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, 21 June 2017

summer solstice & poem 2017

So it's the solstice; I wish I'd thought to take my camera out with me on my already-late-at-7.45am walk in the abundance of the Devon lanes here (this is an old photo). I could soliloquise at length on the flora and the many many young birds of so many different species (I did remember my binoculars), and the sheer joy of having all this to walk in, but there is always Work Undone.

Right now, the longest day, the sun appears to stand still in the sky for three days (as it does, too, on the shortest day). It's time to breathe, pause, reflect, before moving on (all downhill towards winter now, my dad would always say in his most deliberately gloomy voice. Must be time for my annual bath.) In the northern hemisphere, the earth is at its greatest inclination towards the sun at this time. The sun appears to rise at its most northeasterly position of the year, and sets at its most northwesterly.

All around the country, people will have gathered at dawn at one or other of our ancient and sacred megalithic (I guess that's tautology) monuments, many of which were constructed to predict solstices, among other things, to celebrate the sun's rising.

Each solstice, one of the earth's turning points, I like to look back at the last winter solstice, and the previous summer's. This time, I also look back two years, when I thought my life was about to change utterly and that I'd be living solo in France from then on. 

And then today I keep on looking back at the ones I can remember, mainly of course because they were significant.

Forty-something years ago, in my teens, I hitchhiked (unbeknown to my parents, who were probably told I was staying with friends, I can't remember) to Stonehenge for the summer solstice. I got a lift from Steve Hillage of Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth's 'Gong' fame; Gong, very much a voice for the counterculture and we hippies with our anti-Establishment, anti-capitalist, anti-consumer and peace-and-love values, must have been playing at the free festival that Stonehenge was then, though I didn't really know who Hillage was at the time.

In those days, before English Heretics got their hands on the site, fenced it, floodlit it and charged entry, we used to camp up in nearby beech trees around small fires, a loose tribe of people with guitars, poetry, and stars in their eyes, awaiting dawn at around 4am, before we trekked to the stones to watch the sun rise over the Heel Stone of the monument, in an act of celebration at least 5000 years old. This year, apparently 25,000 people attended – very glad I'm not there any more! – and because of the recent terror attacks, there was a strong armed-police presence.

A few years later, I was married on the summer solstice. We were both young adventurers, romantics, restless; he was Italian and exotic. We were both dropouts from university career-prospects (with my particular speciality, the Grail legends and the Mabinogi in their original languages, I couldn't imagine what I'd do other than work in, say, the archives of the British Library – I had no desire to teach). We made a living with our hands, and travelled abroad in the winters in our old campervan, including later with our young daughter, to follow the surf down the Atlantic seaboards of France, Vizcaya, Galicia.

We were young. The marriage couldn't last. Our daughter is well grown up, and he is now dead.

When, decades later, I first met TM, we walked the ancient trackway known as The Ridgeway from the Goring Gap in Oxfordshire to Avebury stone circle (to my mind a more significant site than Stonehenge) over 3 days, with a tent, too many heavy home-made loaves and litres and litres of water as we didn't know whether there'd be standpipes (there are), and far too many pairs of socks on TM's part (in my view).

Things got ditched as we went, and we filled up instead on the experience – the red kites, the various ancient sites we walked through, the burgeoning crop circles. The grasses, the copses of beech, the wide blue sky, the White Horse (or perhaps Dragon) of Uffington. (In my book Bardo I have a prose poem sequence that is about this walk.)

At the end, we found our car had been impounded, so a magical time was rather coloured by having to catch a bus to Swindon and pay a very hefty fee.

However, the walk remains as something very special in our memories.

And then more recently, seven years into my relationship with TM (they say that every cell in your body has been renewed in seven years – of course one might look to a different life! - one is a different person, a little, perhaps), came the upheaval that might have led to our separation and my living in France two solstices ago.

We've come through a lot, and come through strong. (The world, of course, is a different matter.)

So here's my solstice poem. With wishes to all you lovely people for an abundance of good things this summer, and a peaceful heart.

Summer Solstice 2017

After we’d come through the troubles and their repercussions –
small troubles, not like Syria, Grenfell Tower, London, Manchester,
deluded Heads of State, pesticides, genocides, fracking and the travails
of our over-burdened earth, but our troubles – after we’d come through
together we planted a rose in the summer courtyard with its freight
of birds and memories.

