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

Thursday, 8 September 2011

autumn journal

Autumn is a poet's season. I can't pretend I don't love the melancholy, the wistfulness, the dreaminess, the inwardness trailing in autumn's slipstream. The quality of nostalgia and yearning are also friends to the Celtic soul. And I love times of transition, borderlands, thresholds, cusps (and in fact was born on the autumn equinox). Times of ambiguity and paradox; of misty blurring of edges.

Just after the equinox I shall gather with those who like to celebrate the year's turning points as I do, leading a workshop I call Ground of Being up at the megalithic site of Merrivale on Dartmoor, where we will ask the questions of ourselves, and in relationship to the land, that will provoke reflection, creativity, depth, connection. This is a way of creating sacred space, time out from our driven lives in a materialistic culture.

Right now I'm enjoying the soft drizzle that is such a Dartmoor weather. I love the sun, too, and I love being outside, but I confess I find summer in Devon quite demanding; or August anyway – 'Get a life!' it shrieks. 'Get out there! Fight for your centimetres of beach-space and your cubic centilitres' (how do you measure photons??) 'of sunlight' – with all the thousands of others doing the same thing... Having said that, sunny Augusts seem to be a thing of the past in the UK.

Now the hills and uplands of the moor though are eclipsed. In the fields above the house the last silage cut has been plastic-wrapped and moved. Flocks of gulls (Totnes is tidal) are paddling the ground in that two-step dance designed to mimic rain and bring worms to the surface. A low-flying dragonfly buzzes past me and dog, then buzzes back straight into my face. (I believe in the First Nation Amerindian culture dragonflies are visitors from the Dreamtime.) A single bumblebee clings fast to the pistil of a bindweed flower, milking it in a sea of tossing westerly gusts. A few honeysuckle blossoms garland the hedge-tops, but the blackberries now are soggy. On the wire are two young swallows, long tail-feathers not yet grown. The others have all departed, recently, in plumes and ragged bunches, southwards. Yesterday a handful of martins skimmed the hedges. Those 1000s of miles ahead of them all, storms in the Atlantic today too... Something, something indefinable, of me leaves with them, as always. And it's a closing of a cycle – I saw the first swallow of the year on the Isle of Iona in early April.

Poetry visits thick and fast, as they say, with the mists and the dreaminess. For me, anyway. And to be here, right here, right now, in this patchwork life – I begin again and again. With gratitude. The dreamtime of September.

And thank you, Louis MacNeice, for being a poet of autumn. Here's the opening of section iv in Autumn Journal. Although this erudite and moving collection occupies itself primarily with war and the political tone of its time, 1938, section iv in my opinion is also one of the great underrated love poems of the world; I'm only giving you the first few lines here:

'September has come and I wake
   And I think with joy how whatever, now or in future, the system
Nothing whatever can take
   The people away, there will always be people
For friends or for lovers though perhaps
   The conditions of love will be changed and its vices diminished
And affection not lapse
   To narrow possessiveness, jealousy founded on vanity.
September has come, it is hers
   Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
   Trees without leaves and a fire in the fire-place...'


  1. yesyes, Autumn! I have not read these Louis MacNiece lines before - I like.

    Workshop in Sussex would be good - around Gill's Lap, if you were able to beam yourself here.

  2. Hi Ms Fellow Libran :-) Yes - do you not know AJ? - Read it my friend (esp that section for we September people - he knows love isn't all roses but includes the odd thorn - have a sense he's a fellow libran too - but also as social commentary on his time).

    And I would LOVE to lead a workshop up there - you know I would, I so miss the Emerson days. I'd even catch a train (or drive on chip oil, as I do!) - would need about 8 people for my fee, plus travel and a floor...? (Am happy to publicise - several people up thar in them vorrin partz have asked of me if ever I do make it out of county... ;-) an' oi sez even Exeter's a vorrin part, and tiz shoor to be vurther than thaaat).

    Now why do I put on a cod devon accent for you? ;-)

    Is Gill's Lap near that out-in-the-sticks pub not far from 100 acre wood??

  3. Now - I'm getting all excited, and I don't think it's just the cod devon accent :)

    Yes, Gill's Lap is quite near there. The place where all the ley lines meet and where Pooh, Eyore and Piglet actually really live.

    Emailing you about this.

  4. :-) I remember it well then. Yes! A grin. You thinking an outdoors workshop? - Well I'll wait to hear, and am polishing up my compass, map, supplies and finding-way-home-widget in consideration of anticipation of travelling southeast (yikes).



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