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

Monday, 16 August 2021

RAGBAG PART 1: those jackdaws; the veg garden; books old & new

 

You know what it's like to have so much crammed in to your daily life, and so much to say, that you say nothing at all? – That. Hence no blogs.

What a turbulent time in the world. How distressing and helpless-making it all seems – if we're not mindful of holding a positive intention, even a tiny intention, like noticing some beautiful things in or about each day. When you do that, not only do you remember that the world is still beautiful, but you also gain some perspective on your own relatively trivial issues. (I have to say there have been a few of those, here in the Garden of Avalon. As in the macro, so in the micro, for we are all connected.)

However, since there really is too much to talk about, I shall just say: over and over I am reminded that change is the only constant, and how we surf these changing challenging moments, how we learn to live increasingly calmly with uncertainty as our faithful companion, determines so much of how we live, and what we experience and think and feel, in the world. So easy to hit out, to blame others, when it's our own emotional reactivity to our perceptions, false beliefs and assumptions that causes so much of our own distress.
 


THOSE JACKDAWS!

Way back before Easter I posted some words about the jackdaws waking me early with their wild chortles and plays on the roof, just feet from my head on the pillow (the other side of the slates, I hasten to add).

The birds didn't ever go quiet. What did happen, though, is that a few weeks later their chortles were joined, and then replaced, by an ever-increasing-in-volume small raucousness: undifferentiated and rabbley. Every morning. Every morning at 4.30 am.

Week by week, though, it changed until I could pick out three small, demanding, and distinct individual voices. The parents went quiet: they were clearly far too hassled and far too shagged-out to do anything other than spend every daylight hour shoving food into the squawking open mouths.

About four or five weeks in, I managed to get a glimpse of their 'nest'. A shambolic strewing of twigs, several of which frequently toppled to the ground (where the neighbouring cat sat in the early mornings, also with his mouth open) balanced right under the eaves on top of the ivy growing up the back of our stone house homed five almost full-sized jackdaws (three the chicks). By now their voices were truly loud. I have no idea how they didn't fall out, let alone how they actually managed to sleep at night, piled as they must have been one of top of the other in swaying ivy (one did, but caught itself in the ivy just above the cat's reach; and must have managed to flap or scramble back up).

Anyway, they fledged, and all five joined the bigger congregation of rooks and jackdaws roosting across the valley. Occasionally still all five will do a flyover; and now and then I hear a familiar chortle at 4.30 or so. I still wake at that time, even without their greetings.


THE GARDEN

My herb and bee garden has become a quiet corner for meditation and – should I ever manage to snatch a few moments for my own writing – poetry. More significantly, it's home to many insects, and many fledgling birds. There was a moment this year when it was a spectacular feast of scents and colours and peak abundance; before a week or two later it tumbled to huge overgrowth.

However, it's been wonderful to see so many bees and butterflies this year, though devastating to see and hear so few swallows – again.

It's been an odd year in the garden, with the climatic extremes we've all had. (I imagine many of you who are gardeners out there would say the same thing? I'd be delighted to hear your experience.) We depend on our veg for between half and two-thirds of all our food, but this year it will be less that that.

Because TM* wasn't working last year, he had more time to spend in our organic veg garden, so for once we were ahead of ourselves. For once, too, I actually managed to sow three lots of broad beans successionally, and they have been prolific. But the French cobra beans, courgettes and squashes we started off in the greenhouse in spring have been terrible; simply not thriving, despite well-composted beds and enough magnesium.

On the other hand, the borlotti beans which we sowed directly a couple of months later into the soil of my mulched no-dig bed had reached the tops of the canes and were producing flowers fewer than five weeks later. Also very productive were the three varieties of broad beans: one overwintered, and two, including the red-skinned Karmaszyn, sown and cropping early.

The kales and cabbages are doing fine under their nets against cabbage whites and pigeons. Ditto the onions and leeks. My Swiss chard, French sorrel and salads have been great; ditto beetroots and spring onions. So far, the sweet potatoes we're trialling seem to be OK, and the sweetcorn too. Both depend on late sun, though.

