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, 17 November 2014

air things; going to ground; & earthing

It's flocking time of year. It's an astonishing sight, a dark spiralling twisting mass of starlings, or pigeons, moving in such synchronisation (in the case of starlings, each bird is in touch with its 7 immediate neighbours).

A white egret is back upstream, away from the littorals, immobile in the lightning-struck oak above the brook like a hunched dwarf angel.

The winter birds are here now after their migrations: lapwings, fieldfares, redwings, thrushes, blackbirds. The avocets will be back on the Exe and the Tamar.

Night after night, two owls call across the house; yesterday at dusk a snipe startled from the hedge a metre away from Dog and self.

In the middle of the current world tragedies, I'm also a little brokenhearted to hear that 6000 ducks are to be culled after an outbreak of avian flu in the north of England. Ducks, those wild creatures at home in three elements, should never be farmed intensively, without access to water or flight. (Thing is, most people who eat duck have this romantic view that they've somehow been wild-caught or sweetly gathered from where they peck around on a village green with a pond, whereas most of them are factory-farmed.) And of course NOTHING should be farmed intensively.


I'm aware I've gone to ground. Thank you to those of you who still visit. I'll be back with more of a flow soon. I'm still feeling fairly wordless; and also am sitting in one of those liminal places where my path could fork via one of many ways. I quite like liminal, and am doing much better these days at just holding still, letting things unfold, instead of feeling I need to push every river, whether it's going my way or not...

And right now, my going to ground is a few days writing, overlooking the sea. Don't pity me too much.


Speaking of going to ground: yes the bloody foxhunt. Illegal. And alive and thriving. When I was younger, I crossed swords with the hunt a number of times, on my part always in a non-aggressive but I suppose obstructive way (unblocking earths that they'd blocked up to remove a fox's bolt-hole; leading their hounds astray with aniseed), and received their retaliation. 

The last time was when the harriers, on foot with hounds, were pursuing one of 'our' hares. I found a fury I didn't know I possessed; and received a polite apology from the headman, and an assurance that it wouldn't happen again. It hasn't; not in our neighbouring fields, at least.

Foxhunting happens frequently here, though. It's usually a Tuesday. It caught me off-guard last Saturday to hear the foxhounds in the valley; or rather, Dog alerted me. Dog is always delighted when the hunt comes; perhaps because I find such depths of outrage and rage in me that I forget to stop her barking (and in fact hope it might prove a distraction to the hounds). Plus she gets an extra walk.
Ash on full alert ready to see off any foxhound
This time, older and wiser of course, I decided I'd be nothing other than pleasant, open and polite. I remembered not to stomp or frown, and not to cross my arms as I approached the stile. All the land 'this' side of the stile, divvied up into small packages worked by people doing interesting and sustainable variations on permaculture and conservation, is taboo – none of us supports foxhunting.

So I walked towards the stile, and the whipper-in (or whoever) came cantering towards it and me, hounds around him. We politely greeted each other, and I politely enquired whether he was intending to stay that side of the fence. 'Of course, Madam,' he responded. 'We've laid the trail this side, so the hounds will stay here.' (The official line is that hounds don't chase foxes any more, only false trails. Bred and trained to hunt foxes, I do wonder how they decide, a pack of 20 or 30 hounds, not to set up a fox or chase it, when it appears, instead obediently following a dumbass false trail. Anyway.)

One of my good points, and one of my weaknesses, is that I tend to think the best of people, take their words at face value, and tend to believe what they say, to trust in their better nature. On the whole, people are trustworthy. I've been caught out a few times, though, by not examining further. I forget that sometimes we all say what people want to hear, and that our motivations are not always as clear as we might like. (Naïve, gullible, some might call it.)

So I'd walked back the way I came for a couple of minutes before it occurred to me that, in all that deep gorsey scrub, it would have been difficult to the point of impossible for a man on foot or on horseback to lay a trail of any kind.  By that time – guess what – the hounds had poured under the stile, were quartering the field adjacent to ours after a fox, and then had slipped over the old stone bank into our own land.

So then my fury found its voice. Luckily, the fox went to ground, where its home is, in our garden.


Earthing. Now there's a subject. 

