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

Monday, 11 November 2019

Ragbag blog: birds, more-than-nature-writing & missing cheese

Buses, my friends, buses. I know.


BIRDS
It’s flocking time of year, and the migrant redwings, thrushes and blackbirds are back feasting on berries in our meadow and woodland, and fallen apples in the orchard. Pigeons glean the last grains in the fields, and – hooray! – the once-prolific starling with its stupendous synchronised murmurations (each bird takes its cue from the seven flanking it) of hundreds or even thousands of individual birds has been in decline, but its numbers are beginning to build up again, at least in Devon.

Also flocking are the finches and tits, including my favourite long-tailed tits who swoop and twitter in extended family groups. (The one below is a youngster photographed a couple of years ago when there was so much snow that many birds, including rare and shy ones, gathered in our courtyard for shelter and food. This one was hungry enough and young enough to let me photograph him or her from literally inches away.)




The great flocks of corvids, basically rooks and jackdaws, birds who have saved my sanity more than once (long story) and always make me smile, greet the dawn with enthusiasm, and perform their raucous flypast around dusk, before they settle noisily in their night roosts.

And someone told me yesterday that guillemots on the North Devon coast are thriving and multiplying. So in this world where we’ve wiped out 60% of species since 1970 (according to the Green Party), there are a few small local successes.

On a more bum note, my neighbour has found in his field over the last few months two buzzards and one barn owl dying or dead, all emaciated. The vet has said poison is responsible. I know this is judgemental, but so few people seem to be capable of joined-up thinking. If you use poison, as I suspect some of my other neighbours up the hill do (even the ones who host a barn owl in their outbuildings), to kill rats and mice you’ll be killing the owls, buzzards, foxes who depend on such small rodents for food.


WRITING ABOUT THE REST OF THE NATURAL WORLD
Yesterday I led an eco-poetry workshop in remembrance of lost species, and to celebrate those animals, birds, marine creatures and insects who are still with us, as part of Exeter Literary Festival.

A question that came up was how ecopoetry might differ from ‘nature’ poetry. My thoughts on this go, in brief and rather superficially, like this:

The ‘old’ nature writing kept the objective observer separate from the observed, so that the latter is recorded in a rather detached way.

The ‘new’ nature writing, a genre that is becoming hugely popular, intertwines subject and object, so that the writer is present in the narrative and the relationship between human and other-than-human is forefront.

‘Eco-writing’ and ‘eco-poetry’ have a political dimension, challenging our assumptions about, views of, and actions in relation to the other-than-human. This writing usually includes a passionate portrayal of an environment, and species, in crisis, largely at our hands. It is designed to draw attention to our failings in the hopes that, by dispelling ignorance, we can change our habits.

And, of course, the border between the latter two, certainly, is blurry.



MISSING CHEESE
Yes, I still do.

Looking back, I see I’ve been roughly following a vegan path since 2011 (I was lacto-veggie before that from the age of 16). It’s not been a smooth path in that I’ve not been consistently 100% vegan – for instance, when I host my monthly poetry group here and people bring special cheeses, I usually have some; or if I happen to be eating out and there’s no other option (leaving an animal’s products uneaten on my plate is worse – that animal will then have suffered in vain). Other than that, though, I’ve been pretty good.

Here, I want to celebrate a couple of really great vegan cheesemakers, and to tell you about the delights of Coyo, a natural yogurt made from coconut milk. If you don’t already know it, try it, if you can get hold of it (even TM, who is a firmly-committed lacto-veggie who nonetheless shares the vegan cooking with me, likes it better than dairy yogurt).

The supermarket vegan ‘cheeses’ are pretty rubbish. (Violife, made from coconut oil, is OK-ish as a melted cheddar substitute but a bit grim on its own.)

I spent rather a lot of money on a ‘cheese-making’ kit, with recipes for 6 different ‘cheeses’ from cashew nuts – all disgusting.

But here’s a thing: there are two really good British vegan cheeses. Even better, they’re both in right-on sustainable packaging – no plastic in sight. However, both are expensive, so I ration them (mind you a good dairy cheese is not cheap). Both are made from fermented cashew nuts.

One is Tyne Chease – ‘the finest vegan cheese in England’ – and it is (joint finest, with Mouse’s Favourite, below). There are several imaginative flavours, of which my favourite is the smoked. They also do a range of spreadable flavoured soft cheeses in glass jars. They’re an excellent butter replacement.

