There was a lot of research I needed to do for two new books; also a lot of idling by the fire with the family (all three of us), books and DVDs, resting, cooking and baking of new vegan recipes, and walks with the dogs.
Especially, I thought, I'd write a number of new blogposts; catch up a bit.
Of course, it never actually works like that, though I did indeed take a little time out. I also began to compile several new poetry collections (I didn't realise I had so many poem from the last 7 or 8 years that I'd consider good enough to collate for publication).
But on Boxing Day we lost our phone and internet connection to the fall of a beautiful lightning-struck oak up the lane – much beloved of nuthatches and woodpeckers – and so much of what I needed to do was online that actually the last week+ has been a bit of a nightmare of workarounds to get modules sent out (we have almost no mobile signal and don't use smartphones as the electromagnetic radiation for them affects my daughter badly).
Anyway, none of this is big stuff in comparison with what's been happening in the world. At times of transformation, there is something in the cosmos, or the collective (or individual) psyche, that will first of all shake us to the core, secondly break us apart ('the centre cannot hold'), and thirdly, having hung us upside down like the Hanged Man in the tarot until we're emptied, enable the necessary change. No transformation is possible while we're holding on to the old; whether it's functional or dysfunctional, it has to go before we can move forward. Let's hope we're able, now, to pull together.
Anyway, while facilitating the Bright Moment course, my commitment to my own creative and spiritual practice has been to write little prose poems of exactly 100 words each day (actually this commitment pre-dates the course by many years; it's just that, like the earth on its axis, my commitment has a bit of a wobble every so often). So here are some journal proems for you.
You are welcome to send in your own prose poems of exactly 100 words; if I gather 7 or 8 of them I will post them here.
January 1st 2021
Our little island set adrift in the
grip of a virus, sailing into the mists. Transience and uncertainty have become
our downfall – how we crave predictions. Here in today’s frost icicles lace
cliff and frozen lily plants together. The birds gather: dunnocks and robins,
tits, chaffinches, a magnificent quaternity of bullfinches. Yesterday a pair of
egrets flew over, and a buzzard lifted off from the ash tree, drifted over our
heads. These companions have become as constant as anything. Now the splinter of
light that revealed and gilded the moorland hill sets the old leafless oak
ablaze, fills my eyes.
Morning. Frost and birds define us. Westwards, clouds are a pile, a gossip, of eider ducks. From the sofa, my greatest critic, TM, is interjecting loudly about the veracity (or otherwise) of my previous statement about transience, impermanence and uncertainty. I take the bait, then step back and smile in a way that I hope conveys non-attachment and infinite patience. He starts up again, looking smug: ‘“Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water”. That’s bollocks,’ he states; ‘too simplistic’ – and I fall off my patience-perch again in protest, as he’d hoped I would.
The day is a blank book. Every day’s
a blank book. The dogs will fill it with joy and enthusiasm – enthousiasmos – being naturally inspirited/filled/at one
with God, or god. We have to work harder, but always the dogs make us smile: a
step towards. On the way up to the field, dogs racing each other in a canine
flood tide up the steep slope past the orchard, one of the robins alights near
my head, then hops branch to branch towards the feeder. (Always there are birds
in what in what I write – a craving for, a memory of, flight?)
Another chill dawn. I lie awake; watch the light come back. My preoccupation: a heart that’s too big allows little in the way of self-protection unless we can switch off the voices that tell us it’s selfish to baptise ourselves with our own care. I want to bring him down here, take him into the orchard, dunk him in the blessings of this day, this place.
On the radio: ‘What do you do after you’ve uncovered the nature of the universe? Einstein decided to fix the fridge.’ I’m a way off the first, but I can at least fix myself.
This chill north wind, though, blowing us all away from home. We’ve become even more reclusive than ever. Staying at home despite the wind. The virus, like an invasive species, chokes the more tender among us, and how to weed it out? Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed, for instance, so difficult to remove. Take the virus, north wind, take it away from home. Carry it, drop it deep out at sea. All I can do: feed the birds. Walk the dogs. Write and teach. Clear out the shambles in my garden study. Tidy my mind, my life. Don’t dwell on death.
Epiphany. Anniversary of my gran’s
death. Dismantle the solstice garden, unlight the Christmas tree. Or not.
Above, one of the resident sparrowhawks: ‘twee-twee-twee-twee-twee-twee’. Silence from the little birds. This morning the path is green with birdshit – migrating thrushes, blackbirds, redwings feasting on ivy berries after these hard frosts. Forty years on and my fingers still itch to gather them, make a dye. The best green – a clear blue-green; or a deep pink, depending on the mordant. Those days of a hand-made life, packing into a rucksack, then into a van. A hand-made life; no sense of the deaths to come.
J’s birthday. I built him a cairn at the top of the mountain. That was the day we heard, then saw, the sangliers, wild boar, who rushed past us like a spating river.
Also my old dog’s birthday. I loved her almost more – heresy – than anyone. How she kept going and kept going for me; how when she collapsed she was too big for me to lift; how she understood what I told her that last morning.
So many lives carried past in the river – gone and not gone; our hearts simply get fuller and fuller. Never too many loves.
Over there, in the so-called Western superpower, anything remotely democratic is splintering, violence volcanic and destructive; a coup, by its own president, overturning democracy itself. For lies, people riot; for a cult of the ego, people die. Is democracy also the liberty to destroy in its name?
Here, we drink tea. Quietly, in the
frost, birds come to the seeds I scatter. Is it right to be this far away from
all that noise and destruction? Is it right to resist these forces that seek to
destroy only by staying at home, tending the hearth, watching the cold sun rise?
© Roselle Angwin
Postscript: Often it happens, despite our very best intentions, that things arise to trip us up when we set aside time like this to tend ourselves and the flames of our heart. My meditation practice this week has included the phrases: 'May my words bring only peace; may my actions cause no harm; may I rest in the quiet heart' – which I post in case it's helpful to any of you. World affairs, of course, continue to be so turbulent. We need to resist by tending our strong and quiet hearts; by courage and the belief that things could – can – be different. By being a force for that.
I wish you calm, courage and – strange word – fortitude.