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, 16 April 2012



At the start of the day, as I sit up in bed with a cup of tea, the sea from my window is an intense bright deep blue – the kind of blue that if you painted (or even photographed) it everyone would say was too garish, not believable. It is hard to believe, here in northwest Scotland, that it truly is, so much of the time, this bright in its blueness. To my right the crescent of sand is a clean white; immediately below me a pair of white-tailed sea eagles is (are) cruising above and parallel to the basalt flat-shelved headland. (Envious yet?)

Tracking the sun: midday, a golden eagle over the cliff, and the sea silvered. The islands on the horizon, the nearest originally picked out in some detail by the light (sand, cliffs, green/ochre hinterland, white lighthouse, a few scattered dwellings) are now smeared indigo-purple. There's a small trawler.

I can feel something brittle, something taut, inside me, habitually over-wound after these several years of adrenalin-inducing crises, begin to loosen in small spasms, the way a cramped muscle grips and releases, grips and releases. This is why I've come 600+ miles – a crazy distance – with the M6 and M74 stuffed with congestion,  accidents, 'incidents', with lights on my 'new' car's dashboard flashing alerts, with a strong rear brake smell, with a sick dog, with utter exhaustion – this is why.

My heart needs this light, this wildness, this restoration from a kind of soul-sickness; needs the absence of electronics (OK I did have to find wifi access for this!), of mobile signal, of landline, of domestic routines and agendas: it's a kind of 'defragging' of my 'desktop' (I can't believe I've just used that analogy). And this place, eco-farm, conservation area, refuge for sanity and values I can relate to, has become a stillpoint for me over the last decade; a kind of home, the owners now friends.

Next week I'm running an intensive writing retreat on the sacred Isle of Iona, 'Islands of the Heart'. Usually I come here afterwards; this year I'm appreciating the break in the relentlessness of my recent life as a prelude to that. And the little converted 'blackhouse' (ex-fishing croft) I'm staying in has all I need, in its simplicity, and more. (No, it's a little more sophisticated than this one above, however.)

It's April. The swallows are just in from Africa, and soon the whales and basking sharks will be back in the Sound. If I want to, I can spend all day watching the sea (and have, on many occasions). Later, the red deer may appear on the skyline, and the hares will be feeding below in the meadows.

Now, early dusk, titanium sea and a strong golden pathway out from the sun over the isles of the West across the sea to me where I'm sitting on a rocky tump, with miniature primroses and dog violets blossoming, and wild flag irises down below by the cottage door, and a wheatear, and all thought suspended; and I'm home again, here in this moment, in its fullness.



The last night I sit outside
till day has bled itself west over the islands;
Coll with its crescent beaches a smudge
under the horned moon, my hand
cramped on my cooling mug,
and the sea annealed silver;
and they don’t come.

I leave the window open. Bunched shadows
of deer veer past
wary, a hare nudges
the berry-blue mass of sky.

All night I ebb and flow; I am
the rise and fall of the sea’s breathing.

            A god, when it appears
smacks you awake, does not tread lightly.

          Towards daybreak
cresting the waves, I’m slammed
from sleep by a great flank, dark, shining,
ploughing the thinning air

and when I swing my feet to the floor
I’m plunged chasms down in that single
sonic throb, bone-jarring –

    in freefall now, and all the walls dissolving.

~ Roselle Angwin (2004), in Looking For Icarus (bluechrome 2005)


  1. Dear Roselle - you remind me what I have here, just north of you, and risk taking for granted. I hope you find as much joy as I do each day in this outrageously vivid landscape. This land's stories are hard and bright and not to be taken lightly ... and yet that shaking out of yourself into the beautiful, tough but laughing reality of it is the gift it shares - that taking you by the scruff of the neck and saying - look! LOOK! Is anything more real than this? Could anything matter more? x

  2. Nice morning. Yes, envy. We're in a small seaside village as well, but the social cultural affinity is not here. Eco farm sounds right. Flashing dashboard lights (I do remember) and crowded highways are all wrong. My poem for the day...


    A friend just had a baby
    with a wife eighteen years younger.
    They called the baby Becket, perhaps after
    Sam Beckett or maybe after Beckham; soccer’s
    more his play, he didn’t explain.

    Laying in bed before I wake up,
    I dream-think a connection to my mother
    laying in her bed, her back broken, waiting to die.
    The filmy gossamer breaks, the spider line of
    our baby’s cry calls me to the day.

    Old dreams hang like ragged lace curtains
    in the window of a derelict house, I’m re-dreaming
    an old city street, brownstones, diners, a movie theatre.
    I pick up the baby; she smiles as we walk
    past the painting with the blue line.

    The United States is the beloved child
    of European history, I read. It is the full expression
    of the Enlightenment project. It was erected as the new
    Eden; a place where the apple-biting
    of Europe could be wiped out.

    I turn the page; I need a coffee.
    These dreams, they come and go.

  3. I've read this post over twice and now have tears in my eyes. Your words and photographs are balm to my soul - a tea-spoon of the sweetest honey to my blazing throat and creaking muscles. I'm stuck in bed, having finally succombed to a virus plaguing the family - but my lovely laptop (yes, I am grateful for this technology too!) is at least allowing me to peek into hyour world for a monewnt - to 'visit' you in a most blessed and beloved place - the beautiful Western isles.
    I get so completely what feeds your own spirit there and wish you healing peace as you rest awhile in that place. Thank you for allowing me to shere it with you today xx

  4. You all - you four - do you have any idea what it means to me to read these kind words of yours here on this island at the edge of the world? - I've just had news of yet another family bereavement - Jerry (forgive if it should be 'Gerry'?) I lost my mum a few months ago, so your beautiful poem touched me more even than it might have done anyway - and am feeling so raw, even here in paradise. So your thoughts in response to my words have touched my heart; to all four of you – two I've met, two I haven't - big thanks. Sharon, I'm hearing very good things about Earthlines. Andie, I do think of you when I come up here, after your time with us on Iona. And now back out to watch the eagle, and remember the truth of transience, and 'balance of attention', as they say... And Roz, I hope you're beginning to pick up. Love to you all.

  5. Dear Roselle - when I was there with you on the edge of the world I had been two years grieving for my father, and it was there, in the space that you held for us, that I was able to gather it, the grief, to let something go and allow something else come into me. Blessings on your time there (where I will be also, later in the year) - so good to know you do this and are present in the moment and the place, faithful one.

  6. Beautiful, generous words, Andie. A big thank you, dear friend. x


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