The other ‘cheese’ is Mouse’s Favourite, developed by Gabrielle le Cocq and sold in the UK and Europe, despite only being a small concern – a blue camembert style is the only one I’ve tried. It’s delicious. Really delicious.

I don’t know how widespread their distribution is, but certainly the latter has a store locator. (I think you can order both online.) I'm fortunate that our nearest town, Totnes, is the alternative capital of the southwest (and Riverford is also local), which means that we have many good wholefood choices and I have access to such things as vegan cheese. Plus I never need to go into a supermarket, given that we also grow much of our own.

If you’re not ready to go vegan but want to cut down your contribution to animal suffering, then please please do two things.

One is buy only organic dairy products – and of course meat too, if you eat it. In GB in order to receive Soil Association accreditation as organic, you have to guarantee that your cattle are outside, free range, six months of the year at least. (And no, ‘grassfed’ is not necessarily a guarantee – often the cut grass is taken to the captive cows and they are barn-reared, on concrete, all year.)

The other is to ensure that the cheesemaker uses veggie rennet (it should say on the label). The traditional rennet is an enzyme taken from a calf’s stomach to ‘clot’ the milk. (It could be argued that this action is superfluous, since the dairy industry per se involves the killing of half of all calves at a few days or weeks of age, sometimes via their incarceration, taken away from their mothers at a few days’ old, in the dark, to produce the veal that comes from very young calves – there are stories of veal calves attempting to suckle at the fingers of the abattoir workers, so young are they.)

Best of all, of course, seek out and try these ‘cheeses’. You might be pleasantly surprised.




Tuesday, 5 November 2019

on not pressing apples

I spent my equinox birthday leading a retreat on the Isle of Iona. When I came home, TM had ordered me a small apple press (in bits) for the fruits of our little orchard.
 
'It'll take us 10 minutes to put the press together,' declares The Man. 'Two hours,' I mutter darkly. As always, the truth lies between the two (though closer to my two hours, it has to be said).


An hour and a half later we're ready to go.



Press is looking good - beechy, red ironwork, dinky.

 
I'd sprained my wrist the day before, so quartering and coring about 150 apples with a wrist twist is quite hard going, but it is sunny and I am chopping outside.

The Man is very fit and very strong (he's a philosopher who makes his living as an eco-builder). A few turns of the top bar (at right angles to centre spindle – not visible in photo), and he's feeling it.

No juice.


After another round, we take all the apples back out and chop them more finely.


Ditto. TM's veins are standing out and the press is making an ominous noise (it's only little).


I say, suddenly remembering: 'I think the last time we did this [with friends, several years ago] we put the apples through a crush first.'

He says: 'No, I don't think so.'

I say: 'You operated the crush.'

'No I didn't. I was chopping by hand, with you two, while Simon pressed.'

I remember I wrote a blog on it with photos, and find it. Simon is operating the press. Barbara and I are chopping apples by hand (sacks and sacks of them, their orchard and ours combined). TM is operating a metal crusher.


'Hmmm', he says. Goes to order a small crusher to add to my birthday present.

Daughter and I take all the apples out again, and improvise a crush by battering small apple pieces with blocks of wood in big saucepans.

We try a 3rd time. Dribbles and then small streams of juice. It's opaque and brown, oxidised now (or is it oxidated?). 

Hmmm. 

5 or 6 hours from beginning, three bottles – of apple elixir, rather hardwon. Tastes divine, though. We cheer.

Next weekend. Honest. Next weekend.









Frog Medicine 2 at Samhain (poem)


             Frog Medicine 2 at Samhain
                    ‘Nothing is what it appears to be’, ‘Frog’, Philip Carr-Gomm


You, tiny red swimmer
taking refuge from the storm
in the waterbowl this morning
you, limbs asplay
you, spirit of the rain
reminding me of something quiet
something I can’t quite grasp

under the gale’s lash
under the whipped boughs
trees freed from their raiment of leaves
wind almost thick enough
to smell     to taste
almost a colour
colour denoting absence

*

to be possessed by absence
to know you possess
nothing
you can call your own

*

floodwater excoriating the thin strip
of red earth crossing the county
east to west
the earth’s one skin less
the earth’s one harvest less

