You know how it is when an experience is too profound to write about, or write about yet? – That.
My lovely first group of participants, some of whom have joined me here every year since the beginning or close to, has just left (most of them – some are harder to winkle out), and the second group will start arriving soon (no doubt equally lovely – I just don't know them all yet).
And for once I'm lost for words; steeped in a particular kind of heart-companionship, immersed utterly in the beauty of this ever-changing little island, this thin place at the edge of the earth (though in prehistory on a major sea-route), and dredged in the words of joy and grief, longing and love for the world that these people bring.
And there was the launch of my new poetry collection, A Trick of the Light, here in the Community Shop last Monday; I watched in amazement as tens of people poured in, listened with deep attention, and bought the book. In Devon, swarming with poets and writers and venues for poetry, a launch might draw a handful of people. Here we were 50 and counting: islanders, visitors, and of course the group. My dedicated publisher brought a host of nibbles from France – French toast, tapenade and confit d'oignon most appreciated by the gathering.
And that's as much as I find I can say; so here for you are some photos, and three poems from the collection. This first one, though, is a small section of a new longer poem (first draft):
yesterday a small white boat
was pulled up on the narrow strand
of Eileann Anraidh opposite where I'm standing
where I saw the seal-people basking that time
a dozen lined up, a plump-bodied family sleep-in
today a lone seal is back
the white boat gone
I lean on the rock and take root
... at Traigh na t-Suidhe (above top) wave after wave of greylag and barnacle geese overhead christened the day Spring. The flock of barnacle geese above on the ground by the Sound of Mull was a fraction of the hundreds that arrowed west; just out of sight towards the camera are many greylags.
Almost A Prayer
After we’d trudged so far to the pass at the top
of the island, rain and wind beating our faces,
rising like a single uncluttered thought
from the lochan’s dark mouth a pair of swan,
whoopers, passing through to Siberia,
their curd-white a thickening, a measure
of silence hefted against grey air,
their presence an act of grace, almost a prayer.
My life as a breaking wave
I breathe in and out
spent, I loll in my own shallows
in a kind of intertidal doldrum
a shadow of the ocean breaker
I was not so long ago
I’ve travelled the whole Atlantic
to rest on this particular shell-white strand
under an April full moon
in my lips I’ve caught mussels
and pearls, the dreamings of crabs
green and maroon wigs of weed
I’ve caught the whisperings of fish
still blue keenings of porpoise
the ghosts of herring
I’ve caught a shoal of silence
out there in the deep sea
where we’re unruffled into one long fathomless body
the sailboats and gannets wing
I breathe, in and out
no end to the cycle of tides
no end to the I that is we
our deep song
and still I break
still I break
With your burden for its heart
you are walking the labyrinth
in an easterly March chill
and your feet are bare.
I can see from here that your eyes
The tails of my waterproof snap like sails
and I’m embarrassed until I remember
that noise and loss are as much a part of life
as stasis and silence are of death.
Behind us the bay is tarnished
with sea-fret. A gull keens.
First swallow’s back. Everything
knows its place in this world
even if that place is perpetual journey.
We seem to take so long to learn this.
See the way the gulls let the east wind
almost lazily lift them languid
into air, and simply leave them there.
All poems © Roselle Angwin; also photos (all from this year's first week)
Next year's Islands of the Heart is filling fast.