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, 30 April 2012

home, posh cars and loss...

Home. Blossom, green lushness, bluebells. Big winds. Much rain – a shock after two weeks of bright sunny weather, mostly, in Scotland. Floods of all the rivers, in almost all the fields (seagull and waterfowl parties, pissed-off sheep and cattle) bordering the railway line, from Trent south to Totnes.

Zigzagging across the country from the Hebrides (boat, bus, boat) to the mainland (Oban), train to Glasgow, train to Carlisle, train along the lovely Tyne valley below Hadrian's Wall in Northumbria – how I love borderlands – to Stocksfield, from where, via two nights with my very dear friends and a fabulous oud-and-percussion concert by Palestinian, Iraqi* and Italian musicians at the Sage concert hall in Gateshead – I took the train again yesterday morning for what should have been a seven-and-a-half-hour journey direct to Totnes.

I think I love the English. A little bit of weather – and you'd think we'd be used to it here in the wet southwest – and all is shambolic panic. The train was stuck at Exeter, after 7 hours – so near! So far! – for quite a long time, with a couple of other trains, while they tried to track down various drivers from various 'wrong' trains in the disruption caused by trees on the line and flooding. I accidentally started a little exodus from our very empty train to another, for similar destinations, nearby, but having dragged my various and heavy bags across to it and finding it stuffed full of people, I dragged my bags off it again – after some indecisiveness, but again followed by the little crowd who seemed to be under the impression I was In The Know – just as the tannoy once again insinuated that this one too was looking for a driver. (The good, if surprising, smells of French cooking and the French accents of the staff had nearly swung it, in terms of my staying anyway, but not quite.) Just as we climbed aboard the first one again the French-maybe one took off... And we were there for a chunk more time. Never mistake impatience for insider knowledge, guys...


'Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is catastrophic', came through on my twitterfeed this morning. I'm thinking too that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is equally dodgy. I'm talking about my Posh Car. (I'm an inverted snob, I admit it; and one thing I'm invertedly-snobbish about is posh cars. Give me old, interesting, quirky, stylish rather than state-of-the-art, any day. I've driven a number of interesting cars in my past; and due to the rarity of their parts and their age they've also normally been quite stress-making when they've gone wrong [not infrequently].)

The last one, in reaction to interesting-but-stressful, wasn't either interesting or posh, but it went and kept going for quite a long time, and it was a good colour. Oh and a decent workhorse that ran on recycled chip oil. And apart from the time it caught fire it was almost stress-free.  However, it has to be said that it also issued, latterly, rather a lot of blue smoke – which undid all the good I was doing in running on nearly-zero-emissions chip oil, especially since it required almost as much engine oil as fuel oil. My garage shook its head – well, the garage prop did – at the last service, in regard to whether it would get me to the islands – about a week before I was due to leave. Seemed to me that I needed to buy something trustworthy as a matter of urgency, breaking into my small savings to do so. What I didn't need was more stress.

Seemed to me a new car would work. (Well, ten years old is new to me.) And it's smart. And it's well-engineered ('vorpsrung durch technik'). OK it's Cool Graphite; not my natural choice of colour. (Perhaps if I'd bought a blue or green car things would have been OK?) It's a small engine capacity so economical. Of course I went through the 'shouldn't own a car at all but can't live in the sticks and earn a living without one'/'if diesel I can run on chip oil, but it will blow the seals so then I'll be running on diesel again, with a better mpg than petrol but worse for the planet' dilemmas... (You should see me buying dog food; and yes I know how many Golfs it costs the planet each year for me to keep a dog, but actually I make some and now we have a freezer intend to make a lot more of her grain and veg-based food, with a bit of local free range meat/fish/egg.)

Yellow light on dash that came on 60 miles into my ownership (car bought without warranty) has cost me a few hundred pounds with no diagnosis. At least with the old car with no proper electronic dashboard there were no extra lights to come on and worry me!

Car made, I realise now, dammit, for urban driving, of which I do almost none – so low-slung that it bottomed out continuously on the rough tracks on the Isle of Mull. Hadn't allowed for that. Also strong brake smell all the way up the M6. Since my daughter was bringing it back alone with dogs aboard my stress levels would have been better with the old Peugeot – at least I knew that it would probably just need a few gallons of engine oil on deck...