(our childhood’s cornfields
high as our waists
the blaze of corn poppies
our childhood reverberating
in another unvisitable continent)

*

to possess, a fable
to be possessed, a fable

*

taking refuge in the mutable –
element of water (you, red swimmer
spirit of the rain), element of earth –

frog with your tiny red feet
frog in the waterbowl
frog clambering up over rocks
frog rising up in the well

here in deep shade
here in the lee of the gale
here where the moment begins
taking refuge
again and again

spirit of rain
at the earth’s dark turning

time of the Crone
Samhain



© Roselle Angwin 2019






Monday, 21 October 2019

Introducing a Pause



‘It was a warm Sunday evening in mid-September. I was sitting on the terrace, looking up at the Sierra de Gredos, enjoying dinner and a glass (or two) of red wine with my good friend Chris Riley. We had spent the weekend on the other side of the mountains, hidden away in an ancient house in Avila, with eight other people and dozens of books, reading and talking about what we had read.
    ‘I could do that every year,’ said Chris.
    So we did.

‘Since I live in central Spain and Chris is in Oregon, it is hardly convenient. Yet every year, he travels over five thousand miles, for a couple of days, to do very little. Others travel considerable distances too. What is this about? It is about the power of a pause.’

Robert Poynton, opening paragraphs of DO/PAUSE/You are not a To Do list.*

*

On my way up to lead my third retreat of the year on the Isle of Iona last month, I stop as I usually do at the end of the first afternoon’s driving at Tebay near Appleby-in-Westmorland, a service station unlike any other (except its sister services in Gloucestershire).

I wander around stretching my legs, and of course find myself in the book section. A little and beautifully-produced book practically leaps into my hands. Poynton's PAUSE has gorgeous natural-world photography by Jim Marsden.

The rather sound-bitey title notwithstanding, I know I need this book (after all, it’s much easier to read about something than to make deep changes!).

That evening in my B&B I immerse myself in the book’s quiet and intelligent discourse.

In the last six months, even my 40-year daily meditation practice has almost gone by the board. I don’t stop – not even properly to eat lunch – from 6.30 in the morning till 9 at night, at which point all I’m fit for is sleeping; this has happened this year generally 7 days a week. My own precious quiet solo time has been completely absent. We’ve had a couple of instances of serious family illnesses, and our two gorgeous dog-brothers, now 9-month-old adolescents with too much testosterone and while individually amazing are together a small gang, are hard work, and I’ve been occupied with fulltime work coupled with caring duties and tending our large veg plot since the spring.

I’m not saying this for sympathy, only to tease out the state of mind I was in before the journey to Iona which is advertised as, and intended to be, a deep restorative and insightful retreat week for the participants.

Each time, I think I will arrange work etc so that I can take two days off before I leave for the long drive and intensive retreat. Each time, as this time, I’m working flat-out up until and including late into the evening before, attending to emails and deadlines barely met. I know this is not healthy, and hardly the state of mind to bring presence to a retreat which is rooted in presence.

The book jolted me back onto my axis. There wasn’t within it anything I don’t already know (though he expresses it with grace and elegance), but as a reminder it couldn’t have been more timely. It is essential to a healthy life – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – to pause, whether that pause is a moment of bringing ourselves back into our bodies and the present, between tasks; whether it is regular time out in a day or a week; or whether it’s total time out to be alone for a few days – something which I happen to believe not only revitalises oneself but also all one’s relationships. I can’t speak for men, but for women I believe it’s utterly crucial to take this longer pause, annually at least. Touching the depths, peeling the inessentials away, finding spaciousness.

I had a meditation teacher who spoke of every interruption offering that moment of presence, mindfulness: the doorbell, a dog barking, the phone ringing. Pause. Take three breaths. Bring yourself back, and then choose your response. I have continued to do that much of the time, though it too goes by the board when I’m in harried and frantic mode, which exemplifies this summer for me.

Before I drive on the next day, I take time to meditate – as I also do when I find that my ferry, and the next, are cancelled, leaving me with the distinct possibility that I might not get to my destination that night. How good it feels simply to stop, and not to worry about what ifs; to see the delays as a chance to really pause.

