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, 10 April 2011

the purple sprouting broccoli of the bourgeoisie

Back in Devon, the bluebells are out, and the lanes are splashed with primroses (still); and near to us I count five different types of periwinkle in the hedges: white, deep purple, violet, lilac, Delft blue. The fruit trees are budding in our little orchard. The hedges, as no doubt I think every spring, have erupted in the white froth of the blossomiest blossom ever –   bird cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn. All these flowers are five-petalled: attributed to/symbolic of the Great Goddess of the pagans and her later Christianised successors: St Brigid, Mary. Also out now are the shy yellow archangel, and greater stitchwort.

In the garden, the purple sprouting broccoli of which I'm so enamoured has come back after the hard ice and snows of December and January (John Humphreys on Radio 4's 'Today': 'Those middle class people who crave purple sprouting broccoli as they demand fettuccine in Waitrose will be disappointed at the failure of the psb crop this year' – well, I'm not sure I've ever knowingly bought fettuccine, though I am bourgeois(e?) enough as to know what it is [even if I'm less convinced of its spelling] – largely due to having married an Italian; I don't shop in supermarkets, being of course politically right-on and smug and OK here in Totnes I can buy all I need from the market, the Riverford shop and the wholefood shop; but yes I am very proud of the fact that I have managed to have a cropping crop of psb since JULY last year, and it's still going strong. The secret is to source three different varieties; I bought my seed from Chase Organics online last year, and I bought Spike, Early Purple and Rudolph, so they fruit in succession.)

It was on Iona, though, that I spotted the first swallow this year, windblown and courageous, arriving as it did mid-storm. Yesterday, down here, I spotted three more. Let the spring begin!

I am still feeling a little dislocated from the deep experience of Iona last week. Usually I take a week to make the transition by taking a break in a remote corner of Mull by the sea, where my neighbours are sea eagles, deer, hare and the possibility of whales. This also gives me the chance to focus on my own writing and painting, so easily swallowed up in the time given to my life facilitating others' creativity (much as I love that role). This year, though, my little sister announced about 6 weeks ago, when I was (luckily) still dithering about affording a week's holiday this year, that she was to be married this last Saturday. I finished the course on Friday morning, and my daughter, who'd travelled to the Highlands with me, and I then immediately drove the best part of 700 miles, arriving home late on Friday night to the prospect of another 250 miles the next day. The Man though kindly drove us both, detouring to pick up my daughter who'd had to go home first thing Saturday morning to feed animals.

My sister M is a dark horse. Content as a solitary, she was not easily wooed away from her life working for a charity, growing things, and painting. But D kept knocking at the door, and stopped off on his way home, frequently, to cook her dinner. And besides, who wouldn't be seduced by someone who leaves a message on one's washing line spelling out in pegs I LOVE YOU? And they share a quirky sense of humour.

And I was able, too, to show The Man the spectacular charms of the North Devon/Somerset Exmoor coastline – Lorna Doone country – with its wooded coombes and sharply falling headlands, its precipitous lanes winding high above the sea. We don't always see eye-to-eye on landscape, he being a pastoralist and me loving wild land; but we agreed on that land, my childhood country. The Valley of Rocks at Lynton and the downlands around there hold deep memories for me, and yesterday I was delighted to see a herd of its black and white feral goats, possibly continuously in existence there for 6000 years. And there was a connection: ten days ago we also saw some in the Highlands, these two places being two of the very few locations of these animals.

And now to the charms of the purple sprouting.


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