The biggest failure, and rather devastating on a small domestic scale, has been blight on the wonderful, huge, lush tomato plants, both indoors and out-; and, worse, when they have been laden with trusses of green fruits. We have had to uproot and burn a dozen previously-healthy plants. I've made green tomato and rhubarb chutney with some.

Of course, being in the same family, the potatoes have it too. The earlies are OK, and we cut down and carted away the haulms of the main crop spuds, and TM lifted the purple-skinned heritage Arran Victory yesterday. We don't know yet if they'll be edible, although normally they would store well and see us right through the winter.

We are lucky: we can go and buy organic potatoes. Not the case for the victims of the Irish Potato Famine – how easily, given the vagaries of the weather, one could succumb to starvation (one million did) if one depends on a single crop, especially given the political horrors imposed by the British/English rulers and wealthy absentee landlords that went with that event.

BOOKS

Well, I was fortunate enough as to be given a fabulous online launch for A Spell in the Forest, by my friend James Murray-White, who founded the Save The Oaks campaign. More than a hundred people from all over the world attended the launch event, were generous with their attention, and said lovely things. If you were one, thank you. Please know you made a difference to my life. That evening was truly a peak experience.

If you click on the link above, it will take you to James' site and blog, where you can, if you'd like, watch and listen to the launch, and also be directed to my webpage to see details of, and buy, the book.

A plea: if you have read my book, it would help me enormously if yyou'd post a brief review on Amazon, even a sentence or two. Many people go to Amazon to read reviews, even if they then buy direct from me, or from their local bookshop, Hive or Bookshop.org. (Oh – what a thing! – the week the book was published, I shot right up into Hive's Top 20, at place #7! Sadly, however, I shot right back out again the following week...)

Another plea: if you haven't, please buy the book!

And I am supposed to be writing Book Two. Well, nothing's happened with that since midwinter; there has been so much else going on, with new online courses: Writing the Bright Moment & Poetry & the Ensouled Life; and with mentoring, and admin for the Islands of the Heart retreats in a few weeks. Then there is family, our two young dogs and many discussions and explorations in relation to what future we want to create for ourselves, and help in whatever way we can to create for the world.

One thing I know is that I want to spend more time writing, and growing, and less time on the computer. So...

One way in which I'm committing my time in future is to completing my book (for which I may have found a publisher) on plant-based living, based in part on recipes from our garden.
I am a quiet but deeply committed vegan activist. Going plant-based, or at least reducing your meat and dairy consumption is the biggest way in which you can tackle the climate emergency.  Of all this, and a recipe, more in Part 11.


* a small boast: TM has been awarded the regional Sustainable Builders' Award of the Year by the Federation of Master Builders for his last eco-house. That means he goes forward to the nationals in the autumn.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Zoom launch for A Spell in the Forest

'The magic of trees. Guides to the wildwood, keepers of mysteries, tellers of tales.'

Synopsis

Trees occupy a place of enormous significance, not only in our planet’s web of life but also in our psyche. A Spell in the Forest - Tongues in Trees is part love-song, part poetic guidebook, and part exploration of thirteen native sacred British tree species. Tongues in Trees is a multi-layered contribution to the current awareness of the importance and significance of trees and the resurgence of interest in their place on our planet and in our hearts.


Well, only two days to go till publication date in the UK (mid-July in the US).

There's 'before the book' and 'after the book' – all I've been able to think of the last few weeks is the amount of publicity my publisher, like almost all publishing houses now except the very biggest corporate presses, requires that I do. I've been asked for blogs, articles, interviews, podcasts – I know, I should be so lucky; but it's exhausting and time-consuming (and unpaid), nonetheless.

And you might have noticed I didn't even manage a poem for the summer solstice.

If you think my new book might be of interest to you, then sign up for our book launch on Thursday July 1st at 7pm BST (UK). It's free but you do need to register. We are inviting donations to my host James Murray-White's campaign Save the Oaks.