            Perhaps there’s always a distance between lovers;
sometimes charged with despair,
sometimes necessary. So then heaping
and tamping the good Devon earth, bedding it in with good water –
this brief gesture is a long moment of convergence, precious intimacy
against the dark.

            The sun’s standstill. This morning, red
globe spilling fire to reinstate what the dark had swallowed, we see
that she, the rose, has offered to day, bee and us alike 

one perfect rich bloom. Here in this fragrant dawn, birdsong 
the only interruption, yesterday's news of that Imam standing firm
to prevent his own from the natural urge to avenge, it’s easy
suddenly to believe in hope, in the earth continuing to turn,
in a triumph, a takeover, of love.

© Roselle Angwin 21.06.2017


  1. Lush Roselle very lush luscious!

  2. Val and Saskia - thank you! <3

  3. Beautiful post - you instil a sense of hope. Solstice blessings to you
    Angie x

  4. Thank you, Angie. And to you. Is Dog still doing ok? xx

    1. Bless you for remembering Roselle. She's doing fine - still on multi medication but it seems to be managing the problem still. Bit hot for her at the moment though! Lots of walks in woods rather than out on the forest. xx

    2. Very gad to hear that, Angie! My own is incapable now of a walk - can just manage to do what she needs to within a few yards. But what a gift, 13 years with her! xx

    3. Give her a hug from me and wags from the girls :-)

  5. Lovely to share in some of your past solstice memories Roselle, your Dad's comment made me smile.
    I remember Daevid Allen and feeling nostalgic a couple of years ago I managed to get his CD, it's still on my I pod.
    The still time, as Eliot wrote, - this is where the dance is-
    Love to you and yours xx

  6. Chris, we must talk about these things some time! Types of shared past experiences, I suspect. I can't even remember what Gong sound like now - or only just! Thanks for lovely comments. xx

  7. What a wonderfully inspiring and uplifting read. I would have loved to have experience Stonehenge back then! Thank you Roselle for sharing and for doing the important work you do

    1. Jack, what a lovely comment. Thank you. Yes, it was magical back when; I haven't been tempted to visit since they fenced it in, like a zoo animal. Avebury, of course, is wanderable!

      Warm wishes to you.

  8. This is indeed beautiful, Roselle, and very moving. Also it rings bells for me too, as you probably know. Forty years ago was 1977 and I was newly divorced with my two year old boy, trying to sooth my troubled parents, both deeply concerned about my predicament. My career saved me and I was able to survive well enough alone – with my friends and family's constant support-from-a distance and I learned much and eventually strengthened, becomng a better person, I hope. Then J came along and – well really it's true to say – saved us. Your father's response to the summer solstice made us smile too; it's what J always says! The summer solstice, I think, is both glorious, sad and hopeful, like all turning points. By now – especially in the recent heat – I llook forward to the crisp bite, the mellow glow of autumn, the more restful days of wine, which I don't shun as much as I used to. All all that you've said here over the years that I've been following, have reinforced my appreciation of so much that is already important to me. The shortening days are difficult but candle light beckons with its graceful, fluttering dance.
    Happy Solstice again to you,
    Miri, with love.

  9. Miri, there's a tribe of us, isn't there? - And autumn's not here yet! (Though I love it too.) And walking up high early this morning there was a refreshingly strong westerly.

    Ah - did you tell me that J, like my dad and TM too, is a Scorpio, or did I make that up?? ;-)

    It's great that you and J have lasted nearly 40 years.

    Thank you for your kind and lovely words. xx

  10. Yes, J is also a Scorpio and Jeremy, our son – as was his father. My dad was a Cancer, like me. He loved all seasons but winter fog and ice worried him.
    Typos now! 'The more restful days of wine' should've been winter! I still can't tolerate booze. though once I loved it. There are others too, but too petty for here!

    1. Oh WINTER! Puts a completely different connection on it...! What a slip, hey? x

    2. Or - typos here too - 'complexion', even!

    3. Complexion is just right! What are we, Mrs Malaprops or what! Might make for some fun? Like a poem of Malaprops?

    4. Now that's a good exercise - thank you! x


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