And more, I decided that I would introduce PAUSE into the week, frequently and regularly. I spoke to the (lovely) group, all women as it happens, of pause, spaciousness, the idea of a retreat within a retreat during the activities I set up. I spoke of resting: in the moment, and also in doing nothing at all. I cancelled in advance some of the sessions and activities I’d planned. We incorporated loosening bodywork and a lot of laughter. We incorporated, as always, silent time together – being silent together is a wonderful form of intimacy, once people settle into it. And we incorporated times of solitude.

Just as importantly, I challenged my own semi-conscious sense that for people to ‘get their money’s worth’ I needed to fill each day.

And it worked. All of it worked for – as far as the feedback suggests – all of us. Some people have written to me since to say they’ve incorporated some of the pauses and ritual-rhythms into their daily life. Several have written to say how deeply restorative and refreshing the week was.

And me? I’ve stripped down my working life to its deep-core essentials, so that I can focus on the aspects that are my central passions, as detailed in the last post.

And on practising this art of THE PAUSE.




* I personally no longer fly – haven’t done except for a family funeral – since 2007, so can’t condone that. However, that’s individual choice.

 Having said that, I’m thinking of introducing such a week into my core programme, with a few – limited – resting, walking, writing and reflection add-ons, in Europe. Be in touch if it appeals to you. 

But NB I'm taking a slightly longer pause myself, just now, so it might be a little while before I respond.






Thursday, 3 October 2019

Liminal states, change & transformation...


Autumn is a beautiful liminal slant-light time, and a time too of transition. Here, some trees are dropping their leaves; geese are veeing overhead; squirrels , mice and jays gathering nuts; 8-month-old pups learning the joys of picking blackberries and hazelnuts; and most of the swallows have gone (happily, they bred well enough here to allay some of my early-summer fears, though swifts are still having a hard time of it). We are harvesting our abundant crops, and trying to find new ways of cooking beans and the first squash, eating rather a lot of crumbles. (I'm still working on my plant-based cookbook, though that has been pushed to the back of the queue due to some possible good news on my tree book.)
And I'm just back from leading a new retreat week, over the equinox and my birthday, on my beloved (and liminal) Isle of Iona. It was a very special and profound week with some diverse and lovely women; the course subtly different both in content and emphasis as well as in season from the spring courses. The island worked her usual magic and the week was soul-infused and exciting, with some magnificent pieces of writing. The seascapes here were all taken last week on the island.

My main passion and concern is how we might, as creative beings, add our small individual flames to the greater vision, increasingly urgently needed in our time, of transforming our relationship to our soul-life, to each other, to our home the planet and to our kin of the other-than-human nature. To the whole of the natural world. This vision is implicit or overt in all the work I do. I believe that the nature of this work, with writing as catalyst, furthers that vision in a tiny way.
And so I am making changes in the way I work to give more attention to this core focus.

Those of you who have worked directly with me will know that my courses have always been holistic. ('I thought I was coming on a writing course', said one of my participants a few years ago. 'Now I know that's it's also about how we live.')
Even the two writing distance-learning six-month-long novel and poetry courses (Storymaking and Elements of Poetry) are informed by deeper ideas. Storymaking, which boasts several now-published novelists in its history, is in its 21st year, and is rooted in archetypal ideas of the Quest (often known as the Hero's Journey). Elements of Poetry includes aspects of the soul in its approach, albeit mostly tacit.
It's a time in my life, too, of change, I think, as I look again at what I want to do with my course programme and my own writing. I've been an environmental activist all my adult life, and increasingly I want that to inform all the work I do.
In our times of great loss, uncertainty and despair, my programme of courses aims to deepen your life through the creative imagination and its expression in poetry, story, myth, journal-writing, land art and whatever else presents itself, and through time outdoors, meeting our other-than-human (and human!) kin with heart and a mindful openness. This invariably changes the way we relate to the world. 'Transformative' is a frequent word used of my courses; my belief is that unless we are willing to transform our own lives too we can't change the world. What I want is to be part of a community of people living deep, rich, meaningful lives and offering their gift, their unique gift, back to the collective.

I'm currently looking at stripping back to the essentials so that 2020, the 29th year of Fire in the Head, might usher in a more focused programme, with maybe some deeper changes. The main change will be that I'm removing the 'smaller' aspects of my work that leave me scattered, and are not viable for the (conscientious) amount of time I put in. I'm also determined to spend less time on the computer, and more time tending our animals, our extensive veg plot, the orchard and my bee-and-herb garden. And – new concept for me – taking a little time out, just for me.