You can register here; and read more about the book here. With any luck, we will record the launch and post it online.

I'm very much looking forward to it (with a little trepidation); and James tells me about 100 tickets have gone already.

 Maybe see you; and I'll be back post-launch with, perhaps, a little more diversity of content than recently!






Monday, 24 May 2021

Spelling time...

 

You might have noticed, if you've been paying attention over the last year, that publication date is racing towards us for my new book? And I'm currently overwhelmed by all the work undone from 9 weeks in total of being without phone and internet this year, but catching up with myself.

I was delighted with how my most recent course developed and progressed. Poetry, Imagination & the Ensouled Life almost didn't happen due to an absence of the wherewithal to offer the promised Zoom sessions, but at the last minute Open Reach restored this – er, well, lifeline, no matter what one thinks of spending one's days on a computer. This will happen again; I think we were all inspired by the work we did together (you can see details, and feedback, on the link).

Meantime, my publishers have organised a long list of individuals and organisations to help publicise my book, and Nimuë Brown hosted a blog by me last week. Here it is reposted from her blog:

A guest blog from Roselle Angwin

I imagine that all children know – at least if they have access to the rest of the natural world – that animals and birds, plant and trees all speak to them. It seems both normal and natural, and just the way the world is. How different our lives, and our relationship with the more-than-human, would be if that was a quality, an enchantment, that routinely continued into adulthood.

As a very young child, I used to leave out ‘potions’ of pulverised rosehips, herbs and rainwater in acorn cups for ‘the fairies’, whom I knew lived in plants and trees. Sometimes I would see a glimpse of a woodmouse, or a bird, who’d sipped my brew – and that was OK too; in fact it was magical (considering the delight I feel, even as an adult when birds come to the doorstep without fear, not much has changed there).

I remember when I first learned to speak Cedar. My cousins in Cornwall had a ‘home field’ on their farm where the orphaned lambs would be, needing bottle-feeding several times a day. In between, we would climb onto a long horizontal limb of the Cedar tree in the field. One day, up there on my own aged about five, I heard the tree whispering, and realised that I could understand its language.

Around the same time, I used to climb up into one of the pair of cherry trees either side of our home front gate, and delightedly knew as I faded into the canopy that no one could see me for blossom.

That was probably the beginning of my lifelong relationship with trees. However, there was a more significant event as an adult. I worked part-time for Kindred Spirit magazine back in the 90s, and one of my briefs was to conduct a transatlantic phone interview with shaman Eliot Cowan, who had just written Plant Spirit Medicine. I knew about shamanic practice and plant medicine; had read my Carlos Castaneda; had experimented with psychotropic plants; had even written a book on subjects that included such things from my own practice. But something subtly shifted for me after that interview.

Not long afterwards I booked myself a week’s solo retreat in a tiny cottage near Cornwall’s coast. The cottage was in woodland, and within the shelter of a triple earthwork, complete with its own Iron Age fogou. I’d come specifically to work with trees, and to do a week’s writing. I imagined I would connect with the magical Rowan and the ethereal Silver Birch (sometimes known as the ‘poet’s tree’). I’d dumped my luggage and headed off down through the woodland towards the sea. I knew the area well, and was confident that I would find Birch and Rowan close by – and I did. 

I knew that trees love to be met, anthropomorphic as that sounds. We seem to have a natural close relationship with trees; indeed, some first nation peoples believe that humans are descended from trees. 

However, I hadn’t bargained for the abductive qualities of the Willow – that slender, gentle and tender-seeming tree under which Ophelia permanently floats in her death-song in a painting by the Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais. So I was taken hostage by a particular Willow in a watery grove of them. Benign though the tree was, it was also extremely insistent, in a way that startled me.

I never made it to the other trees; instead, I spent a rather trippy few hours under Willow’s influence instead, and that journey has continued. (It was only later I learned that Willow has a reputation in folk lore for ‘stalking’ people.)

