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, 29 June 2016


My consolation in hard times, in any times, remains what it has always been: the ground of our being, the bedrock of our existence in physical form – this life within the vast web of the natural world.

This is what endures, materially speaking, relative to the transient nature of human lives, politics, individual suffering; or at least, this is what endures if the land and the other species who share our home planet aren't poisoned out of existence soon.

I say this as it looks like glyphosate, Roundup by any other name, that most ubiquitous and destructive of herbicides licensed by Monsanto, will be legal again (or still) from tomorrow.

It's useless to list the griefs visited on us by those who are out for profit, who have no joined-up thinking, or any sense of exactly what they're doing to the ecosphere and the larger picture; let alone any sense that a tug on any part of the web affects the whole.

I feel this dissociation of our species so keenly it's almost a continuing physical ache. It's a deeply painful grief, but pointless, unless it urges me to positive action (which I guess it does, come to think of it).

So I take refuge in the blackbird song at 4am today; the sweet wet strong scent of the escapee roses who have taken over yards and yards of our hedge; the fragrance of herbs in the green courtyard; the bright yellow frog I discovered in my herb and flower bed, camouflaged, perhaps, to hang out among the mass upon mass of yellow-flowered ground cover of Creeping Jenny, and doing a grand job of eating up the slugs and snails so that my peonies, hollyhocks, cornflowers and irises have actually flowered this year.

I take refuge in the parent robin who comes into the kitchen asking for food. I take refuge in the song of the little brook in the valley; in the fact that our once-mowed home meadow (that houses our woodland margin, orchard and large veg garden) is now beautifully full of a hundred (poetic licence) species of flowering grasses.

I take refuge in the fact that none of our neighbours uses Roundup. I take refuge in the fact that the local organic growers, Riverford, have now become such a big concern – and in the fact that their attitudes, and food, are not only so widely available but so widely purchased, though of course only by the relatively affluent, since organic food is still more expensive than that poisoned and grown on poisoned land. I take consolation in the spreading words of Guy Watson, Riverford veg box founder, in today's newsletter: '... real wisdom lies in appreciating untidy diversity; working with nature with minimal intervention rather than fighting it with mowers and herbicides.'

I take refuge in the nourishment of silence and solitude. 

And I take nourishment from others' hearts and minds and the kindnesses and wisdoms to be found therein, whether in friends, family, strangers, on social media, or via those most consoling things, books.

And speaking of books, I take consolation in the little personal fact that, during a bad start to the morning, I received an email via my website from a very old friend in America from whom I haven't heard in ten years, and who gave me that inspiring book written on Cape Cod by Henry Beston, The Outermost House. B's email was to tell me how much he'd loved, and been moved by, my last novel, The Burning Ground, which he'd just read on Cape Cod. In a year when my writing has seemed to be on slowburn in terms of being out there in the world, this made me smile.

And in the veg garden, so slow to start this year, things are gradually picking up. What joy to be digging new potatoes, planting out (finally) the squash and courgettes. What joy to have the first small pick of broad beans, especially since they went in 6 months later than they should.

And as one cure for sadness is a giveaway, here's my recipe for broad beans for you:

  • Pod and steam beans for 3 - 6 minutes, depending on size.
  • Marinate hot in this mix: olive oil, soy sauce, grated root ginger, finely-chopped garlic, salt and ground pepper, chopped parsley.
  • Eat cold.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

division & the middle way

I guess I can't not mention Brexit.

It's hard to know how to handle the personal and collective feelings that have arisen over this issue; a bigger schism in national politics, and with bigger implications, probably, than anything since our engagement in the Iraq war of 2003.

From social media, I know that friends and families have found themselves in fierce disagreement with each other, and in the middle of escalating tensions.

I also know that incidents of racial abuse and hate crimes in the UK doubled in number in hours; by yesterday morning, there'd been over 100 reported instances just since Friday. This makes murdered MP Jo Cox's words on commonality more poignant – her murder being the most extreme version of hate crime, of course.

Two stormfronts have collided and created one almighty deluge that threatens to overwhelm us all. Everywhere people are anxious at the uncertainty of it all.

And it's fear that makes people lash out. Lashing out, in turn, is a way of blaming the other, whoever or whatever they are.

We need to turn and face the fear that drives us. We need to get to know it: where is our fear? How is it mirrored in what's happening around us? What's it about, really? How are we adding – or otherwise – to the current climate of fear, pessimism, cynicism?