The core elements of my work, whether my own writing or the work I do with others, are sharpening rather than disappearing. This is the focus:
Our relationship with soul: our own, each other's, and anima mundi
Our relationship with nature (the rest of the natural world)
Our relationship to the creative imagination, primarily through poetry- and prose-writing.
To enable this, I have decided to focus on three aspects of my working life.
The first is to reclaim time for my own writing. It looks as though my A Spell in the Forest: Tongues in Trees book, based on the course below, might have found a home, and will hopefully be published in 2020. This will be followed with a 2nd book, also related to the Brittany forest in which I spend part of my year. More anon.
The second is that next year I will be offering very few courses. The only certainties at the moment are the two residential weeklong retreats on Iona. These combine creative expression, mainly writing, with silent meditative walking, psychospiritual awareness, discussion, readings, sharing our poetry, stories, laughter and grief, and can offer a sense of belonging, and deep homing. (They are full, but there is a waiting list.) In 2021 I will be back with The Land's Wild Magic, and the 3rd annual Iona week.
The third is that I hope to offer more distance learning courses similar to my Tongues in Trees course (see below). You can read more about these ideas on my other website The Wild Ways.
From now, I'm putting on hold the mentoring and manuscript appraisal work (apart from with my current mentees), and most of the one-day workshops. NB that I'm offering a half-day eco-poetry writing workshop at the Exeter Literary Festival in Devon on Sunday November 11th. (Typo alert!)

For the rest of 2019, I'm focusing on completing the first yearlong group of Tongues in Trees, a course that has been so rich and joyful to create and lead, and with some amazing people who have brought so much (and there's excellent feedback).

I'm taking bookings now for the 2020 yearlong Tongues in Trees course. It begins on the winter solstice 2019. You can do the self-study option, or you can work one-to-one with me (the number of people I work with on an individual basis is strictly limited, and I only have one or two spaces left). In addition to tasks and up to 15 pages of material for each monthly module (13), with the latter option I respond to your thoughts and reflections, and specifically to the creative work that arises from that month.
This course seems to have more than fulfilled its aim, for those who have been really dedicated to it: deepening their understanding of trees and forests, and deepening their personal relationship to individual trees, species, and forests in general. And, of course, there has much creative writing (as well as photos and sketches) in response to each module. You can see feedback on the webpage.


For now, autumn greetings and blessings to you all, and if you have read this far, and especially if you have joined me this year and accompanied me in this work that I love so much, big thanks to you.
 



© Roselle Angwin 2019

Thursday, 22 August 2019

a spell in the forest: tongues in trees



The book that I began writing in Brittany in 2015 has, like the paths in the forest I was writing in and about, taken many twists and turns, and cost me 7 redrafts. Finally, it has become two books. Drawing on the yearlong course I'm currently leading, the first, A Spell in the Forest – Tongues in Trees, is at last taking shape and will soon head off to find its own way in the world. I hope. (The sequel, or prequel, has also begun to find shape.)

This is the brief opening passage of Part 1: I wrote it, based on a memory of an earlier visit to this forest, as a blogpost here in 2011.



PART ONE



THE GREENWOOD


Finally you open your eyes. The meadow's tall grasses curtain you; beyond, the blue hills rise. Emergent sun hazes their summits. You sit up. There ahead of you is the little path, and in the stone wall a small wooden gate.
    You stand. Below in the valley swallows and martins skim the mist from the morning river. You stretch. The conversations of birds; the song of the water. Your hand lifts the old wooden latch. You step through. You slip into the green of the woods as into a silk dress. There is no room for thought.
    The path rises gently, sprinkled with light. It's May and the land is alight with white blossom. The wood swims with the scent of bluebells; the air is lilac with it. A thousand wild bees drone. You're alone and it's the first day.
    In the green glade pass the ruins of the hermit's chapel with its green dreams, the short walls grassed and blackbird-capped; the spring bubbling and chattering.
    Follow the path in and out of sunlight. Oaks and ashes season the woodland; first bursts of honeysuckle; and look! – in the shade of this larch a host of goldcrests, a corona around your head.
    Your feet firm on the good earth. Here there's no need for shoes, you can shake out the creases in which you hide; the truth is as it is, all around you, spread out.
    The trees thin out, a little. In the undergrowth of campion, stitchwort, bramble there are rustles of lives going about their daily cycles. A wren skitters out; a bluetit. A very young vole, the length of your top finger joint, scurries across the path, over your feet, unafraid. In the distance a woodpecker knocks.
    Soon, you will arrive. The green glade in the green day; summer still to come; and you are young, you are now, you are always. The threshold waits; and its guardian; and question and response will spring and be answered simultaneously, with no words. You pass through.
    And there it is – waiting all your life for you, there before questions, before answers. You knew, and forgot that you knew. 





