Here I am back; and spring is as astonishing and miraculous as it always is. The hillside across from us is burnished with the rich deep yellow of gorse flowers spread further than I've ever seen them; it's impossible to look and not feel your heart take flight, just a little. And speaking of taking flight, the bumble bees and butterflies are already out doing their thing.
Just in the four days we were away in Brittany the earth has burst open, and everywhere flowers are appearing.
This is a brook-angel from the enchanted Breton forest; or maybe a phoenix, which seems apt for this time: the new moon, the spring equinox and the lunar eclipse (that strange horned sun suddenly coming clear of hazy blue cloud) all speaking of fresh beginnings. (Below that, there's one of about 150 I took of the leat in the same forest a few years ago.)
And Brittany is offering new beginnings for me, too, of which more another time.
On the ferry on the way back we were accompanied at different times by schools of dolphin: one of those magical experiences of which it's hard to talk without being clichéd or sentimental, but which leaves a deep note lingering somewhere in the psyche.
I never see dolphins without recalling David Constantine's poem about travelling to Piraeus, 'Watching For Dolphins', which begins:
In the summer months on every crossing to Piraeus
One noticed that certain passengers soon rose
From seats in the packed saloon and with serious
Looks and no acknowledgement of a common purpose
Passed forward through the small door into the bows
To watch for dolphins. One saw them lose
Every other wish. Even the lovers
Turned their desires on the sea...
and which ends, after no sighting, with that kind of disappointment that has such depths that it has to remain private.
I read recently that if you bring the songs of cetaceans into the audible sphere, whale and dolphin song is almost identical to the literal note, song, of the earth (you can Google 'Earth's Song'). From the same book (on plants, by Stephen Harrod Buhner), I discovered that if you generate a visual image from the sonic frequencies of whale and dolphin song, the images produced are exquisite symmetrical patterns akin to the shape of flowers.
Yesterday I was at Teignmouth Poetry Festival, by the sea. In only its second year, this has already become a significant event on the British poetry scene, small though it is. There's a packed agenda, and I was so tired by 10pm last night I had to leave, though the night had just begun.
After a long period, still in mourning for my dad, of not writing any significant poems, it was both wonderful to drink from the poetry-well, and hard, as still nothing new has emerged from my own currently-barren poetry larder.
I led a morning workshop; 'Leaf and Cosmos'. Bloody hell! I think up these great titles and then have to live up to them, to create a new workshop (whale song and dolphin song helped!). Still, it seemed to produce some strong work and some fizz in many of the participants. We were looking, as most of my workshops seem to, at how we might be awake to the extraordinary aspects of the 'ordinary', and convey something of the resonance of macrocosm and microcosm in our careful description of the sensory world.
Part of the agenda of yesterday at the festival was the spiritual and the therapeutic. Ronnie Aaronson and Jennie Osborne had a discussion about this, with poems helpful to the therapeutic processs (they slipped down all the better with tea and Ronnie's wonderful cakes – she co-organises the festival, offers events herself, and still finds time to make half a dozen cakes!).
Later, we had readings from the work of Eastern mystic poets Hafiz, Kabir and Lala; and the highlight of the whole day was the evening performance by internationally-known Duncan Mackintosh's rich and heartful 'embodiment', as Ronnie described it, of the poetry of Rumi.
Before that, in the late afternoon, Duncan and I were supposed to be 'in conversation' on the stage about our relationship to poetry. Considering we didn't know each other and we're both shy and introverted, despite both of us in different ways being performers, this could have fallen flat. I think we saved the 40 minutes by a) liking each other and b) discovering resonance in our mutual championing of poetry to carry meaning, and something of the spiritual, in a world too often given over to materialist and consumerist values.
And now I'm off to collect the first wild garlic and stinging nettle to add to some of our leeks and potatoes in a thick soup.