We have no way of knowing who or what will come ashore and who or what will drown. What we do know – or at least what I believe, which is admittedly not the same thing! – is that global debt-based capitalism, consumerist/materialistic values, profits over ethics, and an aggressive competition-driven focus will not get us out safely.

Our current structures have to crumble, and maybe they now will. I don't wish for the bottoming out and the backlash, but I do know that there could be a breakthrough on the other side.

As always, the middle way may be the way forward. This doesn't mean passive fence-sitting; instead it might mean stopping for a minute, taking breath, scrupulously examining our own propensity for causing division, however minor, however subtle, in our own small lives.

It might mean being aware that we have the choice of adding to, or refraining from, more words of aggression that will only increase the gulf. As Plato said (one of the few things that he said that, as a woman, a poet* and a believer in non-hierarchy, I can actually go with): 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.' 

So maybe we might revisit our own personal hates, our own aggressions and defences, our propensities towards attachments and aversions, as Buddhism says: those attitudes to which we're so fixed that we're blind to others' needs and viewpoints. Perhaps we need to revisit our fixed opinions, and our easy outrage when others' differ. We may need to revisit the way the ego needs to create its certainties and its identity, which often requires sacrificing others to both.

I can be so quick, myself, to jump on bandwagons of campaigning: this is right and this is wrong.
And indeed we do clearly need a personal moral compass. There are times when it's a clear situation: in my book cruelty, for instance is wrong; full stop. If I stand by and say or do nothing, I'm complicit. Mostly, though, it's nothing like that clearcut: situations have many more grey areas than most of us will admit; we like outrage, we like having opinions, we like jumping to conclusions and judging. 'Guilty, m'lud.' 

So we also need to listen to the other, to inform ourselves, to recognise that none of us has access to absolute truth in any situation.

Personally, I'm trying to be quiet, knowing that I don't know, and sniffing the wind, trying to listen to what the times are telling us: what needs to change, what the deeper message is, what I can do about it myself.

And if we can weed out our own unskilful attitudes, then we can help the collective project by facing the uncertainties of our time with openness instead of oppositionality, with kindness and a willingness to listen, to learn, and with an ability to sit at the quiet heart of it all and act, when it's time to, from wisdom instead of reactivity.

* Plato banned poets from his ideal republic. And probably women too – I don't know. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

psyche & soma

This blogpost picks up where the one about the course in Cornwall leaves off.

NB: I'm writing this not to 'navel-gaze' or in self-pity (nor requesting pity), but to explore with you all via my own experience a far-too-common dissociation in we human beings between mind (/heart/psyche) and body, in case it's a useful reminder for you too.

'Another day we walk the coastpath past the astonishing prehistoric Ballowall Barrow to Porth Nanven. Some say that the name is a corruption, or possibly an older form, of my surname; my family has come from this area in the very far west from forever. We stop to picnic on 'dinosaur-egg beach', footing the sub-tropical Cot Valley, with its huge creamy rounded boulders, and the glass-green sea just barely rolling its waves dreamily back and forth on the white sand beyond the boulders. It’s mesmerising and soothing.'
So I'm sitting with the lovely group of writers, gazing out quietly at the sea at Porth Nanven.

I think of how my father loved this place, and how much I miss him. 18 months on and I still haven't started to touch my grief at his dying and death (followed just a year later by the shock of my ex-husband's sudden and untimely death; the father of my daughter).

I'm at 'that age', like many of you who read this blog, I know. It's the hard 'night-sea journey' of midlife. Is there perhaps some comfort in the fact that we all have to cross that night sea?

I have been far too overloaded by the distressing and taxing nature of both Alzheimer's and vascular dementia respectively in my parents, followed by their and several other deaths in the immediate family, other severe family illness, not to mention the loss from my life of someone important and significant to me, plus (ultimately positive) big changes in personal situations, in the last decade to do anything other than take care of those who needed it, and get by myself.

Much of the grief and recuperation is still ahead of me, though I am on the path now, beginning to mourn and making my way back, so to speak.

Here, on the rocks (actually and symbolically too I guess), I have a brief moment of being flooded, in my openness here in this place that means so much to me, with too much grief.