© Roselle Angwin 2011–2019










Sunday, 18 August 2019

august






August
and across the bright moor
summer has spilled
her red
rowan berries 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 2 August 2019

Presence (or why I meditate)


The thing about meditation practice is that it can bring you into presence, whether that's being present with yourself, with another, with your surroundings; with the sacred or divine, or the unified whole. Better still, all of those. 

In the meditation I've undertaken for more than 40 years now, primarily rooted in Zen (the original mindfulness practice), being still and UNfocused in your focusedness is key. 

We simply stop, breathe, stay present to what is.

Part of this practice is monitoring the transient thoughts and feelings that flow through us like water and letting them simply pass on through. My Jungian work, and that of the nature-orientation of my druidic path, also remind me that I don't need to identify with this cluster of reactions and experiences driven by the separatist ego, but can choose to observe and register the whole of what's happening in our huge interconnected family of 'all that is', to the extent that my limited perceptions allow.

So what meditation does is to open up a space, a pause, in which the essential weightlessness, the trivial insubstantiality of things like emotional reactivity, becomes apparent. If it's transient, why bother to waste precious energy on defending the ego's whining?


Of course, that's easy to say. None of us transcends very easily the emotional, desire-and-opinion-driven aspects of the ego that orientate us to and in our daily lives. However, they can become simply small and relatively unimportant drivers of our way of being. (At least, that's part of the ideal.) It helps curb my impulsiveness (in a good way).

Every moment is an opportunity to practise whether to react, or to choose to respond. Recently a friend delivered a blast of excessive anger at me. I was shocked and deeply hurt – the more so because I hadn't done what I was being accused of having done. (If I had, her anger would have been justified.)

I'm perfectly capable of doing the same thing – aren't we all. But it is easier now (and so it should be after 45 years!) simply to notice how much I wanted to hurt her back, how angry I felt at her accusation; and to choose to pause for long enough as to see the bigger picture of her own hurting.
She is enmeshed in a difficult situation in her life and I understood where her anger was coming from: she'd convinced herself of the truth of an assumption she'd made and had gone off on one, hitting out, rather than exploring the more obvious, accurate and non-blaming possibility that it was nothing to do with me.

I'm not meaning to sound sanctimonious. How often I too get caught up in reactivity. All I'm meaning to say is that even curbing one unskillful impulse of mine in the face of personal emotional pressure to 'get even' in some way felt like a small step towards bigger peace.

It's simple.

Stopping.

Breathing.

Counting to ten (how wise that old advice is).

Bringing yourself back to the present moment for a moment, or a minute, or ten, in its perfectly neutral and perfectly beautiful natural state as it is, no matter what else is happening.

Choosing to respond.





Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Lughnasadh (+ poem)




Tonight, for the 24-hour period until midnight tomorrow, we will be celebrating the first harvest in for Lughnasadh, or Lammas (from 'hlafmass', or 'loafmass'). This is the time of Lugh the fire god; one of the Celtic cross-quarter dates of the wheel of the year, midway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.


You can read more, and see a previous poem of mine, on this link.

Here in Devon we are feasting on the last of our broad beans and the first abundant harvest of green beans, kale and courgettes. The early potatoes are done now, and the first maincrop just about ripe, along with the first tomatoes. The apples are swelling fatly.

Tonight, I'll light a candle and make a small offering of whatever we are eating – a libation to the genius loci and the local gods and elementals (probably personified in mice and birds).

Meantime here's today's Lughnasadh poem for you.


Gathering

Here, fields are starred with bright tight-packed 
wheels of straw and the first harvests are in: 
John Barleycorn dying over and over 
and rising again. The year is already behind 
the hill but the late summer sun still burns. 
I'm kneading Lammas dough and thinking that
the thing about getting older is no longer 
craving the wild conflagrations that my youth 
called for; the thing about getting older is 
relishing the slow-burning fires of a truer love.