Any child knows how good it feels to slip shoes off on grass, or paddle in water. I'm continuously astonished at how difficult it is to get adults to take their shoes off outside, even for a few minutes. On all my outdoor courses, one or two do, at my suggestions. Sometimes. Just occasionally, someone does before I suggest it. M, one of the participants on my recent 'Tongues in Trees' day, took his shoes off as soon as we went outside, and kept them off all day with no prompting from me. Mostly, though, people politely (tonight's adverb) pretend not to have heard my words. 

I was at a college last month for National Poetry Day. The teacher had agreed that, since it was sunny, warm even, and we were writing about the land, I could take a group barefoot round their mown, manicured, clean, tidy, dry playing field. You wouldn't believe the fuss, especially from the girls. I'm gentle, not coercive; but one girl cried at the idea.

What is this about?

For many years, I earned my living as a shoemaker (entirely natural materials). However, my preferred footwear was always my own skin.

Well, turns out the science seems to back the perception of some of us that walking barefoot is essential to full health. It's not just a sense of rightness about stepping out of our insulated synthetic lives/shoes to join the animal kingdom again. It's not just that it feels good. It's not just that it's a way of reconnecting and reinvigorating ourselves, although it does those things; it's not just about attuning to the earth's magnetic field; and it's not just 'grounding' ourselves in a nice, right-on New Agey kind of way.

Get this: it has numerous health benefits that are measurable, not least in relation to sleep patterns, inflammation, joint pain and circulatory issues.
Apparently, when the body is not in direct contact with the earth, it can carry a positive voltage relative to the Earth, which some people believe is not good for us. Earthing the body redresses the balance by restoring its voltage to zero.

One of the ways in which it works is by enabling a flow of 'good' electrons from the earth into our body. Electrons can help sop up free radicals. 'The idea here is that by connecting ourselves with soil or wet sand or sea, say, we can "suck up" electrons that effectively act as "antioxidants" that can quell inflammation and enhance health,' says Dr John Briffa. Free radicals, he tells us, lack the 'sparks of energy' that are electrons.

'During the normal processes of metabolism the body generates [...] "free radicals",' continues Dr Briffa. 'Free radicals are involved in the process known as inflammation, which is part of the healing process. However, low-grade inflammation throughout the body may lead to pain and other problems in the muscles and joints, and is also believed to be a key driving factor in many chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In short, we want free radicals, but not too many.'

And do check out the PDF that Briffa links to, for further information. There are books on this as well. 

But meantime, do yourself a favour and take your shoes off as often as you can for as long as you can bear it, even if that's only 5 or 10 minutes. Yes, I know that in GB it's winter. It'll feel wonderful when you put warm socks back on!


  1. I'm very interested in all of this, Roselle, particularly earthing and bare feet. For some time I've had excruciating pain in my left foot caused by osteo-arthritis, tendonitis probably not helped by its flat-fish/flipper shape! Anyway, would like to persevere with the bare-foot bit, though it's even more painful at the moment and in winter I have Raynaud's (numb hands and feet for hours). So, as soon as I can, I'll try some cautious walking – or motionless contact, at any rate, barefoot on the lawn, but may have to wait till the spring.
    I've followed the link to Dr Briffa: looks very interesting.

    Liminal is a sort of necessary condition, I agree. I had a liminal night recently which, though hardly restorative, produced some welcome early morning clarity. It is, as you imply, part of our instinctive need to rebalance and allow things to be without forcing anything.

    Thanks again and may your 'going to ground' (and sea) be fruitful.
    Miriam xx

  2. Thank you, Miriam. Glad this spoke to you!

    Should have said 'liminal states are as necessary as earthing for full health and wellbeing', shouldn't I?!

    I have the same circulatory problem. It has eased though as I've slipped my shoes off more often - I'd got out of the habit of it, for various reasons – and since I've been taking extra B vits plus using a magnesium spray (that's another thing I could wax lengthy on).

    Glad the writing's flowing a bit better.


  3. Hi Roselle, yes the ducks, I live in the restriction zone and this is madness. My knee-jerk reaction is to hide in a corner with my hands over my ears so that nothing can filter through and the main thing on the news is 'will there be enough turkeys for Christmas?' What's going on. And as for the hunts, well, farmers call them and ask them to hunt on their land if they think there are foxes there!

