In my most recent (autumn equinox) Fire in the Head newsletter, I wrote:
Dog Days & mini-competition
I don't know if, like me, you find the summer draining in the end: dry dusty lethargy? I love the warmth, and being outside so much, but there is something about renewed vitality that happens when the equinox comes around, and that slant golden light that pierces the heart. 'September has come, it is hers / Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,' says Louis Macneice – and yes, as an equinox birthday person I claim that for myself.
I was delighted to discover just now that, as I suspected, the phrase 'dog days' is connected with the appearance, once again, of the Dog Star, Sirius, in the night sky – the brightest of all of them in the late summer. I've been wondering if that's Sirius that I've been seeing lately. I'm not sure what this is connected with [in this newsletter] other than dogs; but Sirius was a highly significant star to our ancestors, especially in the Egyptian tradition.
And Homer wrote:
'Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
So what I invited newsletter recipients to do was:
In honour of Sirius (and the equinox), here's a challenge for you:
Quite a few of my some-time course participants to receive the newsletter responded. It was really hard to choose a winner, as each poem or piece of prose had something to commend it.
In the end, I picked two joint winners. One, Jill Lewis, I chose because I loved the way her piece of writing refused to be boxed in, and also captured the present-moment vitality of descriptive narrative that underpins my newest online course (in which Jill was a participant), WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – poetry, nature & mindfulness
I also, of course, liked her awareness of and attention to the plight of the more-than-human in our times.
The second piece, by Vicki Morley, is utterly different (from everyone else's), and I chose this because of its left-field originality and, like Jill's, its refusal to be boxed. It also directly referenced Sirius. And I liked the double meaning of its title.
With the permission of both, here are the pieces.
Equinoxal mist and trails of cow dung splattered dry along the narrow road. Young cows, with yellow-labelled ears, whom I had talked with, gone now.
Ah, last swallow swoops, light coming chill. First Michaelmas breath bitter-kissing blackberries. Slow dawn unfolds petal strands, cream-pinking faded hill horizons. Yarrow white stands singular in bracken brown. Green mugwort flurries crowd the high corn. Here toadflax ripples yellow-shy among new nettle sprouts and laced silhouettes of hogweed stalks stretch a pale morning sky.
Ah, the low hush-pound of seagull wings, rising from night fields of grass to scatter-settle across red striated earth. The beech tree, squirrel-stirred, drips mist drops on damp pocked tarmac. Clustered shoots of lime and brown crackle-leaf sycamores hold sap, sturdy in last flow. But ah, this ash, having known depletion even in full summer sail, its vulnerabilities gnawing at resilience, here, now has gone bare. Already. Stark marker of invalidity: my hand on its trunk in recognition, consolation. And no berries this year on that rowan tree I love.
I mourn damage, plague, neglect, greed, cruelty, indifference. Dawn sifts the air and day begins again as if everything were there for ever… and ever… and ever.
bones, all my beloved pets
Palladio, Alexandra, Horatio, Boris, Claude, Francesca
Mr Mole and Antonio.
I’m in the late autumn of my life
prepare my tomb, worthy of Anubis
silver lettering, black onyx
for my eight greyhounds.
Set the glass so Sirius gazes down
starlight floods inside,
their skulls will shine
teeth yellow as mah-jong tiles
put my remains in the centre.
Note : Brian Sewell, art critic died in 2015 and gave instructions for his tomb.
Two notes from me: I'm currently taking bookings for the New Year WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT online retreat, mentioned above. Start the year as you'd like to go on! I've had generous and excellent feedback for the August & October ones; you can see some of it if you click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
If you would like to sign up for my newsletter, please visit the link above and make your way to the 'Contact' page.