Since then, I’ve become ever more aware of the deep synergy between humans and plants, in particular trees, and it led me to marking the wheel of the year with my version of the Celtic Tree Calendar, and then  devising courses, ‘Tongues in Trees’, that would enable me to lead participants into a deeper relationship with the tree family. I’ve been leading these for many years, now, and have more recently offered this course as a one-year online intensive.

I spend part of my year in an ancient mythic forest. Quite apart from everything we now know about the gifts from trees, whether to do with climate change, the hydrological cycles, preventing soil erosion, offering habitat, food, medicines, timber for shelters and fires, and new findings about the immense ‘wood wide web’ that underpins a forest, we have a deep psychic resonance with the idea of the Greenwood, the Wildwood. 

There are always two forests: one is the physical wood and forest we encounter ‘out there’. The other is the abiding forest of our imagination: an inner pristine wildwood, an Enchanted Forest, the one we encounter in myths, fairy stories and legends.

When I walk into a physical forest, I walk into a liminal place, and a deep, receptive and attentive humming silence, a benign presence. There’s something about entering a forest that is both healing and disorienting (in my forthcoming book I speak a lot about this). In the forest we lose horizons, and perspectives, and enter firstly a green underwater-type world, and secondly a kind of mythic consciousness, as our European fairy tales attest. 

I know this particular forest quite well. I arrived in it a few years ago after a particularly traumatic time in my life, knowing that it would offer me some kind of healing, and it did – AFTER tripping me up and breaking my arm so that I had to be still – an almost foreign experience for me.

But the biggest shift was my fond idea that I’d write about trees here; but in fact I ended up learning from trees – as it’s said our Druidic ancestors did. That changed the way I wrote my book. 

And – years on – I am still learning from trees.

Roselle Angwin


Roselle Angwin’s new book A Spell in the Forest – tongues in trees will be published by Moon Books on June 25th 2021.

First published on A Druid Life

www.roselle-angwin.co.uk

www.thewildways.co.uk

WATCH THIS SPACE for dates for a Zoom launch.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Interconnectivity

 

If you are familiar with my work, you will know that the notion of connectivity, and how we make conscious relationship to 'all that is', sits at the heart of it. We are all in interrelationship, all of the time. Living as if this is the truth that it is changes everything. We can no longer pretend that we are separate and superior.

A few weeks ago friend, colleague and occasional workshop participant Dr Lania Knight, until very recently a creative writing tutor on the MA course at the University of Gloucester, recorded a YouTube interview with me where I was talking about my approach to land, place and the other-than-human species who share our planet.

I was speaking as a writer, and therefore talking about my own relationship to the more-than-human world and how it colours my writing as well as my experience.

A little afterwards, one of the university MA students who were the destined audience of the video emailed me.

Some of you might be interested in our conversation.

[KA] I would very much like to know a little more about your idea of 'connectivity'. This has intrigued me and I'm trying to imagine writing nature poetry by removing the self as a prominent focus… it's begun to make me think differently about nature and my place within it.  Would you have time to comment more on what you mean by 'connectivity' and how this can be put into practice when writing poetry?

[RA] I have been thinking about what you ask. It has been a perspective that is so woven into the fabric of me that I needed to step back and think about your question. Here's my response:

CONNECTIVITY
So, in brief, my starting point is that our post-Enlightenment/Cartesian heritage has not always done us favours. It fosters a further dualism that has probably been a significant part of our collective psyche for hundreds and possibly thousands of years: matter/spirit, good/bad, man/woman, humans/nature. So it seems almost inevitable that we relate to the rest of nature – the other-than-human or more-than-human – as if it’s ‘out there’, separate from us. It’s my view that it’s this unconscious assumption that is at least in part responsible for the atrocities we can visit/have visited on other species and the planet.

My perspective is that, rather than a hierarchy of life with humans at the apex, we are all part of a vast network of interrelationship where anything that happens to a part affects the whole. It is not ‘us’ and ‘nature’ but as eco-theologian Thomas Berry said: ‘we are a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects’.

