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 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


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


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 poems 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.


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