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

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

from the ragbag: spaciousness (not), the sea the sea, soup, mother to cailleach


I notice at the moment that I have a physical response to words like 'quiet', 'stillness', 'space', 'solitude'. In my 'Poetry, Nature & Mindfulness' retreats, or at least the Soundcloud recording that goes with them, I emphasise the need to take space, even a few moments, daily: 'Can we carve out just a few seconds' space to really experience spaciousness when everything about our lives is screaming that we need to get on and do, right now, before our world falls apart?'

It seems to me that integrity means 'walking your talk', as they say. I have always valued those quiet moments in my life, and even though much of my adult working-freelance-in-the-arts-single-parent life hasn't left anything much in the way of space, I've always managed to find some for meditation, dreaming, reflecting, strolling on the moor, in the woods or by the sea, free-writing in my notebook, reading – all those essential ingredients for wellbeing.

Well, it's true that I did carve out those moments myself during the first week's retreat, back in early August. Other than that, I have to confess that I have been running ever faster, stressed and rather burned-out, during this whole period of lockdown, in which so many other people have found a sense of spaciousness amid the worry. Partly, I have had to find new ways of generating an already-precarious income. Partly, we have a huge vegetable garden, and this year we've expanded it further – and it's now harvest time. Partly, we have two young and vigorous dogs, hounds and therefore hunters by inclination, not fully trained yet, who need a lot of stimulus, walking and watchfulness. Then there's family; and a certain amount of environmental activism.

Result? Pretty full on from 7am till 8pm+ every single day with barely a break, and lunch standing up. NOT how I want to live my life, and not a healthy way for anyone to live. No wonder even my body registers the absence of what is needed so badly.

And then. My daughter, who is a weaver, had just finished a commission from a client in Australia, and needed to photograph it by the sea; in fact on her childhood beach not far from us. On the spur of the moment, ditching all the work undone, I decided to go with her, and (knowing how long she takes for everything) OH! The bliss of a whole afternoon with no structure, no expectations from anyone, human or otherwise, no demands, just me and the sea and the rocks in September sun while my daughter wriggled around by the waves on her belly getting numerous shots to send to her client. You can see her blanket on the link above. In addition to her prone form, these were my views:

A certain equanimity was restored just in one afternoon. Maybe I'll do that again some time in the next year...

The year, of course, is turning. I've been distressed, as I've written here before, at the absence of house martins and swallows. It's an event to hear even one or two overhead, even here, where the land is left pretty much to its own devices in our little hidden valley, and no neighbours use chemicals. There are many reasons for their decline, though I've heard today of hundreds of hirundines elsewhere in Britain, despite. However, the lanes and our hillside have been full of other wildlife. Just now a heron flapped over; buzzards and sparrowhawks nest in the woodland margins at the top of the field; we had a roe deer grazing at close quarters in our meadow when we were working in the veg garden the other day.  Charm after charm of goldfinches fill the valley with song. Yesterday, I nearly trod on a beautiful mature grass snake at the bottom of the track. So there are things to be grateful for.

Are you also, like me, experiencing that we are coming to an end of a cycle, or series of cycles? As the year is in transition, so my life feels as if it is; and somehow the larger world too. Who knows where we'll land, if we'll collectively make the choices we need to make? – What uncertain times; and yet all times are uncertain in their own way, and the knack is to be OK with this.

But there is also a haunting going on, for me; a fear to which we're probably all prone to one degree or another, right now. Will we make the choices we need collectively, in time? So many aspects that it's overwhelming. (Did you see
the horrors of extinction as detailed by David Attenborough on BBC1 the other day?) It's almost too big to comprehend, the turnaround we need.

On a more personal note, I have just, as I've been writing this, sold my beautiful VW campervan that has seen me through a number of personal transitions. I was extraordinarily attached to her, the more so because I bought her, 'Clarissa', as my first-ever own-home with a legacy from my mum. But circumstances change, and she has not recently had the use she deserves. Plus I'm decluttering.

Still, it's a big goodbye.

As the year turns, in Celtic mythology we are at the peak season of fecundity of the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess. Already, as trees let go of leaves, berries and nuts ripen, piles of spilled golden straw hug the lane edges, and bird migrations are well underway, we're moving towards the time of the Wise Elderwoman, the Crone or Cailleach, She Who Knows. Her time begins truly at Samhain, the time of the ancestors on 1st November, but as soon as the elderberries ripen in the hedges, the pumpkin harvest begins, we feel her first breath.

