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

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.

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