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 31 July 2020

Lughnasadh 2020

Forest as far as the skyline, breathing out morning, sun and dew, the air herby, green, thick with the chattering of 20-odd swallows – a tender delight, given the dearth of them back in Devon this summer. Forest wraps us all in its green pelt, these few old stone cottages held in its belly.
    Lughnasadh. Lammas. Midway between solstice and equinox; time of the early harvest. John Barleycorn’s sacrifice. What have I harvested, and what let go this summer?
    Last night we sat outside as usual, listened to the night land waking up, nocturnal small creaks and rustles, exhalations, creepings. One last blackbird, a bat, a gibbous moon, and the same lamenting buzzard who mews all day, all evening.
    Here at the end of the garden the rosa rugosa keeps scenting the air, opening into pink and white celebrations: each time one dies another takes its place, all summer long. perhaps this’ll be the year, after a long gap, when I’ll collect the fat ruby spheres, make a syrup.
    Closer, by the kitchen window, the hollyhock has nearly reached the eaves. Last year, it topped the eaves and bent back down groundwards. It’s had, is still putting forth, an exuberance of pale creamy-pink blossoms, starred at their hearts with a crimson pentagram.
    The seeds for these hollyhocks were gathered from some hollyhocks growing wild near our swimming place by a little road-bridge over the river Lot in southwest France, where E, F and H and I were staying in a 14th century cottage in a mediaeval hilltop village in 2011. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to germinate them in a number of spots in ordinary soil; turns out they need this tiny, shallow, narrow gravel strip that forms a primitive damp-course here at the foot of the wall, where they thrive on neglect and take their chances with the weather.
    Beyond them, for the first time of blooming, is a single crimson blood-red spike: I stole the seeds for this from an empty 17th century manoir in Brittany about 6 years ago. I scattered these with the creamy ones in 2015. Their time has come; and I can’t help feeling there are lessons in blossoming in one’s one time even when the conditions look inauspicious, and in this thriving if left to oneself.
    This morning the robin hops through the open door. Yesterday it was a young wren; earlier a juvenile flycatcher. In the outside waterbowl, in this heat, bees carefully step upside down on the stoneware sides to sip at the water’s meniscus, abdomens quivering.
    Here too, lining up, are the descendants of the sparrow family who all live in the big japonica, and whose young I watched, during that time of – what? Exile, ecstasy and grief? a few years and a lifetime ago, keeping me sane as they discovered the joys of a waterbath, tail-first. This is family.

These moments light the fires of lughnasadh in my heart, which is broken open and filled, closes, is broken open and filled, over and over.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Lockdown haibun, & poetry, nature & mindfulness retreat booking now

Lockdown haibun

We the privileged have space, seclusion, a garden. Still, friends become strangers; and strangers, met in the lanes unleashed from their cars, friends.

Otherwise my conversations are with dunnock, buzzard, robin; wild rose, honeysuckle, meadowsweet –

first tongue-burst
of wild strawberries
almost satori

The dogs hope for squirrels. On the hillside, rustle of tree-talk; near-silence of the A38.

Many voices
of the little stream
in conversation
with itself

A long elsewhere away riots, violence, families crammed into spaces that should house one individual. Front-line work, communities crumbling, machines, despair, distress, death and spreading spreading sickness. I imagine these things. I think of my own dead, who are always present.

On the hill
the cows have had their calves
taken away

Last year the sparrowhawks in the trees at the top of the meadow took both fledgling blackbirds and then their mother. The blackbirds were all raised a yard away, in the rockface of our courtyard; were tame. Too tame? Once again the sparrowhawk’s high-pitched tweee is overhead, and I feel my breath catch. New fledglings are now in clumsy half-grown flight, foraging for themselves, snacking on blackcurrants. The young robin has become more wary – in its own wild.

From first light to first star
thrush’s song sounds the valley
like a bell

And here in our garden are the first potatoes, small beans, new courgettes – so easily unheeded, annual quiet miracles like this.

In May one
wild cherry lit up
the whole valley.

© Roselle Angwin

This form, the haibun, is a particular favourite of mine. If you like it too, it forms part of the new 5-day online retreat I've been promising (and there's much else too).

POETRY, NATURE & MINDFULNESS is booking now for early August, and for early October. (You can read more on the link just above, and also here.)

It promises a way of dropping deep: taking time out to be still, quiet and present for an hour or two each day (or perhaps for the rest of your life).

I'd love to work with you. And please tell your friends!

PS: A big thank you to all of you who emailed after I posted my new book cover here, and shared it on social media. Please keep doing that!

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