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

Sunday, 25 October 2015

dexter and sinister

I’m not ambidextrous (or is it 'dexterous'?). Even if i were, i wouldn’t use that word (look, i’m going to give up trying to capitalise these sentences. i’ve somehow turned off auto-capitalisation in Pages, can’t find how to undo it, and it’s just too hard with one hand and an expensive internet connection).

language subtly enforces cultural biases, doesn’t it? how did ‘dexter’, meaning ‘right’, become the default suffix after ‘ambi’ for that desired but rare state of being able to use both hands equally well? as if only right-handed people can actually be dextrous in the way we generally use that word, meaning ‘good with our hands’? and how was it ever ok to stigmatise whole swathes of the population whose preferred hand is their left by calling left ‘sinister’? 

i remember my left-handed sister at school in the 1960s being forced to stay at the dinner table, or in a lesson, long after everyone else had left - until she’d finished her lunch by holding knife and fork in the right-handed way, or written with her right hand. how is this ever ok?

anyway, i’ve discovered just how hard everything is, and how slow, when your accustomed hand is out of action.

i’m loving today’s sun. i’m loving the walks in the leaf-fall forest time. i’m loving simply sitting and reading if i want to. and to my astonishment i have actually managed to type 2000 words towards my book this week. but it’s slow, it hurts and the content of my writing feels less than inspired. 

but still.

what i can do:
lift a glass of wine (but not drink it as it clashes with the painkillers. am thinking of ditching the painkillers)
walk - with my hazel stick on stony ground
eat, but not cut up my food
read - hooray
bring in kindling
gather sweet chestnuts
make a cup of tea (just about)

what i can’t do:
open a bottle of wine
open a tin, bottle or jar of anything
chop vegetables
spread toast with anything
drink a cup of tea and hold a book at the same time (my favourite solo breakfast thing)
use my new axe to split wood
pull on and button my jeans
carry wood
strike matches
put on a coat or even t-shirt (been sleeping and walking in the same clothes for ooh days)
put arnica cream on my huge, swollen and bruised right arm
carry shopping
stop the dog bouncing to play with another dog if said other dog is small and scared of big dogs

but do you know what pisses me off most of all? people saying ‘what is the universe trying to tell you?' grrr. a) i’ve thought of this myself, and b) i have been SO looking forward to this time, this writing sabbatical - in all the time (24 years part-time, 21 full-) i’ve been a pro freelance writer on a pro writer’s income (look up the society of authors’ research on this - below the minimum wage; well below, even if you have, as i do, more than ten books out there, none of them vanity-published) i have NEVER had two months out JUST to write a book i’m very excited to be in the middle of. i’ve always had to do other writing-related stuff - i love and value all the work i do tutoring, mentoring and generally supporting other writers, and it does after all pay the bills, but it is so easy to lose sight of my own creativity.

so is the universe telling me i shouldn’t be using this time to do what i’d always planned: rest, walk, reflect, grieve the deaths of my parents and write?? is 'the universe' telling me anything at all?

on the other hand, my soul is, and i'm listening...

grump. grump.


  1. Well, for what it's worth – and by now I'm certain you'll be thinking something similar – I think the Universe is saying this: Right (Write) Roselle, just to make sure that you don't do too many of the tedious everyday chores which get in the way of more fulfilling things like writing, resting, walking, reflecting, I'm going to make it a little harder to doing anything but walk, rest, reflect and write. You're managing pretty well and this will keep you at it.

    And what I say is this: If it's now all flowing after months of dryness and famine, let it come and it'll be all the better in the waiting. And you have every right to be grumpy. I feel grumpy for you (and for all that's hindering me at the moment; still no writing, still too jam-packed with co-housing, moving, chucking things out, decisions).

    I'd send you a longer email to cheer you up more, but don't know if you'll receive there easily or if emails are simply not welcome at the moment. Keep going, Roselle. I'm so pleased for you that everything is flowing better and the arm will heal, as you know already, though it's not much comfort when there's so much you can't do that's normally taken for granted. Great things will come from this, I'm sure.

    Would love to talk to you about our plans for the future – about lots of things – but this may not the best place or time.
    Let me know if you'd like more here or an email.

    Lots of love from us both – willing you to heal quickly and find the focus to keep flowing. (J turned 70 and can't believe it, still feels 15 or sometimes 8 or even 5! – but it prompted him to take stock and write morning pages for the first time in ages. Maybe, just maybe . . .?)

    From Miriam xx (in the actual white room which will be no longer when we move – sob-sob! Oh what melodrama! It'll be there as long as I am – I hope).

  2. Sometimes the Universe is simply saying we have to fight hard to follow the course we feel is right for us, otherwise what the value? how deep the reflection? how honed the outcome? Some words that have recently stuck me by Jane Hirshfield, heard first from radio programme.

    'I moved my chair into the sun
    I sat in the sun
    the way hunger is moved when called fasting.'

    Seemed to sum up how we are constantly being challenged to be fluid in our perceptions of the world and ourselves for me.
    Keep grumping...and writing.

  3. dear carrie, dear miriam, how lively to hear from you both, and you both gave me further insights. thank you for that, and for the caring. and carrie thanks for the lovely little hirshfield snippet - i'm sure i must have told you she's one of my favourites. being fluid - going with it - yes, in that direction lies freedom.

    the universe thing: i and my small troubles are of little interest to the universe. how hubristic to imagine it is sending me messages. and yet in an interconnected universe of course everything also has meaning.

    i think it's more how glibly people use that phrase, and actually it's my soul making sure i take notice of what i need to hear, and i'm in the habit of listening to her.

    in contrast, your thoughts were thoughtful and helpful.

    miriam my love to Jeff for the big birthday. always happy to hear, but it's true i have only v infrequent internet access and a mass to do - very slowly - when i have it, so i might not have a chance to respond.

    however, i will be picking up the threads of twr this week, tho not before you leave tomorrow.

    love to both


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