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

Friday, 29 June 2018

a not-the-Guardian country diary piece

            Four Winds, Dartmoor, midsummer

On the moor, the beeches on the high granite walls are hazily opaque, not yet substantial, and the little leat muted. Beyond, Merrivale’s two Bronze Age double stone rows are just coming clear of early mist, the central burial kist in one of them barely a divot in the ground. Further again, I can’t make out the monolith or the closer little stone circle, and so far the view to Bodmin Moor and the sea is a milky wash.

The sun is rising at its most northeasterly point, apparently at a standstill for the three days of the solstice (‘solstitium’, ‘sun-standing’). Who knows what rituals might have been enacted here once, perhaps at the old Celtic midsummer of May 1st, Beltane, or perhaps nearer to our midsummer, celebrating the solar god at his zenith? It’s possible that the double rows here, like the processional avenues at Avebury which, some allege, can be seen to alternate longer thin stones with ‘lozenge’ stones, have carried over millennia their representation of a coming-together of man and woman, god and goddess, in ceremony, processing towards the obvious symbolism of the circle and the menhir behind it.

Now the mist has burnt off and another clear day reaches us. This year’s pony foals race in small gangs, knobble-kneed, through gorse and bog cotton, short tails held out stiffly as bottle-brushes. Above us all a skylark holds its place, spilling notes towards us through the clearing air as its ancestors have done, presumably, for century on century.

Driving up this morning, the Dart was empty of the many bright white-water kayaks that crowd it in its seasonal torrents, slaloming wildly through the boulders and over the short bursts of rapids. The grey wagtails are tranquilly flicking their tails on the rocks, alongside the dippers (old name water ouzel), that symbol of the Devon Wildlife Trust, that can walk and feed on the riverbed, using its wings to swim.

I come down through birch, ash, rowan and oak, blackbirds’ songs clear against the evening. Devastatingly, some of the ash trees are losing leaves from their crown branches – ash dieback. In the fields on the moorland edges they’re baling hay, rather than plastic-wrapping silage, and the scent of that and honeysuckle displaces thought.

Now, earth is drifting away from full day to lit night, lemon-white air hosting an absence of swallows this year. Home, the young blackbirds being reared in a hole in the slate-quarry wall behind a rosette of bracken are insisting on their hunger, as they will have been all day. Opposite one of the local barn owls is hunting, an otherworldly presence gliding across the scrubby hillside. Venus is rising. The sky dims slightly, but doesn’t go out.

© image & words Roselle Angwin 2018

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