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, 16 May 2018

the trees they do grow high...

...and the rocks are pretty big, too.

and the forest here in Brittany is big enough to get lost in, though TM doesn't do 'lost', so I suppose I mean take an unscheduled scenic tour, arriving back accidentally at the remote and beautiful little woodcutter's cottage (also originally an unscheduled visit) deep in the heart of the forest after quite a long trek, followed then by an undignified scramble through scrub in approximately the desired direction, according to the now-lowering sun.

I spent quite a long time trying to find the 'ancienne fontaine' marked on the map, hoping that it was one of the old holy wells. And it probably was, once. Now it's a rather sad rounded structure, completely blocked in, against which has been built a hunting lodge. Sometimes at night I hear the wild boar; send up some thoughts for their continued survival.

It's possible to walk from here and almost never repeat the walk. I love that. I love too the tall old trees; though many are new-growth after the tempests in 1987 and 1997 that took down so many broadleaves, there are still plenty older ones, jostling among the massive boulders, or growing through the cracks with an etiolated trunk that suddenly swells into something elephantine, or like an as-yet-undigested animal in the torso of a boa constrictor (do snakes have torsoes? Aren't they all torso?) once it arrives beyond the grip of the stone.


You may have noticed an absence of blogposts. I have noticed a reluctance on my part to sit at the computer. Lately – that is, until Iona in early April – I have acquired the habit of sitting at my computer all day. All day. I didn't choose the impoverished creative life to spend it sitting at a screen, and it's made me feel ill. I love communicating and working with people, and of course I'm also a writer, but something has to change. 

What has changed, since my retreats on Iona (which were wonderful, and I hope I speak for all the participants in the temporary family we create together: profound, exciting, stimulating and very creative*) is that I'm spending a great deal more time outside, hands in and feet on the soil. It feels SO good to be back among growing things.

Author Neil Gaiman reputedly said something along the lines of: 'Once I was a professional writer. Now I'm a professional email-answerer.' That. Please don't let that put you off writing to me! – but Ms Usuallyultraconscientious is likely outdoors somewhere and probably won't answer immediately. 

And when I am on the computer I need to spend more time actually writing – which is what I'm supposed to be doing this afternoon: an article for Green Spirit magazine on 'Sacred Feminine, Sacred Masculine' – the focus of my 'Wellkeepers' course in Cornwall in November.


Speaking of courses, there's a new week coming up, indoors and out-, probably in September or October, probably in Cornwall. More anon.

And before that, two outdoor half-day workshops near Totnes in Devon: 'Presence – mindfulness, haiku and haibun' on Sunday June 24th in the South Hams, and 'Tongues in Trees' in beautiful woodland on the edge of Dartmoor on Sunday July 8th. If you'd like to come, I need you to sign up soon. 


For various reasons that I don't need to mention here, I've been feeling quite anxious. Purely selfishly, I was heartened to be reminded by George Monbiot in a post of his how to deal with such states. George has recently had an op for prostate cancer, the ramifications of which could have been horrendous (fortunately, his new blogpost suggests that it's essentially a positive prognosis). 

In case it's of use to you, here are the 3 principle that he considers essential to happiness:

'... imagine how much worse it could be, rather than how much better; change what you can change, accept what you can’t; and do not let fear rule your life.'

On that note, I'm out for a walk before – yes, truly – sitting down to begin the article.


* – though extremely full-on, and not without incident, the major one being someone breaking her leg in the second group. I also had a challenging drive back: they moved the M5 intersection at Birmingham which resulted in me, squeezed between far more motorway lanes than is decent, ending up having to do a detour via Oxford, thus adding a couple of hundred extra miles and five hours to my already-very-long journey.

NB there is a place for a returner on the first April group, and just one place available on the second. I'm in discussion about a 3rd week on Iona, in late September or early October.


  1. So good to read and hear from you again, Roselle. Autumn Iona – fantastic idea.
    I'm most struck by your reference to George Monbiot. Like you, I feel anxious for too much of the time and what helps me most is thinking of how much worse things could be. But it's still difficult to obey the 3rd principle essential for happiness: fear does so easily rule one's life but already I'm heartened by the thought that I can do something about that, even if it's simply accepting its presence whilst letting it slide into a less prominent place.
    Yes, I can also understand sitting-in-front-of-screen syndrome. Like now on this glorious spring day with much to do outside as well as in here. So, I may take leave from writing – just for a few days – and not beat myself for doing it. But the next instalment will appear sometime, I hope, before September. I'm telling you this here to minimise emails!
    Meanwhile enjoy Brittany, lost or not, wandering aimlessly with intent, and shall keep in touch.
    With love and thanks, Miri

    1. Hello Miri

      Yes, it's hard being, I suppose, over-sensitive (my mum used to tell me that my 'over-active imagination' was both blessing and curse, and so it is), and I know you share that.

      I remember that we always have choices, though recently with a health-scare (all OK now) I didn't feel I had a choice; was completely consumed, and it's been a long time since fear ruled me like that (the bonus, most of the time, of meditation, of course).

      No hurry re TWR - I'm always happy to read your work, you know that.

      With love to both


  2. Hello Roselle, lovely to read your blog post once again. I am curious to understand and indeed follow your steps when you state..."something has to change". I also read with interest George's heartening article after his recent difficulties, almost rendering some personal anxieties and fears (ageing, wasting time, meaningful work and dying) minuscule. I recently studied a couple of books on ageing and fear of dying and found them a great investment, taking the time to write down my own observations as I read. When people share their depths while living, I seem to find great solace, knowing that others go through similar interpretations of issues. Something needed to change, reading the steps people take can also be inspirational. Thank you for sharing.
    Warm regards,

  3. Hello Alan and thanks for your lovely response.

    I don't understand yet myself what the changes need to be – I just know something's badly out of balance for my chosen path when my whole day is indoors on a screen.

    I'm interested in the books you allude to and would love to know more? I wonder if I've mentioned here before my old Zen teacher Ken Jones' book on ageing and dying? I don't remember the title and it isn't in front of me here, but I will try and remember to post the details soon. There's also Elizabeth Kubler Ross, though it's a long time since I read her so I don't remember exactly how relevant it is.

    Ageing gracefully without fears of regrets is quite a challenge...

    All best to you


  4. Good morning Roselle,

    Thank you for your reply.

    We seem at similar junctures. the books I read with great interest are "How to Age" by Anne Karpf and "Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death" by Irvin D Yalom. I have looked at Ken Jones website and intend to investigate more. I have also studied some of Elizabeth Kubler Ross while preparing a workshop on Bereavement.
    I do agree that unfolding and addressing all that can be wound up in my fears, rational and irrational, is indeed a daily challenge.

    Warm regards,



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