And then it happens – I fall backwards, seawards, inelegantly, like a beetle, with my arms and legs in the air, and hit my lower back hard on a rock; a curved rock, like a seal, but still a rock, and a granite one at that.

This puts paid to any further long walks; I can barely move now, and walking the mile or two back to Boswedden is excruciating, and involves my taking tiny steps, as if hobbled.

I’m good at trying to make sure everyone else is OK. I’m terrible at taking notice of my own needs, or even being aware I have any. Because the last year alone has brought a number of huge life changes to me, some of them really tough, even the ‘good’ ones take some extra energy at the moment.

I also know that, in order to ‘give back’, we have to learn to love and nurture ourselves.

The very things I ask people in my groups to pay attention to are the things I ignore in myself. I have a lifelong history of having something very distressing, very painful, happen, and picking myself up and carrying on as if nothing had happened; forcing myself through it and suppressing the trauma. 

If I were my own therapist, I’d be shocked at this. I’d ask how I was supporting myself through the recent losses and pain; if I wanted to be New Agey I’d point out that lower back pain symbolises a lack of support, and if I-the-client said, as I would, that I felt supported by the others in my life, I-the-therapist would ask whether I also support myself, which would lead me to an unequivocal ‘NO’.

Why not? would be the next question.

Because I don’t know how, would be the answer. 

I know how to monitor myself and my habitual ways of thinking, being, doing. I know how to recognise and take back projections and shadow material. 

What I don’t know is how to recognise and attend to my needs in present-time, and – like many women in particular in a Judeo-Christian patriarchal society – I don’t know how  to validate them, and how to put them top of the list on occasion. I feel ‘selfish’ if I do, even though I recognise rationally that it’s essential to be able to. How can we love and nurture, be intimate with, another if we can't do it for ourselves?

And I also don’t know how to simply stop.

Thing is, if one doesn’t take notice of messages from the psyche and take hold of our only-too-familiar defences, reactions and responses before they become habits, they become so dense, as it were, that the body plays them out. Once this happens, our habits have well and truly taken hold of us, have fossilised.

Of course we can’t really separate out body, instinct, mind, heart, intuition, soul and spirit, despite the indoctrination of our Western rationalist culture. And of course we do so at our peril.

Every part of us has to work in synergy for us to function optimally, to lead an authentic life, to give from the core of ourselves, to have a chance at wholeness. And yet very few of us work from a base of being truly in tune with ourselves; few of us know what it feels like to be whole, with all aspects of ourselves working together.

What is so very helpful is the conscious, committed and continuing daily – moment-by-moment – practice of bringing awareness to ourselves and our processes, as well as to others, human or other-than, and to the wider picture (a version of this, as mindfulness, has become hugely popular recently, for which we should give thanks, although actually the practice, rooted in Buddhism, particularly Zen, goes back many hundreds of years). Missing out any of this has implications.

In my own situation, it’s very clear for me that, quite apart from all the traumatic situations, the fact that I’ve injured myself severely twice in the last six months, and that I’ve had episodes of incapacitating labyrinthitis four times* ditto, suggests a serious lack of balance in my life. These have worked together to forcibly stop me; any movement becomes painful at best.

And my pattern is to take the absolute minimum of rest if I absolutely have to. This basically means once I’ve stopped actually throwing up from labyrinthitis-induced nausea, or have overcome severe physical pain enough as to be capable of moving myself upright, no matter what it costs me, and, immediately I can move, albeit in a staggering or hobbly or one-armed sort of way the last few months, to get going at the next brilliant idea, the next piece of writing, the next commitment, the next workshop, the next moment of stress to earn an income, the next tacit pressure from the veg garden or animal companion for me to be ‘responsible’, the next request from someone else for my input/help/association, or offer of an exciting new project.

Yep, stupid, isn't it? Even I can see that, written out like this.

So this time, this time, I shall take note. Now everyone’s gone home safely, I’m going to spend a few weeks mostly reclusively, resting, reading and writing, and allowing myself the processing and healing that this just-gone time and place has helped enable in others.

Time to turn round and face the shadows again; if we don’t, they hunt us. Better to go out of choice.

As for the rest of the week, my Poetry, Place & Pilgrimage retreat, I had a wonderful level of support from the participants which enabled me to continue. It was a good lesson, too: the thing is, a ‘pilgrimage’, as I see it, is bringing attention to our own personal process and aspects of being, our inner life, simultaneously with being aware of the ‘out there’. It means bringing intentionality, observation, respect and care (as I’m fond of saying in groups) to everyone and everything we encounter – and this means ourselves too.  