In my view, everything of the natural world is animate, sentient, conscious to some degree and in its own way. Everything is inherently in interrelationship, all profoundly interconnected, a vast eco-system of which every single organism is a necessary part of a coherent whole.

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
I believe this requires for most of us a shift in worldview so that it’s not ‘us’ vs ‘nature’; nor even 'us' and 'nature'.

So I’m not sure it’s so much ‘getting rid of the self’ (or in your words ‘removing the self as a prominent focus’) as seeing it – the self – as simply one, if integral, part of the cosmos.

In terms of poetry, farmer-poet Wendell Berry said something that has always stuck: ‘So much of the poetry I see has speaker present but world absent, or world present but speaker absent.’ (My paraphrase.) (Another dualistic trope is 'either/or’, whereas I believe it’s more holistic and wise to see ‘both/and’.)

I notice that the best writing (poetry is a good example) exemplifies this, when the speaker is fully present in the poem (or essay, or whatever it is) but as a co-operative force, rather than a dominating one. In other words, the writer is part of, not apart from, the subject (and the rest of the natural world).

This seems especially potent in 'the new nature writing', those nature-memoirs written by people like Kathleen Jamie, Helen MacDonald, Miriam Darlington, Jim Perrin, Robert MacFarlane, John Lewis-Stempel, and many others, where the author is very clearly present. In nature non-fiction even 50 years ago the writer, usually a rather old-fashioned and perhaps bachelor gentleman, was very much the detached observer. There may be a place for that, but we want more engaged writers nowadays. That in turn engages us more.

In terms of planetary ethics, clearly we are more likely to protect that with which we are also emotionally engaged – at least, I believe so.

So how we may write to include self and other both is a preoccupation of mine, and one that I emphasise in my courses. I believe this is partly down to consciously switching between the perspectives of self and other and taking care to incorporate both (as per Wendell Berry), but also reminding oneself that in some profound philosophical way self IS other and other IS self. My view of the cosmos suggests that the physical level is only one level of being, and there is a correlation, a reciprocal affinity of relationship, on more subtle levels also. That’s what I mean by connectivity – there are subtle ties that bind us to everyone/everything else.

This doesn’t sit well with our current mechanistic philosophically materialist ‘scientific’ viewpoint, but with, for instance, our new understanding of the subtler aspects of ecosystems such as the mycorrhizal networks that link all plants and trees we are beginning to understand scientifically too that nothing happens in isolation.

My forthcoming book A Spell in the Forest – tongues in trees explores this in much greater detail through the lens of the tree world and also archetypal and symbolic motifs (I trained in a branch of archetypal psychotherapy).*

There's a page on my other website that also addresses this idea (well, actually, probably all the pages do, but this one overtly): https://thewildways.co.uk/an-ecocentric-view/

* This is the description: 'Trees occupy a place of enormous significance, not only in our planet’s web of life but also in our psyche. This book is part love-song to trees, forests and the Wildwood, part poetic guidebook to the botany, ecology, cultural history, properties, mythology, folklore and symbolism of trees, and part a deeper exploration of thirteen native sacred British tree species in relation to the powerful mythic Celtic Ogham alphabet calendar. Tongues in Trees is a multi-layered contribution to the current awareness of the importance and significance of trees and the resurgence of interest in their place on our planet and in our hearts.'









Wednesday, 31 March 2021

RAGBAG: a chortle of jackdaws; 7 weeks without internet; a Youtube interview on writing about place; growing; & more

 

I'm woken, far too early, by a pair of jackdaws, chortling and playing wildly on the ridge of the roof in our pitched-ceilinged bedroom.

As always, I'm short on sleep, but I don't mind: these blue-eyed chuckling tricksters always make me laugh. The whole valley, our courtyard and its trees, is submersed in birdsong. Across on the hillside, the same single birch as last spring is in leaf, sherbet-lime among the drabber trees and the yolk-yellow gorse.

