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

Friday, 17 July 2015

of Saturn, enchanted forests, and bogs

‘Ce n’est pas tous les jours dimanche, et longue joie’, wrote Paul Eduard in a poem. Roughly: ’Not every day is Sunday, with its long joys.’

In my last blog I spoke of inspiration, and not quite translating that into writing. However, I’m doing two things that seem really significant for me: picking up threads from earlier in my life is one; and spending time alone processing and grieving over the huge number of family traumas, severe illnesses, losses and deaths that have marked my last 9 years.

And so the Real Matter of my time here has arisen. Consciously, of course, I made this space to write; spending so much time facilitating others’ writing means that I rarely have sufficient unbroken time or unaccounted-for energy for my own (or at least, that’s a convenient excuse for not getting down to it). And in fact, a few days on, I am writing: I’ve picked up the book of essays I was working on last year, and have written a whole page – a whole page! – of a new novel.

But I knew, really, that this would arise. Crossroads time – again.  We bring ourselves to them, in big or small ways, over and over, don't we? And like everything else the soul needs, if we don’t appear to do it, ‘life’ will.

Astrologically speaking, I’ve hit my second Saturn return (we hit the first in our late 20s; a time of change for many, often in the shape of a significant relationship, marriage, children, new work or creative projects, or divorce). This is the time when Saturn ‘up there’  currently transits to conjunct your natal Saturn; that is, he returns in the sky to the position he occupied at your birth (his orbit of the sun takes between about 28ish and 291/2 years).

Symbolically, it’s a time when limitations and restraints become most apparent, often very uncomfortably; when you feel blocked or stymied in particular or significant ways; when old structures need to break down in order for the new to enter; and one has a chance to re-vision a way forward.

It’s also a kind of karmic time, when we reap what we have sown in an earlier period, and also have to look at what serves us and what doesn’t in our life; what we need for integrity and wholeness; what we can accept or give energy to, and what not. What we can or can’t live with; what we can or cant live without. (I’m not pretending that these things don’t arise unrelated to the movements of Saturn, clearly; just that they seem also strongly and not coincidentally, in my view, in an interrelated cosmos, to be manifestations of this particular archetype at certain times in an individual’s life.)

Sometimes, to paraphrase Chase Twichell on poetry, cleaning the windows isn’t enough; one has to break the glass.

It’s an uncomfortable, challenging, inward and difficult time, and for me I’m having to take stock of everything in my life. Grief is a bit forefront; my father’s death 7 months ago brought with it a whole raft of our griefs.

And uncertainty is forefront. I take comfort from Keats’ idea that nothing is certain except the ‘shaping spirit of imagination’, and the ‘holiness of the heart’s affections’.

I don’t think one necessarily needs physical time out to take stock; but it certainly sheds light on aspects one can’t always see in close-up.

 Undoubtedly my primary relationship has suffered from the fact that the whole time I’ve known TM I’ve been immersed in dealing with the very considerable demands of taking a share of the care of the needs of one parent with Alzheimer’s and the other parent with post-stroke dementia, and family fallout and other severe illness as a result of all that, while still working full time. In addition, there have been several other significant deaths and losses in my life in that time, and a serious health problem in someone I’m very close to; and my own not-insignificant health issues. Not surprisingly, TM has found the effects of all this on me very difficult. 

How to move forward now, then, with grief and emotional exhaustion filling the frame?

And it’s just beginning to dawn on me that this is the first time since I was 23 when I have had no dependents (I’m including sick parents in that), other than the dog, who is easy. My daughter, who’d been away on and off at university and then abroad for several years, finally moved out, with her two ponies whom I’d also adored but who’d been in my care when she was away, in May 2006.

As a single parent, although of course I missed her like crazy, something in me breathed out at an opportunity to consider where and how I wanted to live, now that I only had me to consider (plus two dogs).  I lifted my head to sniff the air.

At this point, my mum already had mild Alzheimer’s, but my dad, with the help of my three local sisters, was able to cope. Two months later, in July 2006, my dad had a stroke, and that was the end of life as we’d all known it, and inevitably the end of my ‘freedom’ as I’d imagined it as we all struggled to cope, and for various reasons finally I was doing it alone for a couple of years.

Later, I’ll no doubt look back on that period as a time of privilege, seeing two people I’d loved deeply over a final threshold. For now, I can still only see it as a traumatic and enormously distressing time.

So inevitably my time here is also a time of mourning, including for some 9hopefully temporary) loss in my own vitality; and yet there is something liberating and uplifting about such stripping down to the bone.  There’s a clarity that comes.

Or at least, there’s a clarity that comes after the muddiness. I smiled wryly yesterday at the demonstration of just how off-balance I am at the moment: using stepping stones to cross a boggy weedy pool whose surface was dense with mosquitoes, I thought: ‘Great not to fall in there!’ just as PAF! (as they might say in the Asterix books), I did, slipping off a wobbly stone. Smothered. Filthy. Head to toe. Then trying to be cool and elegant whilst covered in slime and blackness on issuing directions in French to a couple who asked.

In this magical place I’m peering ‘between the worlds’ for a glimpse of a creative heartful way forward, and for what that might mean, too, in my personal life which is buzzing like a hornets’ nest with confusion at the moment.

Not that easy, of course: in any forest, and especially an enchanted one, any suggestion of a clear path ahead is likely to be a ‘glamourie’ right now, a chimera; and as likely to offer a baptism of mud as a glimpse of the Grail castle.

As someone wise said: ‘If the path ahead of you is clear, you’re probably on somebody else’s.’

And that’s it, in the end, isn’t it? Making sure that the path we’re on, even when offering what we have to give back to the collective, is our path, and fits us.


  1. Dear Roselle..sounds like just the perfect time to be in an enchanted forest en Bretagne alone and a little out of kilter. You are in good hands, and ever, in the deep heart of the deep deep world, saturn doing its thing or no.. I only want to say,for it must be said, at least from a stranger, in very small corner of this sometimes too dark and difficult world, that I wish , deeply wish, that you may be gifted on your path with an equivalence or greater of the light and clear hearted seeing you bring to bear so beautifully, soulfully, intelligently and above all vitally and essentially to the paths of others. There are only a few writers whose work one turns to with such pleasure and sure knowledge that the larger seeing, the wider heart will be restored through reading their work . These things are so vital ...but for the poet, the creator perhaps the thrower outer of all the unwanted, unnecessary lines, where does she go to drink , to be replenished? For so she must be, and so vitally and profoundly so.. And therefore, may this time of transition be rich, may it bring forth for you clarity and vision, fresh poetry and strength, the deepest of the deep deep songs and may there be love, always love... with it's blossom still on, if even a little faded.! Sorry if this seems a strange thing to write, but when we find writers we love, it is a huge joy to be able if we can to let them know that we do... so, thank you again, and I bow to you, and dance also... Bon Courage Roselle, je t'embrasse Cxx

  2. C, that made me weep. Really. Thank you (once again) for your profound kindness and generosity, and your poetic insight. It's easy to feel alone at times, though of course one never is, not really; and your openheartedness reminds me of all that's good about the human world (I have no doubts about the rest of it).

    With drizzly blessings to you and yours from here in the heart of - well, it all, really! And love. Rxx


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