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, 30 December 2010

The Wild

Heart of Dartmoor
Reader, I made it. I mean (if you are interested, and I'm aware how egocentric, clearly, a blog might be) I managed to get to my daughter's, in the snowy (and how snowy!) heart of Dartmoor just in time for Christmas, via six bags of rock salt, two and a half hours shovelling, a very hairy drive, a migraine and a lift at the other end in even-in-a-4-wheel-drive very dodgy conditions, courtesy of E's kind neighbour. On Boxing Day we walked/slid/trudged/waded through kneedeep and beautiful snow to walk to Merrivale (see earlier posting).

It's strange now to be sitting at the window watching a murky blueish morning dribble into the courtyard after such snowy extremes and clear skies. Now we're back to the Devon default - atmospheric mist and light skin-nourishing drizzle, trees faded-out. We still have snow heaped at the sides, but access is possible now, and we received our first mail in about 10 days yesterday.

The hunt went through the valley yesterday – illegally of course, in England now, though the coalition government will probably overturn the ban; but there's nothing one can do unless they're witnessed catching a fox/hare/otter/deer, or actually damaging land. My big silent dog rouses herself from her favourite place (bed) to bark her enormous deep bark now when she hears the hunting horn, even miles away, which at the moment is fairly frequently. This is my fault – the hounds poured onto our land a few weeks ago, and since we have fox earths and badger setts, and I'm opposed to hunting anyway, I found a voice and an anger I didn't know I had, either, and was beside myself (how apposite that phrase is) with fury and bellowing (to the amusement, it turned out later, of my neighbours, most of whom live at least half a mile away). The dog, who has never seen me so vocal with adrenalin, now takes it upon herself to warn me, hopeful of further excitement, it seems – and keep on warning me until all signs die down. I'm impressed – she's quite scary like that, unlike her usual laidback gentle and sometimes wimpish self.

I had a heartening and heartful circular letter from Sharon, who runs an idyllic retreat centre with her partner Alex in the Cevennes, in France. It's been run as a yoga and ayurvedic centre for many years, but gradually Sharon has included writing courses. If you click on Sharon's icon under 'fellow travellers' to the right (or on some browsers below) these blogs, you should find a link to her site. I'm leading an intensive poetry retreat there in June ('The Wind's Eye'). The name of the centre is Gardoussel, meaning – presumably either in Occitan or simply Old French – 'guardian of the birds'. Isn't that beautiful?

Plug time: one of the joys of the mail arriving yesterday was also the arrival of two great anthologies (apologies for the blatant self-promotion here, as I appear in both). Confluence is the first of 'my' Two Rivers group's joint publications, and I'm so proud of it. There are 16 of us showcased here, many of whom already have collections or novels in print (or plays in production). What holds us together, other than the kind of deep connection that arises in a close group working for many years in a way that feeds the soul and heart as well as mind, is this land. If you'd like to, you could buy a copy from  me at £8.99 plus £1 p&p. It has a beautiful cover, designed by group member and artist Mary Gillett. More soon on my website.

The other is a fine anthology of 21 poets from around the globe, all of whom are distinguished by their commitment to eco-spirituality. Edited by Jay Ramsay, Soul of the Earth is published by Awen Publications (, and is £11.99 plus p&p.

Two books that have meant (and still mean) a lot to me, both non-fiction, are Robert MacFarlane's beautifully-written The Wild Places; his own journey through the palimpsests of land and place that 'speak' to him in Britain. A friend, fellow traveller, colleague and protége´ of the late and much-missed Roger Deakin, he has something of his enthusiastic style, but his own interpretation of land and what it means to be human within it.

A very different book, but equally celebratory, is the passionate and uncompromising Wild, by Jay Griffiths. This is unlike any other book on the wild, and WAKE UP is what she is shouting.

And here I should mention too my all-time favourite writer on wild: Barry Lopez. If you, like me, are impassioned by wild, land and our connection to it, and you don't know him, seek him out. My favourite is Crossing Open Ground. He is a quiet, profound and very humane writer on wild, and no less passionate for that.

OK. To walk and then to work (gently).

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