart-cuttingly lovely, especially in that golden light of transitional times and transitional seasons, that you want to photograph them over and over. Or at least, I do; with the result that my camera now has perhaps 30 shots of just 3 coves in West Cornwall: Pednvounder at Treen, Porthcurno to the west, and Penberth to the east, all within a mile or two.

Here are one or two:

This is Penberth, where filming was in progress. It was supposedly secret, but everyone knows that the next season of Poldark is what they're shooting. And I know because a romantic gypsy fiddler on the cliffs told me he was an extra on the set (though I'd have guessed that anyway).

Here is one of my beloved holloways; probably dating from at least early mediaeval times, and possibly prehistoric.

Hello Grandmother Thorn, just back from the cliff's edge. I read stories in your lichened branches. 

There are rocks that encourage leaners. The rock here is granite, 'my' rock, and this particular monolith pulled me strongly. Warm in the evening sun, its licheny scent took me back more than thirty years to when, a young mother, I'd wander the cliffs of the North Devon Atlantic coast to gather materials for vegetable dyeing the wool I used to spin, then knit and weave into garments – a way in which once upon a time I made a living, of sorts.

My baby daughter would be slung on my chest, and we'd (I'd) gather plants and barks and tree-lichens; just very occasionally rock-lichen, which makes an extraordinarily beautiful dye and retains, in the wool, an indescribable and warm peaty scent, but takes so many decades to grow it's not environmentally-friendly to pick much. 

Leaning on this rock was strangely like being given a hug, whimsical though I know that sounds. But everything has its own quality of being, and maybe rock is, as First Nation people believe, as alive as anything else, vibrating at a slower lower rate than what we normally consider animate. In my view, everything is animate, and it's a mistake to judge 'living' by mammalian characteristics only.

Strangely, coming up by quite a different route from me, my daughter is now a weaver (on a much more serious scale than my own small weavings, which were really panel inserts for knitted garments).

For my birthday, she wove me, from Harris tweed, this stunningly beautiful blanket:

... in all the colours of a Devon spring hedgerow (

Coming home, I stopped off near Lamorna with its megalithic history – once upon a time I led a number of workshops and retreats within the grounds of Rosemerryn House, now a B&B, which is not only sited within a triple earthwork, but has a fogou in its grounds.

West Penwith has, mile for mile, a greater concentration of megalithic sites than anywhere else in Europe. Perhaps it's this that gives it a palpable sense of Otherness?

In the Boleigh area are the remains, sadly bisected by the road, of what must have been quite a significant site once.

Still intact is the 'dancing circle': the nineteen stones of the Merry Maidens. (Someone lent me a pair of dowsing rods when I was in the circle; delighted to see I haven't lost my touch.)

And off to one side are two tall monoliths, and the supposed burial chamber of Tregiffian, or Cruk Tregyffian, a once-extensive site from the late Neolithic, 3000-2000 BCE, now sadly abbreviated by said road.

And then the winding lane to Lamorna Cove, and coffee overlooking the sea for a last dreaming, before heading back up the A30 once again.


Some or all of these sites, plus others such as Men an Tol and one or two holy wells, will form part of my retreat week in West Cornwall ('Poetry, Place & Pilgrimage') next June. My websites have yet to be updated, but if you think you'd enjoy such a week, please do contact me through here.