From the north-facing top of the sloping field, with the dogs, in early light, a particular milkiness, not quite haze, not quite mist, is washing out the further hills; in the middle distance, a caterpillar of leafless oaks and ashes is outlined in such a painterly way as to make me long to pick up my paints again. I haven't lifted a brush or palette knife in ten years, and a dimension is missing from my life.

Below, our raised vegetable beds are looking unusually neat, ready for the sowings and plantings we're planning for this weekend. Behind us, a mass of bluebells is promising a sea of hyacinth blue. Elder, spindle, hazel, hawthorn and horse chestnut trees are all in leaf in the woodland margins.

Speaking of trees, my book A Spell in the Forest is now available to pre-order – very exciting. I'd love it if you might order a copy, and I'd love it just as much if you'd write even a one-sentence review. I so appreciate the support of so many of you with buying books or studying with me – it just about keeps the wolf hovering in view but not actually consuming me (I love wolves. I also like the fairy tale resonance of that phrase, even though it's a demonisation, and not an accurate depiction of what wolves do.) However, things are different now – see below. The book's available from all the usual online outlets (and I see that the smaller than the above bookshop, but equally independent and ethical Hive has it on an even better offer.  You'll have seen it if you've visited this blog before, but I am so pleased with the cover, which has a deep resonance with where part of the book was written, so I'm posting it again. This is the description:

'Trees occupy a place of enormous significance, not only in our planet's web of life but also in our psyche. A Spell in the Forest - Tongues in Trees is part love-song, part poetic guidebook, and part exploration of thirteen native sacred British tree species. Tongues in Trees is a multi-layered contribution to the current awareness of the importance and significance of trees and the resurgence of interest in their place on our planet and in our hearts.'


Our phonelines and internet went down for the second time this year on 9th February. (Thank you for your care, those of you who have written concerned about my wellbeing. Actually, I have also been quite ill – whether it was a reaction to the vaccine [Astra Zeneca] or coincidental, I don't know.) The internet failure was trees on the cables. In the house, we have a speed of half-a-megabyte; this was restored with a temporary fix a week or two ago, but with three of us using it, and cabled at that for the sake of reducing our EMF load (my daughter is extremly electrosensitive), I wasn't, of course, able to do anything other than answer the occasional email. I've therefore had no income for nearly 7 weeks.

Here, in my garden study, I'm back online now. I don't know whether to be delighted or disappointed. It's true that I was stressed and frustrated when the internet went down. As a freelancing writer, some of my income is derived from the modest sales of books, but almost all of it from workshops – which I had just transferred online. From that point of view, it's been disastrous. But after about 4 weeks of tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth I remembered a more contemplative aspect of my nature, and stopped fighting it.

TM and I have also been developing plans for a future life which will involve permaculture and forest gardening. We grow much of our own food – we still have potatoes, onions and beans in store from last year, and purple sprouting broccoli, kale, leeks and rhubarb fresh, plus I've been foraging for sorrel, wild garlic and wild marjoram. However, we are pursuing a small regenerative and sustainable project which will occupy more of my time. That has been something lovely to come out of this time; and an awareness that I really need to break this 40-year-old pattern of working so hard for so little income (albeit in a hugely rewarding way that also feels as if it can offer something to others).

Meantime I can now offer again what I was about to offer in early March: the next weeklong WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – poetry, nature & mindfulness retreat, which has had excellent feedback, is happening in April.



And ready to go in May is a new course: Poetry, Imagination & the Ensouled Life will happen in a few weeks' time.





I have much more to say (all that keeping quiet since January!) but for now hello; it's lovely to know some of you will be reading this. Oh and there's an interview with me on YouTube, speaking on site-specific writing, place and the more-than-human in response to sensitive questions from Dr Lania Knight.

So this post is all about me. I'll try and remember World next time!

And I've remembered something else that happened because my internet was down: I've put together a new poetry collection.

