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

Sunday, 13 February 2011

take away the number you first thought of

The last time I intercepted, as opposed to boarded, a train at Totnes station would have been back in the 80s, I suppose (actually it wasn't an interception so much as a witnessing; silent on the day I was there, but more vocal I gather on other occasions). Then, we – and 'we' were mostly mothers of young children – were protesting at the transportation of spent uranium rods through our small town, in the early hours, from Devonport in Plymouth where, unbelievably, several nuclear reactors (as the Trident refitting project) co-habit with 250,000 people.

Yesterday's interception was entirely peaceful and personal. I dragged myself off my sickbed (moan groan hack cough) to pass to my daughter, travelling through to Newcastle, presents for two of my closest friends who share a birthday; E is staying with them while attending a conference.

E lives in the most fabulous place in the middle of Dartmoor, and I'm staying here horse-sitting while she's away. Her (rented) cottage is a dream, and not too dissimilar in atmosphere and type of location to one on the north edge of the moor in which I lived when I was her age (31), in a similar style: working hard in the arts field and living very simply: stunning views, sparse population (other than wildlife), veg garden, spring water, no central heating and everything working off the Rayburn for which I used to drag in and saw up fallen timber from the surrounding woods. (However, where I used a bow saw, E has progressed to a chainsaw. And I had a daughter where she has horses.) She is as broke as I've always been, too. For us, the conditions, though admittedly challenging, are in tune with how we envisage living simply. (Others would call them primitive. Depends what flies your kite, I guess.)

'Oh mum really sorry but the house is a bit cold. The Rayburn's not going because there's no dry wood, and so no hot water, either.' (There's no other heating except the woodburner, and the same applies.)
 Not the best news when you're feeling like I am. It gets worse.
'You could put the immersion on but it shorts out. What you have to do –'
 My commitment is wavering a little.
'... is – you know outside my bedroom door, if you look behind the set of shelves, and pass your hand behind the top one – find the trip switch and switch the whole power supply off. Do you need to write this down?'
 Hope what she's seen in my eyes is glazed flueyness, not a senile inability to follow and retain info. 'NO!' I answer robustly. Anyway I have a coffee in one hand, a Guardian in the other, and the parcel for F and H under my arm.
'You need a torch (the battery's on the way out, but it'll probably be OK), and then as long as you can twist yourself 45 degrees to the left, then 180 to the right, then climb on top of the wardrobe and take away the number you just thought of...'
 No, no, that can't be right. I try and picture where the fuse box might be. Pay attention.
'If you climb up there, with a torch, oh and you need a sharp edge, or a screwdriver or something to take off the black cap – have a feel for a tiny button, really tiny, like a watch-winding mechanism. You probably won't be able to see it, but it's red. If you manage to do it right it'll click. Might need a few goes.'
'Maybe I'll take some wood with me and light the Rayburn,' I say.
'Oh well you could, but you shouldn't have to provide your own wood. But it's not switched over to the Rayburn anyway. You'll need to do that if you want hot water. What you'll need to do –'
 The guard is making closing-door gestures. I've already decided I'm going to forgo a shower or washing dishes. The train's pulling out.
'Mum, thanks so much. I've emailed you horsefeed instructions. Oh the wireless hub's switched off; do you know where it is? Do you know what password it needs? Oh and don't worry about the slight leak from the water tank or the wet patch on the ceiling; I'm on the case...' And the train pulls out.

And here I am.

last night in the dusk
the small wild spotted stallion
left his herd to visit

all night wild rain drums
the skylight, calls to the wild
in me        no sleep

This morning the track is a river. The tiny elderly grey (that means white, in horseworld speak) mare, E's childhood pony, the alpha of this two-pack, keeps Horse, the huge young black stallion, definitely omega, in order, as I slosh through knee-deep mud to dole out hay. You can't flail around getting your balance when your feet are mudstuck and your arms full of hay and two horses are grumping at each other behind your back. It's good practice in mindfulness, staying with each mud-pulled step. I remind myself too often of Mr Duffy in James Joyce's Dubliners: 'Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body'; but not this morning.

Walking the dog. The brook has stormed its banks, taking trees with it, and the whole valley echoes with its roar.

the land is fluid
shifting       Little Wonder Bridge 
stands firm as always

The thorns, hazels, miniature oaks are bearded and baubled with lichen. There's an occasional grin of chrome-yellow fungus. Everything's washed clear. The colours are intense enough as to suggest that the land really is awakening. The honeysuckle's leafing, and whortleberries (bilberries, wild blueberries) are flaunting fresh green growth. Will we forget, once again, to collect their fruit in July, or early August?

Now. Do I feel strong enough to grapple with the Rayburn and wet wood and/or the thermostat mechanism for the immersion heater, or shall I just be pleased I found and worked the wireless hub and sit by the not-really-a-fire-in-the-woodburner with yesterday's Review section?



lags of river-mist
ticks of rain     owl starting up
everything renewed

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