So my own therapy and healing has to begin – again. In my mind, driving home, full of relief and joy that the week has gone so well and everyone’s so happy, and also, it has to be said, full of physical pain now and releasing tension from goodness knows how long, I sob and sob. (This is not helped by finding an injured badger on the lane near home.) I needed to weep.

At the moment, I'm hurting, physically. It's getting better, though, after a week's quiet. Plus I'm experienced enough in monitoring my own processes as to trust that this situation will in the long run be another gift.

'What doesn't kill you', etc. Sigh.

* One of these was after an emergency session of Alexander technique for my back, ironically.

Monday, 20 June 2016

summer solstice poem 2016

At Sancreed Holy Well

And you, solitary waykeeper hunched by this stile
and then again standing proud by the cloutie-well,
one among multitudes, and yet to each of you

your own song, here on this granite peninsula
at the land’s edge where you lean to the northeast
in a slant sweep, your compactness

like the people of this land, surrendering
to wind, to seafret and rainfall, to the deep
lodestones of the ores beneath your roots.

Midsummer, and your spilt five-petalled blooms
a bouquet for Her, sparks of milky light
harvested from sun, from cloud, from the misty

rains that stroll these ancient downlands.
To you, then, hawthorn, the secrets of guardianship
of this land, the protection of her sacred

waters, the wisdom of yielding to the elements
without giving up the one place
where your roots are nourished into blossom.

© Roselle Angwin 2016


Saturday, 18 June 2016

poetry, place & pilgrimage: pagans, saints & mermaids

We all gather in sunshine. The sea yesterday was doing her best to look innocent and benign, lolling blue and lovely off Cape Cornwall. When we actually go to walk the Cape, however, on our first silent walk, a few clouds have slid in from the Atlantic, and there’s a wind. Unusually for this area, we have quite a few grey days, which do nothing to change the magic; if anything, it's more atmospheric.

I’m delighted to be leading a course down here in my ancestral lands, and at the fine Boswedden House, finally; been plotting it for years.

As always with my courses, this one is holistic; so words are both exploratory tools and means of expression of our experience.

We don’t begin until late lunchtime, and somehow I manage to cram the first half-day full – a taste of things to come. (One of the lessons that I come away with is, as I always say in relationship to writing poetry in my groups, ‘less is more’. I need to remember and trust this.)

We are a group of eight people, writers in transit; some I know, some know each other, most don’t. We’re divergent in age and as personalities, and between us represent three continents and four countries; six, if you include Wales and Cornwall (I do). I look around the group, and despite the fact that we’re all so disparate, I know it’s going to work. 

I’m also delighted to be using my campervan again as my own accommodation, windows open to the deep shush of the sea at this point where the Atlantic splits into the Bristol/Irish Channel and the English Channel. Other than that, it’s only a pair of crows nesting in the fir behind me, and various songbirds that I hear. Oh and a distant donkey. When I slide into bed that first night it’s with a deep sense of contentment and satisfaction.

I have a full agenda of walking the ancient and sacred sites and cliffs, story, poetry and writing to deliver. Early on, though, I realise that we simply are not going to be able to include all the sites I want us to visit as inspiration for developing relationship with and writing about the land. Apart from anything else, the weather, after days or weeks of sunshine, turns cold, wet and changeable, and my ‘agenda’ of course has to bow to the elements. And it seems no one is especially keen to walk far in the rain – how can that be??– despite my fierce warnings that we would be out in all weathers. And – how can this be? – I’m glad of the excuse.

Also early on I notice, as I half-expected and as frequently happens on residential retreats I lead in Europe’s ‘thin places’, edgelands, that there is likely to be a fair amount of emotional upheaval followed by healing happening for people on the course.

This is not a deliberate intention of mine, but when you put people together with others in a situation that is inspiring, emotionally intense, safe and supportive and involves engaging with the inspiration, deep wisdom and mystery of the land and their own soulwork, things bubble to the surface. 

In addition, people come to realise that their ostensible reason for coming on the course (writing in a beautiful place) is by no means the only thing that has brought them here, and they feel safe enough to allow deeply-buried feelings and new insights to emerge. The core Self can become more visible. So catharsis happens.