    Enough rant, I am really a calm sane person, at least that's what I tell myself.

    Love reading your blogs, thank you. Not sure how to leave a comment without having the anon. tag? Chris, (Kelk)

  4. Chris, thank you - kind of you to comment. And thanks too for saying you love reading the blogs!

    I had the same reaction as you listening to the news yesterday and hearing, predictably, the worry about whether people's Christmas dinners would be spoilt by lack of turkey. Aaarrrgggh. Thing is, we don't LIVE in a sane calm world, do we, so I think it's fine to have a feeling-response to the things that are crazy, or cruel, or consumer-driven; and thank goodness we're not alone in our perception of this madness, hey?

    Let's keep banding together and challenging injustice and inhumaneness...

  5. Yes! The ducks: in my pain-in-foot self-absorption, forgot to say how strongly we (both of us here) feel about the duck slaughter, factory-farming and fox hunting: just the same round here, though some farmers I've spoken to deplore it. Not enough of them, I fear.

    You're lucky to have heard owls. I've missed them terribly since not a sound round here lately. Unless I've been sleeping too deeply at the wrong times, double-glazed windows shut!

    Miriam again x

    1. Miriam, I know you do. And - I wish you owls!

  6. I've finally got round to featuring your blog post about vulnerability, which I liked so much, Roselle. Rather than just quoting a bit and linking, do you mjnd if I reproduce the whole piece? Naturally I will gave attribution and link to your blog etc.

    1. Robert - well of course! - I should be delighted and honoured. Thank you. Would you let me know when you post it?

      Thanks as always for your support.


  7. Hi Roselle,
    Interesting and lively post as always. Your comments on earthing came at a moment in the day when I had just realised yet again with a resounding why yes of course..that the earth really does look after us, simple as that...I am fortunate to live in a place where day after day the landscape around me feeds me and heals me over and again. I have worked a lot with the earth, specifically as a bare footed cob builder and can certainly vouch for the many miraculous healing benefits of being so intimately in contact with dirt itself..But lately I have realised just how much the air and the light heal , specifically our eyes..How we were designed by nature to be engaged with the periphery, the just out of sight and hidden, the long view.. Have recently begun eye exercises when realised that otherwise it would be a costly trip to the opticians and as I usually find my healing in nature, it seemed to make sense that in nature also, I might find an aid to improving my eyesight. When I walk now, I ask the air , the trees to help me. I follow birds in their flightpath, and all the time my eyes are in movement as they were originally designed to be for self preservation and survival and food! I then come home and rest them . Anyway, the point being, that if we think back logically to our original design, we were made to live in connection with the elements , in every little way...and our healing lies therein . So amazing really , and yes, very slowly I notice my eyes are improving ...What a precious gift it all is , the earth ; her way of being, of teaching....Just thought I would share. Thank you for your lovely jottings, and delighted to see Dog .She looks so very like my old Love, sadly departed. Enjoy your time near the sea ( and the long view ..!) Warm wishes, Cx

  8. What a lovely comment, C. Thank you. A barefooted cob-builder! I really like every thing you write - poetic, grounded and beautiful. And yes - my eyesight ain't as good as it was, and the air, light, rain and continual eye movement that outdoors requires do seem to make a difference, though I hadn't framed it as you did. Thank you for that insight, too. I shall remember.

    Your writing is precious. I was touched by it. I hope you put it out there.

    For sad reasons I had to turn around again and come practically straight back from the sea (though I did at least have a sniff and a night of breaking rollers) - my father is in hospital. So I'm here trying to remember to take the metaphorical long view.

    I so appreciate the comments people make here - reminders that we are a community; scattered, but a community - people who are trying to 'live right'.

    All best to you


  9. Thank you for such a kind, generous comment. I am so sorry to hear about your father, and the curtailed rest by the sea...Am sure he will be comforted, blessed by your presence. And no, as yet, nothing "out there" as it were,but am working, working with the ' Bright Moment', your writing - precious also to me, and wayshowers many . perhaps one day! It is enough for now to dare , to dream, to have a go.. And yes, community, however scattered; such welcome and appreciated Points of Light. Deep gratitude Cxx

  10. C - thank you again. Yes, we need to hold on to our dreams; bring them forward.

    With love - Rx


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