As I come up for a birthday at the equinox, and really can't deny the ageing process any longer, I reflect on how to let go, with grace and dignity, of this long phase of mothering in my own life. Of course, in so many ways it never ends: even if you don't have children, the Mother and the Maiden are part of your inner life. And if you do, even if your daughter is 40, it doesn't end. Sometimes it's a little galling: as my own daughter explains the negatives of neoliberal capitalism (as if I haven't known about and resisted this all my adult life) and the intricacies of Marxist thought (to one, me, who adopted Marxist philosophy for a while at university), I try and remember that this is the natural order of things – it's her turn to take the stage and shine, and while I might not choose to retreat to the shadows, the Cailleach has her own very particular and more inward power, and so I practise nodding and smiling rather than taking umbrage at being patronised. Oh and actually there's something quite seductive at slipping along unseen in the shadows – especially if you know, as I have always known, how to make yourself invisible to others when you wish to.

And meantime so many harvests, and so many more vegan recipes to develop. While I think of it, I'd love a recipe for vegan biscuits – those simultaneously chewy and crunchy cookies that I can't make (mine are tasty but crumbly) to include into this vegan book wot I ain't yet writ but am compiling – anyone?

And to finish, here's my current soup:

Ruby Harvest Soup

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small butternut squash or approx half an orange one
  • 1 beetroot, peeled
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8 fresh tomatoes or 1/2 cans

Chop all these except the garlic into smallish cubes (does anyone ever do cubes?? - 'Smallish chunks') and sauté in olive oil for 10 minutes. 


  • 3 handfuls red lentils
  • the chopped garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk

Stir and add enough stock to cover the lentils with a couple of cms to spare


  • 1 generous sprig thyme if you have it fresh
  • 1 heaped teaspoon each gr cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika.

Simmer for 40 – 50 minutes. 

I blend half of it.

with a minute click
in September breeze
ash leaf   letting go
POSTSCRIPT: there's still time to sign up for the next 'WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – Poetry Nature & Mindfulness' online retreat in early October. (I've another planned for New Year, too.)



  1. As ever you express the times and our age so well. I love what you say about staying OK in uncertain times since all times are uncertain. And about 'slipping along unseen in the shadows'. Perfect! Bx

    1. Hello Belinda! Thank you, as always. Yes, our power lies in being OK with transience and uncertainty, doesn't it? Here's to it all!


  2. I find this time of the year difficult, I start to feel 'hollow', the swallows and swifts have gone (not so many this year but still enough to gladden my heart), colours start to fade as does the blue of the sky and up here in the north, although we do still get the odd beautiful sunny day, the skies are more cloudy and today it is a driech thin sepia/grey coloured veneer and very draining. Getting out certainly helps - your afternoon down with your daughter on the beach certainly had 'medicinal properties'. My suggestion is not waiting until next year for the next visit, may be carve yourself time out at least once a month to give you that inner strength. blessings

    1. Hello Kate - lovely to have your comment; thank you.

      Yes, some people do find the transitional seasons difficult, I know. I love their liminal quality! And we're lucky here: today: – we have that beautiful warm slanting sunlight that autumn does so well. I wish you some of it.

      Ah I used to take a little of that time every day, and a bit more once a week. I need to restore that. We all need that 'broad margin' to our days, I believe.

      And blessings to you too – Roselle

  3. From Angie W::

    'I wanted to thank you for this wonderful post today. I watched David Attenborough’s Extinction the other day and have felt so sad and depressed since. I laid awake that night wondering what I could do to make things better in some small way and the only thing I came up with was to try to go fully Vegan and never again buy any ‘stuff’ that isn’t necessary for me or my family of husband and wolfhounds.

    'So I was cheered to read your wonderful recipe which I have copied out for posterity and put the ingredients I don’t already have onto my shopping list. It sounds wonderful and should freeze well to give me many delicious meals. Cooking for only one vegetarian in the house presents problems constantly so even more so for one vegan! Things that can be bulk made and frozen is a good way to go I think.

    'Hurry up with that cookbook please!'

  4. Angie, thank you, and by now you will have seen both of my emails. For you and anyone interested, my embryonic website has quite a lot of nutritional info on it for people heading towards veganism, and I've also given you a link to for two delicious nut'cheeses' from Tyne Chease & Mouse's Favourite – both in plastic-free packaging.

    Love and blessings, R


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