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

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

for the new year

Well, other than to say to you 'blydhen newydh da', in the tongue of my country, I shan't go on about New Year*. For myself, the old Celtic New Year at Samhain, 31 October – November 1, and then the winter solstice are truer turning points. 

Nonetheless, something that has such a pull for so many people, even though it's a relatively arbitrary date from a relatively new calendar designation, eventually becomes archetypal, and yes I do celebrate it – kind of, in an introverted somewhat reclusive way. 

All turning points are useful as waymarkers, points of reflection, aren't they? I like to look back at what I've learned, what I've lost, what I've created, what loves and gains have come my way in the old year, and what I would like to let go of and invite in for the new. I think too about the wider world – what I'd like to see more, and less, of, and what tiny part I might play in that. 

It's all about intention, isn't it? Good imagination and a clear focus help to manifest more of what one would choose for self and others. So, along those lines, I'll also pull a tarot card as something to reflect on, allowing deep responses to arise to the images and symbolism. (*much)

Later, at another turning point in the Celtic year, Imbolc, 1st February, I'll be offering a day workshop, Thresholds, as part of a longer weekend, The Inward Flame, in which I'll explore this more deeply, and we will as individuals and a group look at 'this wild and precious life' and the year we want to create for ourselves. What seems increasingly important, too, is how we honour our relationship, as a species, to all the other-than-human ways of being in the world, and this is part of the weekend's intention (places still available, but early booking needed).

Just now, Dog and I went up to the top of the field above the orchard and watched the columns of persistent drifting rain pirouetting across the hill and the valley. Already the hazel catkins are properly dusty-gold and 'all shook out', in their lambs' tails finery. One last spindleberry was clinging pink and orange to a bough. Below, in the courtyard, we have a fine visitation of tits: great tits, bluetits, coaltits, marsh tits and willow tits queuing for the feeder, and the woodpeckers are becoming less and less concerned by human presence. Beside the feeder, in its blue ceramic pot, my witch hazel has burst into a sudden clamour of yellow raggy flowers, rain or no rain.

So I wish for you many yellow flowers in this coming year. (If I could say that for you in Cornish I would; but the only other phrase I can pull forth right now is 'Leun a sylli yw ow skath bargesi' which, since it means 'my hovercraft is full of eels', I believe, may not be appropriate, though given our Devon weather it could yet be for me – supposing I can find my hovercraft...)

Oh and a little boast or two: please forgive me. In the Guardian Review section online the other day, 'readers' picks 3', my name and new book were mentioned in the headliner pull-quote in the same sentence as J K Rowling. AND I've just had my 100,000th visitor to this blog – though it does have to be said that some of those stats are false, as they're spammers/scammers, it's still exciting and rather overwhelming to know that out there in cyberspace real people choose to come and read these words. Thank you, friends, for your companionship and contributions – even if you don't comment (though I love it when you do), coming here and reading is also a contribution, of course, to the sense of wider community in which this blog appears.

Before I leave you, here's a delicious vegan recipe for a kind of cheesecake that will make you forget how much you like dairy, whether or not you're of the veggie/vegan persuasion yourself. (Some people are choosing to try going vegan for the month of January – a huge contribution to lessening the sum of animal suffering in the world, I feel.) I'm very pleased with myself for creating this, though I need to credit Thrive, the organic café in Totnes, for the original inspiration:

Lightly oil a small, say 10" across, shallow dish or bowl

Soften in a pan over gentle heat 2 or 3 tbsps coconut oil with the same amount of apple juice concentrate/maple syrup/date syrup

Stir in a handful or so of oats and about twice that of ground almonds, a good scatter of coconut, and some chopped dates

Press mix into bottom of bowl

Whizz up half a small carton of soya cream with a tbsp of soya yogurt, some drops of vanilla essence, grated zest of a lemon, a splash of soft light brown sugar (or fruit syrup, or honey
 if you're not a strict vegan)
Add a handful of cashews; whizz

Add a handful of flaked almonds; whizz until mix is thick, adding more nuts until it has a paste-like consistency
Layer on top of the first layer.

Top with whatever fruit you have: I used frozen berries which I'd defrosted with some brown sugar, and sliced kiwi (grown, believe it or not, near Totnes).

Stick the whole thing in the freezer for about an hour or two, then keep in fridge till you want it.

And here's some food for the soul, from the American poet Jean Valentine. I saw this poem on facebook yesterday or the day before; it made me gasp. (Whatever you do or don't believe about 'God', the poem speaks to that-which-cannot-be-named, I think.)

The River at Wolf

Coming east we left the animals
pelican beaver osprey muskrat and snake
their hair and skin and feathers
their eyes in the dark: red and green.
Your finger drawing my mouth.

Blessed are they who remember
that what they now have they once longed for.

A day a year ago last summer
God filled me with himself, like gold, inside,
deeper inside than marrow.

This close to God this close to you:
walking into the river at Wolf with
the animals. The snake's
green skin, lit from inside. Our second life.



  1. Lovely post, Roselle! I now have a new resolution (in addition to buying myself a copy of your book): making and serving (with proper attribution, of course) your cheesecake! Thanks for the introduction to Jean Valentine.

    Best wishes for the new year!

  2. Thanks for the recipe(s) – both! Shall look forward to trying the vegan cheese-cake and writing more poems this year. Also – referring back to last post – I'm letting go of the fear that's stymied my writing this year so that the words have a chance to fly a bit before I let them go also. Am back to the novel, intermittently. Fingers crossed!
    Interesting, also, that Samhain is more important to you than trad NY. Samhain also coincides – approximately – with Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah – the New Year of my heritage. I do feel that autumn is the real turning of the year in many ways – not that I'm any more than an emotional Jew (rather than practising). You'll know, also, that Winter Solstice is far more significant to me as a mid-winter festival.
    Glad you're up and about again, Roselle. Having read the Guardian online review of your novel, I can't put off reading it – too tantalising a beginning, anyway – and shall hope to read it next after Stoner (John Williams) – the must-read (apparently) book of last year. Not sure yet what to make of it but it's compelling reading.
    May the next year be productive, healthy and happy for you.
    Love, Miriam.

  3. Hello Miriam - that had found its way into my spam box - goodness knows why! But thank you for it.

    Yes, I thought RH was close to Samhain!

    And - I haven't read Stoner yet - didn't really grab me somehow, so I'll be interested to hear what you think of it. I've literally JUST finished Donna Tartt's Goldfinch - breathtaking; what a tour de force, all 800 pages; and like everyone else I'm now longing to go and see the original painting in The Hague.

    V glad you're letting go of fear about writing ;-). I shall enjoy the results of that, I hope, at some stage!

    With love to you both for this symbolic new beginning. Rx

  4. Hello dear David - thank you; and thank you, in your lovely blog posts, for reminding me about humility in your own kind diffidence. I've got a bit too 'me and mine' in my themes the last few weeks I fear.

    I didn't know Jean Valentine either. What a cracker that poem is!

    Should have said, btw, in the recipe, that you keep throwing in nuts until the paste for the middle section is thick!

    Warm wishes and greetings and blessings for the new year to you over there on Salt Springs. Always a treat to read your thoughtful blogs and your kind comments!


Blog Archive