But I'm happy to say daughter made it safely home – a week before me (intentional, not due to my train delays!).

Am perhaps looking for a different vehicle.


I've just come across this little stream-of-consciousness passage in my journal from Iona. I have no idea when I wrote it, or what it was about – perhaps it was middle-of-the-night automatic writing?

I'm old enough to know now that loss and fear of loss strike as strong a connection as resonance, warmth and love – and that there is a way, too, to make a home in loss. Making it our own can also paradoxically free us. And so I slip this holey limpet – almost more hole than shell – onto my finger – I am married of course also to what's gone, as much as to what's present – and here, now, is a shucked-off husk of the sea, partaker of its tides, its song, its minerals – and a reminder that we need to inhabit the gaps as well as what's solid...



Saturday, 28 April 2012

islands, again – Iona

Last year I wrote at some length about the writing retreat I lead on the Isle of Iona every year, and about islands in general; if you're interested, there are a few posts either side of this one:

The experience of Iona is simply too huge to write about in retrospect – I only manage to articulate the magic of the intense week if I write a little at a time at the time. This year, laptop aloft, I haunted the lounges and corridors and counters of the Argyll Hotel hunting a bar of wifi to no avail. (I reminded myself of the Hungry Ghosts of the Tibetan Buddhist bardo realms – the ones who have big empty bellies and tiny little mouths – too small to receive nourishment; in this case, the dubious but undoubtedly stimulating food of the worldwideweb.) I rather wish I'd stayed with my usual first impulse – to remain gadget-free during this retreat week. It's a very different impulse; and for me it's increasingly crucial to have that kind of fasting-time built into my life.

So this year, after the event, from Northumbria and full wifi, here are a couple of little poems and a couple of photos for you:

Iona 1

The last ferry clangs in
people descend      then silence

out in the garden
a thrush tugs a worm

nearby three girls
laugh softly together

the sea sighs
its long outbreath

evening is a page
waiting to be read

Iona 2

those wavelets in the Sound
how we want them to be
dolphins, or seals –

how we crave
these encounters with wild

with the fingertips
of the gods

Iona 3

when you have done your travelling
remember how the sea
swayed under you
held you up
breathed its long slow note –

now      now      now

~ Roselle Angwin

Friday, 20 April 2012


I've been thinking this week here in this Hebridean paradise about the metaphor of Garden of Eden, and about the Christian allegory of The Fall, and what it might mean for the psychospiritual journey. In fact, I've written a long blog about it. But I'm going to spare you that for the moment; and spare myself the editing, so I can walk back soon from the phone room at the farm into the blue evening, and appreciate my last few hours here before the journey across the island and the Sound, to Iona, tomorrow.

If the wifi here is powerful enough, instead I'll upload another photo or two. Either way, you can imagine another day full of shifting sealight, birds of prey, wheatears and warblers, miniature windflowers, celandines, red deer keeping watch on dog and human below from their upland plateaux, bars of white sand, raised beaches and ruined mediaeval hamlets and graveyards, and intense intense blue...

treshnish to traigh calgaraidh



Wednesday, 18 April 2012

the news from here in 100 words

Storm. Dusk stretches and stretches here in the islands even in April. We light the fire, don't close the blinds, watch clouds steal Coll, Ardnamurchan, Rhum, Cuillins, the ocean, the thin white crescent of sand. Our horizon: tumble of blackhouse boulders – mossy raiment of greens golds rusts, hem of new nettles. Cattle come down to the lee from the uplands, black calves bounding and jostling. Skylarks fall silent, rain batters, night dissolves, dehumanises. We stop holding on, loosen boundaries to windmusic, let the dark come, allow what's real out there to merge with what's real in our heads, allow sleep.

Monday, 16 April 2012



At the start of the day, as I sit up in bed with a cup of tea, the sea from my window is an intense bright deep blue – the kind of blue that if you painted (or even photographed) it everyone would say was too garish, not believable. It is hard to believe, here in northwest Scotland, that it truly is, so much of the time, this bright in its blueness. To my right the crescent of sand is a clean white; immediately below me a pair of white-tailed sea eagles is (are) cruising above and parallel to the basalt flat-shelved headland. (Envious yet?)

