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 22 August 2019

a spell in the forest: tongues in trees

The book that I began writing in Brittany in 2015 has, like the paths in the forest I was writing in and about, taken many twists and turns, and cost me 7 redrafts. Finally, it has become two books. Drawing on the yearlong course I'm currently leading, the first, A Spell in the Forest – Tongues in Trees, is at last taking shape and will soon head off to find its own way in the world. I hope. (The sequel, or prequel, has also begun to find shape.)

JUNE 2020: I'm delighted to say that this book found a home, and will emerge from Moon Books in 2021.

This is the brief opening passage of Part 1: I wrote it, based on a memory of an earlier visit to this forest, as a blogpost here in 2011.



Finally you open your eyes. The meadow's tall grasses curtain you; beyond, the blue hills rise. Emergent sun hazes their summits. You sit up. There ahead of you is the little path, and in the stone wall a small wooden gate.
    You stand. Below in the valley swallows and martins skim the mist from the morning river. You stretch. The conversations of birds; the song of the water. Your hand lifts the old wooden latch. You step through. You slip into the green of the woods as into a silk dress. There is no room for thought.
    The path rises gently, sprinkled with light. It's May and the land is alight with white blossom. The wood swims with the scent of bluebells; the air is lilac with it. A thousand wild bees drone. You're alone and it's the first day.
    In the green glade pass the ruins of the hermit's chapel with its green dreams, the short walls grassed and blackbird-capped; the spring bubbling and chattering.
    Follow the path in and out of sunlight. Oaks and ashes season the woodland; first bursts of honeysuckle; and look! – in the shade of this larch a host of goldcrests, a corona around your head.
    Your feet firm on the good earth. Here there's no need for shoes, you can shake out the creases in which you hide; the truth is as it is, all around you, spread out.
    The trees thin out, a little. In the undergrowth of campion, stitchwort, bramble there are rustles of lives going about their daily cycles. A wren skitters out; a bluetit. A very young vole, the length of your top finger joint, scurries across the path, over your feet, unafraid. In the distance a woodpecker knocks.
    Soon, you will arrive. The green glade in the green day; summer still to come; and you are young, you are now, you are always. The threshold waits; and its guardian; and question and response will spring and be answered simultaneously, with no words. You pass through.
    And there it is – waiting all your life for you, there before questions, before answers. You knew, and forgot that you knew. 

© Roselle Angwin 2011–2019

Sunday 18 August 2019


and across the bright moor
summer has spilled
her red
rowan berries 

Friday 2 August 2019

Presence (or why I meditate)

The thing about meditation practice is that it can bring you into presence, whether that's being present with yourself, with another, with your surroundings; with the sacred or divine, or the unified whole. Better still, all of those. 

In the meditation I've undertaken for more than 40 years now, primarily rooted in Zen (the original mindfulness practice), being still and UNfocused in your focusedness is key. 

We simply stop, breathe, stay present to what is.

Part of this practice is monitoring the transient thoughts and feelings that flow through us like water and letting them simply pass on through. My Jungian work, and that of the nature-orientation of my druidic path, also remind me that I don't need to identify with this cluster of reactions and experiences driven by the separatist ego, but can choose to observe and register the whole of what's happening in our huge interconnected family of 'all that is', to the extent that my limited perceptions allow.

So what meditation does is to open up a space, a pause, in which the essential weightlessness, the trivial insubstantiality of things like emotional reactivity, becomes apparent. If it's transient, why bother to waste precious energy on defending the ego's whining?

Of course, that's easy to say. None of us transcends very easily the emotional, desire-and-opinion-driven aspects of the ego that orientate us to and in our daily lives. However, they can become simply small and relatively unimportant drivers of our way of being. (At least, that's part of the ideal.) It helps curb my impulsiveness (in a good way).

Every moment is an opportunity to practise whether to react, or to choose to respond. Recently a friend delivered a blast of excessive anger at me. I was shocked and deeply hurt – the more so because I hadn't done what I was being accused of having done. (If I had, her anger would have been justified.)

I'm perfectly capable of doing the same thing – aren't we all. But it is easier now (and so it should be after 45 years!) simply to notice how much I wanted to hurt her back, how angry I felt at her accusation; and to choose to pause for long enough as to see the bigger picture of her own hurting.
She is enmeshed in a difficult situation in her life and I understood where her anger was coming from: she'd convinced herself of the truth of an assumption she'd made and had gone off on one, hitting out, rather than exploring the more obvious, accurate and non-blaming possibility that it was nothing to do with me.

I'm not meaning to sound sanctimonious. How often I too get caught up in reactivity. All I'm meaning to say is that even curbing one unskillful impulse of mine in the face of personal emotional pressure to 'get even' in some way felt like a small step towards bigger peace.

It's simple.



Counting to ten (how wise that old advice is).

Bringing yourself back to the present moment for a moment, or a minute, or ten, in its perfectly neutral and perfectly beautiful natural state as it is, no matter what else is happening.

Choosing to respond.

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