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, 19 August 2015

mists, snags, and gratefulness

Here I am back again in Brittany. When the boat docks at Roscoff the sun is shaking off the mist. The bridge over La Penzé seems to float, though, with a few disembodied masts rising towards its underside.

Once I turn off near Morlaix for Huelgoat on the beautiful forest road, an August morning rush hour means I pass maybe four cars in a 20-odd mile stretch. Crossing the Landes de Cragou, the moorland section, the sun has broken right through, all bar one small mist-ribbon at tree-canopy level, and its slant illuminates the way that every gorse spike, of which there is thousand upon thousand, is blanketed in the webs spun by those little spiders that launch themselves on the currents of the breeze in early autumn.

Early autumn it feels, despite the increasing warmth; I pass line-ups of scores of swallows on wires.

And the little boulangerie has my favourite buckwheat bread, still warm from the oven.

These are good things. But I’m short on sleep, and the dog, who didn’t enjoy this crossing any more than the last, isn’t properly through her latest op yet, and we have a long long drive in the heat in my ancient campervan down to the hot Cévennes to lead the retreat I look forward to so much, coming as it does at the opposite end of the year from my Iona week (or weeks, now, I’m pleased to say). But I’m exhausted, and would be grateful to feel that I might do more than perch on the tightrope of my life for a while, since everything about my future is still in flux.

All this is forgotten as I drive up to the lake which is her usual beautiful elegant self, a pewter platter on which the morning, plus two swans, sits.

Right then, my gearbox goes.

First response: panic.

Second response: I still have 3rd gear, and it got me to Huelgoat, just a mile or three from my stopping-place for a couple of nights.

And the wonderful garage man, who always gives me one of those from deep-beneath-the-eyes smiles, lends me a car to get self, dog who’s too old to make it on foot, and gear up the steep hill to where I need to be, and takes the van keys to look at it as soon as.

What’s more, my dear friend B is driving all the way from Switzerland to be with me later today, and join me on the drive down (630 miles from here by the shortest route); and my much-loved friend H is immediately offering me help by text.

Dog and I have a brief wander into the early forest, and a coffee, while I let the possible implications of yet another van problem sink in, and the feel of overwhelm at everything in my life – and then let all that drift away across the lake.

When a few tears escape, I know they’re as much for the fortuitousness of the timing of the gearbox collapse (it could have been much worse), and especially for the kindnesses I find everywhere, as much as for the many challenges that this period in my life seems to be bringing me.

And then I arrive, and the little house resting there in its pool of sunshine makes me smile.


  1. Sounds a little like my life without the gearbox and Brittany :) Hope you get some proper rest soon.

  2. A Journey both inward and out. I think traveling is the best way to encounter the kindness in people.
    Go safely.

  3. I'm sorry your journey is difficult. I hope you and Dog will be fine again soon. I'm glad you've got helpful friends and that the little house was there in the sunshine. much love Marg xx

  4. Roselle, it's good to share your news from the blog again. Had been wondering how you were. And I felt for you most keenly, close to tears (most of the time never far away!) at your poignant mixture of feelings shared by so many of us. This is connection, if ever there was. And, as you say, it could be so worse, (though sometimes when people say that it can sound like a reprimand!) I know what you mean and sometimes just to say it to yourself can really help, I find.
    Every time you give us these wonderful images of Brittany I picture you as the lady poet from Possession (Emily Dickinson model, someone told me?) who, I'm almost sure, had a grey wolf hound too Is that right? So long since I read it, must read it again, but might be disappointed. Life too short, maybe? But I do want to go to Brittany, having never been! I want to see that forest from Possession, walk the coast, the land and see fewer people than here (J says nothing, just looks at me balefully, hoping the urge will vanish!) I know that your forest there is part of that ancient one.

    For all that is happening, you're not losing your touch. I love that: '. . . the lake which is her usual beautiful elegant self, a pewter platter on which the morning, plus two swans, sits.'
    Hope the journey goes well, you brave soul. Say hello and love to Bea and all at Gardoussel who know us. And come back safe.
    Love, Miriam.

  5. Thank you all of you so much for your care.

    It was an epic journey but I'm here in the wild Cévennes – couldn't be more beautiful – and the course starts tonight.

    Miriam, I reread Possession in July, in Brittany – just as wonderful as first time round. And Brittany is so lovely (if somewhat rainy at times - home from home!).

    Love to you all



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