© Roselle Angwin 2019









 

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Oak by the Brook (poem)





Oak by the Brook

When the great oak fell in the woods
the valley shuddered and we felt
the aftershock in our feet for weeks.
When the great oak fell, fifty families
of mice fled, and the pairs of woodpeckers.

Nuthatches went into exile, and a hundred
thousand insects. The heron and winter’s
white egrets no longer have a lookout
over the minnow brook; no perch
for summer’s turtle doves. Last week

a thousand bees hummed in its canopy;
this winter, the jays will scavenge for
five thousand fewer acorns. The valley
is a wound. The valley is a mouth with
a missing front tooth. The valley is Munch’s

mouth, open and forever a silent scream.
When we walk where the oak was we too
are now silent. The great oak fell; the valley
shuddered; we feel its echoes still.


© Roselle Angwin



I'm currently teaching an intensive yearlong online tree course. Bookings are coming in for the 1-to-1 option that will begin on the winter solstice 2019:

https://thewildways.co.uk/tongues-in-trees-a-yearlong-course/



Wednesday, 26 June 2019

A June ragbag: trees, islands, pups, birds, vegan cheese and EMFs... & a poem




TONGUES IN TREES

It was, after all, nearly the solstice; and the summer solstice in GB is almost always wet. 


The thing about the weather is that we can resist it, or we can accept it on its terms. So the at-times-heavy rain that accompanied my 'Tongues in Trees' poetry day in a wood on Dartmoor on Sunday could have spoiled the day. But when you're under a leaf canopy on which the rain plays such sweet music, you're engaged with trees in a wood called Druid - yes really – and you're on a quest for words, how can it be miserable? Especially, I should have added, when you have a campfire with two big kettles to huddle round. 16 writers joining me in the woodland to do what I love doing – spending time outdoors, and writing – was bliss. 

The yearlong online Tongues in Trees course I've been leading has been immensely rewarding: for me, and for the participants who have been in communication with me about it. Exciting times. I work with just a handful of people on a 1-to-1 basis, and am taking bookings for 2020 now.


BIRDS

You will remember how upset I've been about the absence of swallows, martins and swifts in our summer skies in Britain. The RSPB has confirmed that swift numbers are down by 50% odd; and far fewer of the other two than before. Insecticides and climate change weather conditions are part of the picture. I would still like to know how your hirundines are faring.


Meantime, I take consolation in the increase in bullfinches and goldfinches here. I've watched wrens, great tits and willow tits learning to fly at very close quarters. At the top of our small woodland we've a nest of sparrowhawks: wonderful to hear and watch them above us, though not without a pang because the land of which we are guardians is very bird-rich. (As I write this a green woodpecker is yaffling in the oak tree that adjoins my garden study.)




ISLANDS OF THE HEART

I was delighted that The Telegraph of June 8th 2019 included my Isle of Iona writing weeks in their ten 'world's best creative writing courses'. Next year will be my 20th of leading this course. Due to cancellations, there are just one or two places left on this September's week, and on the 2020 one.

Iona: The Glass-Blue Day


The way sky inhabits the creases

smears colour that steals your breath


The sand so pale it might be grains of light

The big Hebridean night that opens its arms


and drops its creel of stars
towards our upturned faces


© Roselle Angwin


If you would enjoy some intensive work on your poetry, including putting together a collection, in a stunning place this autumn, then you might want to consider my THE WELL OF POETRY weeks in the Cévennes mountains of southern France.



PUPS

TM has been going round the place smiling a lot (he normally has a sober thoughtful expression). TM is a self-declared cat-man. The reason he's happy? Our two newish pups. Who'd have thought it?


GETTING THE WRITING RIGHT

You might remember the book I've been banging on about a bit, for a while, written partly (mostly) in and about a Brittany forest.

Sometimes it takes another to see what you can't. Or to ask the right question. A couple of weeks ago I was mentioning to a friend that I knew something was adrift with it, but couldn't identify it. 'What would you say to a student who brought you that problem?' she asked. No hesitation on my part. 'That you're writing three books.' So – yes. BIG rewrite.


