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

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

the white lady

Our farming neighbour has ploughed his fields, burying the good horse-muck. These fields are a haven for the currently-endangered skylarks, who nest in little ruts on the ground. They're still there, this morning, above me, dropping down their chains of song. I so hope that they hadn't started nesting; and that the farmer will plant sooner rather than later so as not to disturb their nesting; and that he will resist spraying the pesticides and herbicides that destroy the essential components of their food chain.

We're lucky here on the whole in this little valley; there are now a number of tiny holdings owned and worked by like-minded people, organically. A lot of us are doing very small scale forest gardening, or at least fruit and nut tree planting. Simon manages his acres with a very light touch, 'steeping' (laying) his hedges beautifully, carefully; coppicing his hazel and willow on a ten-year cycle; and he gave me another verb – snedding? stenning? (or is that what you do with a gun?) – have forgotten – for stripping the side branches from long slender stems which will be used for hurdle-making. He makes nest boxes, bird tables, hedgehog boxes for Christmas presents.

In the courtyard now, with spring beginning to do its thing, I notice that birds are coming mostly in pairs, including the newly-arrived nuthatches and marsh tits, and also the spotted woodpeckers. I love this cycling between solitude, flocking (those birds who do flock), pairing and rearing the young who will start again the new cycle of solitariness...

It seems to me that humans too need these cycling waves of solitude, intimacy, bringing forth the fruit of that closeness (which of course is not necessarily a 'real' baby, so much as the 'third thing' that emerges from and holds together any real meeting, any union of depth, even while it has its own life), and the submersion of the individual in the community. It also seems to me that many of us resist some aspects of this natural cycle; finding intimacy difficult, or fearing solitude, or the 'drowning' of the ego in a larger collective perspective. I guess this is why love is so often confused with dependency, or co-dependency; very different from the mutual empowerment of recognition of interdependency.

Yesterday my friend Anne and I met for our two-or-three-times-a-year silent walk to the White Lady waterfall in the wonderful Lydford Gorge, on the edge of Dartmoor – thirty metres of white pouringness, a spell that binds, the kind of white-noise silence that takes you both out of and further into yourself, stilling the little voices.

this white lady
pours her whole self
the dragon of her
like white fire
through the forest gorge

long after we leave
her dark moist places
her thunder
roars through my cells

(from 'Lydford Gorge' in Bardo)

Afterwards, in the pub, we caught up on the months apart: monitoring the internal and external shifts that happen in our lives, in the world at large. Anne is a textile artist, and her current project consists of huge tapestries that explore the persecution of witches in Europe. Strangely – or not – her latest piece is called, like my book, 'Imago' – which, I learn (in addition to signifying both a psychological state and the process of transformation from chrysalis to butterfly, both of which are relevant to my novel) is also a kind of spell; by which I assume the term means the holding in one's mind of an image of what one wants to achieve, or manifest, through the imagination, in the outer world (this after all is what 'magic' is, in essence).

And then later I meet Mary, a painter and printmaker. Like me, she spends much of her time facilitating the creative process in others; we too meet periodically to remind each other to nurture our own creative needs.

These are artists' dates, as described by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way; they have been so helpful to me in feeding my process and keeping inspiration alive.

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