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

Monday, 21 November 2011

'the wind can have my caution'

Walking, this soft grey autumn morning, in a flurry of russet leaves; primrose in the track still doing its thing as it has all year; new little wild strawberry; extraordinary starry fungus whose only (Latin) name in no way does it poetic justice; fresh silver-white pates of shaggy inkcap mushrooms just pushing through leaf litter (delicious slow-baked with butter milk and nutmeg, for you non-vegans). 

Catching up briefly with neighbours in this little valley with its cargo of micro-smallholdings all, as it happens, given over to the organic/permaculture ethos: Steph is awaiting the planners for her small and secluded yurt camp by the stream; Richard is just finishing installing 10kw of field-mounted solar panels at a cost of £25K for the soon-to-run-out feed-in-tariff from the national grid (he will recoup the outlay in 3 years); Simon has been coppicing and hedge-steeping (or hedgelaying); last night a small outdoor fire when I walked the dog through fields in the dark flagged up Matthew and Benita's presence in their fruit-and-nut orchard.

And I pulled up the pea and bean haulms – some of them – and some dried sweetcorn stalks, and decaying courgette plants, and planted anemone and iris and lily of the valley against the dark times; and TM planted our onion sets to overwinter.


The river has no beginning and no end. The cycles continue. A stream feeds in to the great river, and is swept towards the seven oceans, to be born again, perhaps, as rain, or dew.


I am thinking today about the areas in my life where I say 'no' to a process that needs my 'yes'. How is it we vote to keep ourselves small, to allow fear to lead us? Reading David Whyte on this – how refusing to participate in a process that your soul calls you to 'is actually corrosive on the personality and character'. So many of our great writers emphasise this need to submit to greater purposes than our little ego wishes to, in its search for safety and certainty. Blake speaks of this; Goethe addresses it; Rilke too – 'No more things will happen, No more days will open / and even the things that do happen will cheat him.' We turn away from the possibility of change, from the necessity of transformation to enlarge us and our lives. We stay nose to tail in the line on which we've been put, like chickens placed on a chalk line who freeze, fearful of falling off. 

We need to fall in love again with life, with all its demands; to submit to the inner processes. How many times today might I say 'yes' when it would be easier to say 'no'?


On Iona in April I bought a little book of details, poems and prayers about the trees in the Celtic alphabet/calendar, by poet Alison Swinfen.

Here's part of one that spoke to me last night: (from 'Delight').

Even in the 
bare purple of
a wych elm
in midwinter
I can
hear the sap 
rising again
to meet me
with my name.

The wind can have my caution.

from Through Wood


Speaking of Iona, next April I'm leading my annual Islands of the Heart retreat there. Though we focus on writing as a tool for recording our experience, this is so much more than simply a writing retreat, here in this most ancient and sacred place. The course is full with a waiting list, but if there are others who would like it I'm considering offering a second, possibly more eco-poetry focused and also cheaper course later in 2012... Let me know if this appeals to you.

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