There is laughter. There are tears. There is transformation, and innovative exciting writing. I am very glad that I’ve had the four-year psychotherapeutic training, plus further CPD, that I have, and that I have had my own intensive therapy. I wouldn’t consider doing this work without it.

As for the outdoor work, I ask people to look, listen, consider, observe and imagine like poets; notice the details that others might not; find surprising ways to write about our encounters, whether with the ordinary or the unexpected.

Of course, as I might expect, a very short walk takes a relatively long time; and since we’re walking in silence and everywhere we walk there is much of interest and much to notice, there’s a great deal to write about.

We stop and gaze at the extravagantly-flowered stone walls, the edible samphire bursting from crevices (also to be tasted), the little originally-4th-century-and-probably-on-an-older-site St Helen’s Oratory perched above the cliffs.

We stop for a minute to watch the local fisherman who’s just landed the catch that the fish-eaters amongst us will eat for supper dragging his red boat up the slipway to attach to his red Land Rover, having thrown the young fish back to a cluster of gulls.

At the Cape I mention that, bar the Scillies off a little to the south of us, and the lost lands of Lyonesse, of course, there is nothing between us and America, which stimulates a flood of writing in the strong breeze.

Over the course of these days we will visit the local holy wells of Sancreed, possibly a Christianised corruption of (Saint) Cerridwen, and St Euny, with their cloutie trees: hung with offerings to the spirit of the well, and sometimes in supplication for healing, the trees, usually hawthorns, are gaudily bedecked as they will have been, one way or another, over centuries and possibly millennia.

We’ll spend a blissful gentle hour or two writing in the Iron Age ‘courtyard village’ of Carn Euny with its glimpse of the sea, also on an older site.

We’ll walk out to Men an Tol, the famous holed stone noted for fertility rituals and general healing (you need to pass through the hole three, or maybe nine, times in deference to the Goddess whose numbers are three and nine – that’s for another posting).

I remind people that fertility is not just for youngsters: crones and middle-aged men too are fertile (ie creative), just on a more subtle level than the physical. The group gamely clambered through, some more enthusiastically than others, but I noticed that when we all decided to recline on the warm turf around the stones, a deep deep peace washed through us all, followed by an uprise in energy and creative expression.

By the end of these few days, our notebooks are full.

We don’t make Caer Bran, an earthwork I’m particularly fond of, though I do tell them the story of Bran, the Raven/Crow god of the Celts.

At Zennor, I tell everyone the story of the Mermaid of Zennor, and show them the late mediaeval pew; speak of how the symbols of wisdom and the Goddess, the moon (or perhaps love apple) and lyre or zither have become degraded into symbols of vanity, the mirror and the comb.

Another day we walk the coastpath past the astonishing prehistoric Ballowall Barrow to Porth Nanven. Some say that the name is a corruption, or possibly an older form, of my surname; my family has come from this area in the very far west from forever. We stop to picnic on 'dinosaur-egg beach', footing the sub-tropical Cot Valley, with its huge creamy rounded boulders, and the glass-green sea just barely rolling its waves dreamily back and forth on the white sand beyond the boulders. It’s mesmerising and soothing.

And then - well, that's for the next post. 

NEXT YEAR'S COURSE is slightly longer, and has morphed into 'THE LAND'S WILD MAGIC: poetry, place & story', as this small area is so rich in tales of the earth. You can see details here.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

far west

We’re heading west, far west in fact, to the West Penwith peninsula of West Cornwall. My heart, as they say, soars alongside the buzzards, swifts and skylarks, heading down to my ancestral lands; on such a blue day, with the glimpses of sea and the huge sky, it would be hard not to be joyful.

Once you leave the bony spine of central Cornwall – Kernow – behind, the lanes are so lush. I thought ours in the South Hams were spectacular, but the profusion of wild flowers is pretty much unequalled: bluebells, buttercups, campions and foxgloves, of course, as it’s early June, but on the stone ‘hedges’ also the pretty deep-blue discs of scabious, yellow orange and red trefoil, starry white sedum, pink thrift and the white bladder campion.

This part of Britain, another ‘edge’ or liminal place, like all the others to which I‘m drawn, has more prehistoric sites per square mile than almost anywhere in northern Europe, and it’s hard for me to know which to leave out for the Poetry, Place & Pilgrimage course. We’ve snatched a day out of a busy time, TM and I, to check out a circular route I plan to take the group on this week.