More anon; and meantime I wish you a festive and inspiring Easter/Ostara, even if we are in restricted circumstances.






Monday, 18 January 2021

Proems by Valerie Bence & Sheena Odle

 





Thank you, Valerie and Sheena, for your two 100-word prose poems; different in tone but similar in some aspects (including pre-dusk-ness).


January 7th


I think I broke the law today. I sat on the bench halfway up the hill. Luckily I didn’t have a flask or that would be classed as having a picnic…no-one was with me, no-one was nearby, I touched nothing as I sat down and stood up.  My mask is in my pocket and my hands are sanitized.  It was twilight, birds were singing themselves to roost.  I could just hear the M1 - a silent neighbour the first time - so people are moving, not here though. Just for devilment I sat on the bench on the way down as well. 

Valerie Bence



Untitled

Late afternoon, and as the sun slips down a scumbled sky the colour of luminous oatmeal the bare branches of the apple tree are gradually leafing with small birds. Sparrows and assorted tits are queuing for a last stock-up at the feeder to sustain them through a long, cold night. They are joined by a male blackbird, feathers fluffed and plump in profile, his orange bill a bright focal point in this sepia landscape. Beyond the apple is another tree, an oak, and the stark tracery of the one against the other – the warp and weft of it – is heartstopping.

Sheena Odle
 
 
 



Friday, 8 January 2021

proems



For once, I stopped work two days before Christmas. A quiet and festive time stretched ahead of me, and I thought about all the writing I would get done over a two-week period, with few course demands during that time, having sent off the first materials for my new 2021 yearlong Tongues in Trees course; at least, until the New Year WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – poetry, nature & mindfulness course which began on Monday last.

There was a lot of research I needed to do for two new books; also a lot of idling by the fire with the family (all three of us), books and DVDs, resting, cooking and baking of new vegan recipes, and walks with the dogs.

Especially, I thought, I'd write a number of new blogposts; catch up a bit.

Of course, it never actually works like that, though I did indeed take a little time out. I also began to compile several new poetry collections (I didn't realise I had so many poem from the last 7 or 8 years that I'd consider good enough to collate for publication).

But on Boxing Day we lost our phone and internet connection to the fall of a beautiful lightning-struck oak up the lane – much beloved of nuthatches and woodpeckers – and so much of what I needed to do was online that actually the last week+ has been a bit of a nightmare of workarounds to get modules sent out (we have almost no mobile signal and don't use smartphones as the electromagnetic radiation for them affects my daughter badly).


Anyway, none of this is big stuff in comparison with what's been happening in the world. At times of transformation, there is something in the cosmos, or the collective (or individual) psyche, that will first of all shake us to the core, secondly break us apart ('the centre cannot hold'), and thirdly, having hung us upside down like the Hanged Man in the tarot until we're emptied, enable the necessary change. No transformation is possible while we're holding on to the old; whether it's functional or dysfunctional, it has to go before we can move forward. Let's hope we're able, now, to pull together.

Anyway, while facilitating the Bright Moment course, my commitment to my own creative and spiritual practice has been to write little prose poems of exactly 100 words each day (actually this commitment pre-dates the course by many years; it's just that, like the earth on its axis, my commitment has a bit of a wobble every so often). So here are some journal proems for you.

You are welcome to send in your own prose poems of exactly 100 words; if I gather 7 or 8 of them I will post them here.


January 1st 2021

Our little island set adrift in the grip of a virus, sailing into the mists. Transience and uncertainty have become our downfall – how we crave predictions. Here in today’s frost icicles lace cliff and frozen lily plants together. The birds gather: dunnocks and robins, tits, chaffinches, a magnificent quaternity of bullfinches. Yesterday a pair of egrets flew over, and a buzzard lifted off from the ash tree, drifted over our heads. These companions have become as constant as anything. Now the splinter of light that revealed and gilded the moorland hill sets the old leafless oak ablaze, fills my eyes.