VEGAN CHEESE

Yes, I know that's a contradiction in terms. And I know that cheese is the thing I miss most, by a long way.


How wonderful, then, that I've found three new 'cheeses' – tasty; and what's more in environmentally-friendly packaging.

Tyne Chease makes solid 'cheese' in flavours like smoked (my favourite), mustard (2nd favourite), as well as pink peppercorn, Ethopian spice, and others. It's delicious, and packaged in balsa wood, waxed paper and shavings.

They also do a soft 'cheese' in a number of flavours – TM, who still eats dairy, likes this as much as dairy soft cheese. It comes in glass. No, it's not cheap. But neither is dairy cheese. I simply eat less.


New to me is Mouse's Favourite. Their camembert blue is amazing. Packaging is card and compostable wrapping.

And if you don't know Coyo yogurt, made as it sounds from coconuts, try it. Again, TM eats this in preference to dairy yogurt – and he's a big dairy fan.

The Guardian noted on 15th June that the number of Britons converting to plant-based diets has quadrupled between 2014 and 2018 to 600,000. That's a whole lot less animal suffering and carbon emissions.

Meantime, I've invented a delicious pickle to eat with your non-cheese.  I'll be posting it on 57billion.org over the next day or two, with a couple more recipes.


EMFs
One of the things I'm most concerned about is electromagnetic frequency (EMF) emissions. More than 30 years ago a doctor (ie not a flaky hippy as I've been called) said to me that if EMFs were coloured we'd be a whole lot less complacent about the quantity we're putting into the atmosphere. As it is, we're actually complicit in frying ourselves – irradiating ourselves – for the sake of being permanently 'connected'.

We need to resist 5G (Brussels – the city – along with various other places has banned it). It's bad news not only to humans but to animals, birds, plants and trees too. Worse, as it will be beamed from around 20,000 satellites (I think), there will be nowhere on earth we can escape it.

Having a daughter who's extremely electro-sensitive has really focused me on the issue of human-made electromagnetic radiation and the thick 'soup' that we've created – so very many times more EMFs in the atmosphere in the last 50 years than the naturally-occurring ones.

Yes, whatever people (and the telecoms industries) might say to the contrary, they ARE harmful: to us, especially children; to animals and birds; to trees and plants. And with 5G there will be nowhere on earth to avoid them. 5G is orders of magnitude greater than 4G. And no, in case someone has said to you that non-ionizing EMFs are perfectly safe, that's simply not true from the research.


Please, people, inform yourselves. Get rid of your smartphone. Please learn about switching devices off and unplugging them when you're not using them, especially at night: mobile phones (If you look you will see that the phone's own small print, within the device, tells you not to hold it close to your ear, btw); tablets; computers; and if you have a clock radio in your room, try removing it.

Change your cordless phone for a corded one (better for you and also to help the nesting habits of house sparrows). CABLE your internet instead of using Wifi (switch the Wifi off. If you've a BT router you'll need to ask them to do that.) Oh yes, don't have a smart meter foisted on you, by anyone.

I've done these things: I'm sleeping better; my tinnitus is receding; I'm less dizzy and my heart arrhythmia is greatly improved.

If you want to follow up, look at Dr Martin Blank's 'Overpowered' (or for an easier layperson read that summarises all the research go for Nicholas Pineault's The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs – I actually really enjoyed reading it!).

Meantime, please do look at this link and sign and share (it's an international appeal to the UN, WHO, EU, Council of Europe and governments worldwide
from doctors and scientists who know that 5G will cause widespread harm).

Here's an excerpt:
'Despite widespread denial, the evidence that radio frequency (RF) radiation is harmful to life is already overwhelming. The accumulated clinical evidence of sick and injured human beings, experimental evidence of damage to DNA, cells and organ systems in a wide variety of plants and animals, and epidemiological evidence that the major diseases of modern civilization—cancer, heart disease and diabetes—are in large part caused by electromagnetic pollution, forms a literature base of well over 10,000 peer-reviewed studies.'



THE PROMISED POEM
And finally, to end on a happier note, here's my 'Other Solstice Poem':


We have made this garden
but in the early solstice sunlight
slant to the brim of the courtyard
where it falls on the indescribable
blue, the ultraviolet blue, of cranesbills
and their neighbouring pot, the garden
and this light are making us.


© Roselle Angwin








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