We begin at the sacred centre, it feels to me, of West Penwith: the holy well at Sancreed. The name itself is christianised, but my perception is that it may well be a corruption of Cerridwen, one of the faces of the ancient British Goddess of the land. Nestling below the ancient Sancreed Beacon, certainly the holy well here has an exceptional quality to it (and apparently the background radiation is about 200% the normal, which gives a kind of almost hypnotic quality to the immediate area). I came here once with my dowsing rods, which spun and twirled crazily on the approach to the well.

The well itself is preceded by a ‘cloutie tree’: a hawthorn hung with offerings, some tacky, some beautiful. If you squat on the second step down, the walls of the well glow with phosphorescence. Nearby are the walls of a tiny chapel.

We head across fields over stiles until we start to climb towards Caer Bran, ‘Bran’s Castle’, an Iron Age fort on a probably older site (like most of the remains here). Partway up we stop in an iconic meadow with a variety of grasses; reclining here beside the ruins of a farmhouse is paradise, and the sea is visible to both sides of the peninsula: Mount’s Bay with St Michael’s Mount where ley-hunters will tell you the major St Michael leyline which tracks across southern England to emerge on the coast in East Anglia enters Britain (friends of mine have tracked this ley through Europe to Delphi), and the other way the white dunes of Hayle and Gwithian appear, beyond which is the lighthouse of Virginia Woolf fame.

The waymarker is this beautiful Brane (‘Bran’) Cross.

You can see how prolific the verges and banks are here on the little path up to the Iron Age fort of, presumably, Bran.

This is a double earthwork with a defensive ditch, though undoubtedly the ‘fort’ was also used for gatherings, ritual and ceremony.

Bran is Bran of the speaking, or singing, head of Celtic mythology. His name means ‘raven’. I’ll tell his story another time, but in brief he was the son of Manannan mac Lir, or Llyr, the sea-god, and as a semi-deity himself was entrusted perhaps with the guardianship of the sovereignty of Lady of the Land. When his head was cut off in battle, he continued to speak and sing (prophesy), and told his followers to keep his head with them until eventually they were to bury it in the White Mount at the Tower of London. As long as his head remained interred, and the ravens remained at the Tower, Britain would not fall (there’s more to say on that, but another time).

From Caer Bran we follow a little track to the wells at Chapel Euny, where they have opened up a further bridleway to continue one of the old tracks.

It’s Open Studios in Cornwall, and close to the Iron Age courtyard settlement of Carn Euny, I call in to Hester Dunnett’s studio, with some exquisitely atmospheric paintings; hard for them not to be, living where she does.

Then we emerge into the sun-glazed courtyard village which, despite it being a sunny weekend and so we are not alone, has a profound feeling of calm and restfulness to it.

Unique, pretty much, to Cornwall are the fogous: Iron Age cave-tunnels, shaped like birth canals, with, usually, a ‘creep chamber’ off to one side. They are frequently if not always aligned to a significant solstice sunrise or sunset, and there is much speculation as to their purpose. I have my own ideas about this (also another time), but suffice it to say they too are probably ceremonial.

And then to the sea at Cape Cornwall, where my course is taking place – and the late afternoon is the kind of blue that stops your voice; the sea barely creased, and the point where horizon meets sky not even an edge, but a seamless whole.

Friday, 3 June 2016

the patience of paper

Because there is far too much to write of – of growing things, of the wildwood, of writing (61,000 words into the new book), of scything and plastering, of intimacy and poetry and the terrible joy of being alive, I'm cheating by offering you this small quote.

'Paper is infinitely patient. Each time you scratch on it, you trace part of yourself, and thus part of the world, and thus part of the grammar of the universe. It is a huge language, but each of us tracks his or her particular understanding of it.'

Burghild Nina Holzer

And because I'm off to lead the next course (Poetry, Place & Pilgrimage in West Cornwall), another 'thin' place, edge place, I offer you this one, too, from the Guardian of June 1; written about the Hebridean island of St Kilda, it applies to any edge place: 'Anywhere you can see the curvature of the earth drives you to think, and I wonder if we imbue peripheral places [...]with such significance because they challenge our mainland mainstream lives – and how hectic, sustainable or important they are...'

Patrick Barkham


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