January 2nd

Morning. Frost and birds define us. Westwards, clouds are a pile, a gossip, of eider ducks. From the sofa, my greatest critic, TM, is interjecting loudly about the veracity (or otherwise) of my previous statement about transience, impermanence and uncertainty. I take the bait, then step back and smile in a way that I hope conveys non-attachment and infinite patience. He starts up again, looking smug: ‘“Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water”. That’s bollocks,’ he states; ‘too simplistic’ – and I fall off my patience-perch again in protest, as he’d hoped I would.


January 3rd

The day is a blank book. Every day’s a blank book. The dogs will fill it with joy and enthusiasm – enthousiasmos  – being naturally inspirited/filled/at one with God, or god. We have to work harder, but always the dogs make us smile: a step towards. On the way up to the field, dogs racing each other in a canine flood tide up the steep slope past the orchard, one of the robins alights near my head, then hops branch to branch towards the feeder. (Always there are birds in what in what I write – a craving for, a memory of, flight?)

January 4th

Another chill dawn. I lie awake; watch the light come back. My preoccupation: a heart that’s too big allows little in the way of self-protection unless we can switch off the voices that tell us it’s selfish to baptise ourselves with our own care. I want to bring him down here, take him into the orchard, dunk him in the blessings of this day, this place.

 

On the radio: ‘What do you do after you’ve uncovered the nature of the universe? Einstein decided to fix the fridge.’ I’m a way off the first, but I can at least fix myself.


January 5th
This chill north wind, though, blowing us all away from home. We’ve become even more reclusive than ever. Staying at home despite the wind. The virus, like an invasive species, chokes the more tender among us, and how to weed it out? Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed, for instance, so difficult to remove. Take the virus, north wind, take it away from home. Carry it, drop it deep out at sea. All I can do: feed the birds. Walk the dogs. Write and teach. Clear out the shambles in my garden study. Tidy my mind, my life. Don’t dwell on death.


January 6th

Epiphany. Anniversary of my gran’s death. Dismantle the solstice garden, unlight the Christmas tree. Or not.

Above, one of the resident sparrowhawks: ‘twee-twee-twee-twee-twee-twee’. Silence from the little birds. This morning the path is green with birdshit – migrating thrushes, blackbirds, redwings feasting on ivy berries after these hard frosts. Forty years on and my fingers still itch to gather them, make a dye. The best green – a clear blue-green; or a deep pink, depending on the mordant. Those days of a hand-made life, packing into a rucksack, then into a van. A hand-made life; no sense of the deaths to come.

 

January 7th
J’s birthday. I built him a cairn at the top of the mountain. That was the day we heard, then saw, the sangliers, wild boar, who rushed past us like a spating river.

Also my old dog’s birthday. I loved her almost more – heresy – than anyone. How she kept going and kept going for me; how when she collapsed she was too big for me to lift; how she understood what I told her that last morning. 

So many lives carried past in the river – gone and not gone; our hearts simply get fuller and fuller. Never too many loves.


January 8th
Over there, in the so-called Western superpower, anything remotely democratic is splintering, violence volcanic and destructive; a coup, by its own president, overturning democracy itself. For lies, people riot; for a cult of the ego, people die. Is democracy also the liberty to destroy in its name?

Here, we drink tea. Quietly, in the frost, birds come to the seeds I scatter. Is it right to be this far away from all that noise and destruction? Is it right to resist these forces that seek to destroy only by staying at home, tending the hearth, watching the cold sun rise?

© Roselle Angwin

 

Postscript: Often it happens, despite our very best intentions, that things arise to trip us up when we set aside time like this to tend ourselves and the flames of our heart. My meditation practice this week has included the phrases: 'May my words bring only peace; may my actions cause no harm; may I rest in the quiet heart' – which I post in case it's helpful to any of you. World affairs, of course, continue to be so turbulent. We need to resist by tending our strong and quiet hearts; by courage and the belief that things could – can – be different. By being a force for that.

I wish you calm, courage and – strange word – fortitude.


 






Blog Archive