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, 14 May 2015

this life

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading a creative writing workshop in northeast Cornwall, in the home of my friend Carrie where wild Canada geese stroll in the garden near the pool, house sparrows (in serious decline in England this century) chatter in the lilac hedge, the wisteria is throbbing with bees and a tor of my beloved homeland is visible at the end of the water meadow, where the yellow flag irises are about to shuck off their winter coats, and flame into their being.

Oh and I forgot to mention the joy of working with eight very different writers. (Then there was the cake.) What's more, we had sun.

And the dog, after a four-week mini-hunger-strike, is eating again. The way animals with whom we have close bonds break our hearts!

My life, and that of family members, is pretty uncertain at the moment. However, finally these 40 years of (somewhat erratic but always present) Zen practice are paying off: I still wake with a deep joy, mostly, no matter what. (I say this not to be smug, but in some wonder: when I was younger I relished the huge ups and downs of my life, the passions and dramas. I so love, now, the inclusion of silence and stillness; so don't want to go towards another huge drama!. )

I love my work (despite the remuneration issues). I believe it helps, even just a little, with the global project of consciousness. I know it helps keep alive that small but utterly vital flame of inspiration and meaning, in a way that the arts, deeply engaged with, can. I know that I'm walking the soul path I was born to walk this incarnation; what deep security that brings, despite all.

In groups I sometimes remind people that our trouble is we identify with our emotions, rather than recognising them as transient weather conditions. If we can sit at the hub of the wheel and simply watch them bluster around us, maybe pick up a lesson or two as to what they're gesturing to that needs changing in our lives, rather than becoming our emotions, we might do better. Easy to say, of course.

Wisewoman Pema Chodron, Tibetan Buddhist teacher, puts it beautifully:


In the Buddha’s first teaching—called the four noble truths—he talked about suffering. The first noble truth says that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other. All around us the wind, the fire, the earth, and the water, are always taking on different qualities; they’re like magicians. We also change like the weather. We ebb and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon. We fail to see that like the weather, we are fluid, not solid. And so we suffer.'

The evening before last, going to fetch something from the car, I was arrested by a small movement like a flame in the neighbouring field. For maybe 20 minutes I watched a big dog fox leaping and pouncing on, presumably, voles. In between, he sat utterly relaxed and still, and 100% alert, looking around him.

Eventually, turning, I watched a thin stream like a wisp of smoke emerge from a space less than 1cm in diameter under the eaves of the barn that houses my study. Bats! Thirteen of them.

And now this spring rain has released all the fragrance of the bluebells; the newly planted beans and brassicas and squashes are practically swelling by the hour.

This life. This paradise in which it happens, despite all the fear, loss, pain, anger, hate that creates so much darkness in our world. This paradise earth; always here for us, always indifferent to whether we notice her or not; simply doing what she does so well, despite us.


  1. Yes, your work does help - so much Bx

  2. B, thank you so much. I appreciate your affirmation.

    And I feel that after all it was smug and hubristic (and repetitive) of me to write what I did - and guess what - an unforeseen biggie came from left field not long after I wrote that, and knocked me off balance. Good old shadow, compensating... Humble pie here.


  3. What a wonderful blog post, Ro!!! So wise and serenely uplifting!
    Am reading a book on Basho's haiku at the moment, commented by Robert Aitken, and wrote one myself yesterday on the way to Zürich where I saw a lovely exhibition about Japanese influence on the French Impressionists (Monet, Cézanne, Gaugin) and Van Gogh; it may suit the tone of your words:
    a couple, sixty,
    holding hands on platform four
    bamboo keeps growing
    With love Bea xx

  4. Bea, I love the haiku! Interested in the exhibition, too.

    I feel slightly embarrassed about the blog post actually. Thank you for your kindness, but I felt it was hubristic and repetitive of other posts, as I said in answer to Belinda; and shortly afterwards the old gods (or personal shadow material) rose up and bit me, as they do/it does when one throws down the gauntlet. It doesn't stop, this growing business, does it??!

    But I appreciate your comments, as always! xx

  5. A quite beautiful and timely read for me, enriching understanding of discomfort, uncertainty and change while reminding me of the grounding effects of nature, purpose and perspective...thank you.

  6. Alan, how kind of you. Thank you.


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