Tracking the sun: midday, a golden eagle over the cliff, and the sea silvered. The islands on the horizon, the nearest originally picked out in some detail by the light (sand, cliffs, green/ochre hinterland, white lighthouse, a few scattered dwellings) are now smeared indigo-purple. There's a small trawler.

I can feel something brittle, something taut, inside me, habitually over-wound after these several years of adrenalin-inducing crises, begin to loosen in small spasms, the way a cramped muscle grips and releases, grips and releases. This is why I've come 600+ miles – a crazy distance – with the M6 and M74 stuffed with congestion,  accidents, 'incidents', with lights on my 'new' car's dashboard flashing alerts, with a strong rear brake smell, with a sick dog, with utter exhaustion – this is why.

My heart needs this light, this wildness, this restoration from a kind of soul-sickness; needs the absence of electronics (OK I did have to find wifi access for this!), of mobile signal, of landline, of domestic routines and agendas: it's a kind of 'defragging' of my 'desktop' (I can't believe I've just used that analogy). And this place, eco-farm, conservation area, refuge for sanity and values I can relate to, has become a stillpoint for me over the last decade; a kind of home, the owners now friends.

Next week I'm running an intensive writing retreat on the sacred Isle of Iona, 'Islands of the Heart'. Usually I come here afterwards; this year I'm appreciating the break in the relentlessness of my recent life as a prelude to that. And the little converted 'blackhouse' (ex-fishing croft) I'm staying in has all I need, in its simplicity, and more. (No, it's a little more sophisticated than this one above, however.)

It's April. The swallows are just in from Africa, and soon the whales and basking sharks will be back in the Sound. If I want to, I can spend all day watching the sea (and have, on many occasions). Later, the red deer may appear on the skyline, and the hares will be feeding below in the meadows.

Now, early dusk, titanium sea and a strong golden pathway out from the sun over the isles of the West across the sea to me where I'm sitting on a rocky tump, with miniature primroses and dog violets blossoming, and wild flag irises down below by the cottage door, and a wheatear, and all thought suspended; and I'm home again, here in this moment, in its fullness.



The last night I sit outside
till day has bled itself west over the islands;
Coll with its crescent beaches a smudge
under the horned moon, my hand
cramped on my cooling mug,
and the sea annealed silver;
and they don’t come.

I leave the window open. Bunched shadows
of deer veer past
wary, a hare nudges
the berry-blue mass of sky.

All night I ebb and flow; I am
the rise and fall of the sea’s breathing.

            A god, when it appears
smacks you awake, does not tread lightly.

          Towards daybreak
cresting the waves, I’m slammed
from sleep by a great flank, dark, shining,
ploughing the thinning air

and when I swing my feet to the floor
I’m plunged chasms down in that single
sonic throb, bone-jarring –

    in freefall now, and all the walls dissolving.

~ Roselle Angwin (2004), in Looking For Icarus (bluechrome 2005)


'An excellent practice of pilgrimage is praise-singing'
(Phil Cousineau)

To this earth, still turning
To these bluebells, ramsons, dog's mercury
To the malachite head of the mallard on the leat
To the frosted watermeadows and the wading waterbirds
To the dog's brief breath in a shaft of misted sun
To the blossom-bent boughs of the bird cherry
To this eruption of spring
To this mouth that can speak or keep silent
To these eyes, that can speak without words

(after Thomas A Clark)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

'sudden in a shaft of sunlight'


'Life is a Mystery. To numb our fear of the unknown we desensitize ourselves to the miracle of living. We perpetuate the nonchalant lie that we know who we are and what life is. Yet behind this preposterous bluff the Mystery remains unchanging, waiting for us to remember to wonder. It is waiting in a shaft of sunlight, in the thought of death, in the intoxication of new love, in the joy of childbirth or the shock of loss. One minute we are going about our business as if life were nothing special and the next we are face to face with profound, unfathomable, breathtaking Mystery. This is both the origin and consummation of the spiritual quest.'

~ Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

avian hierarchy

photo by Francis Jones

'I must be losing the will to live,' I say wryly to TM. It's 7.30am and he's just picked me up from the garage where I've dropped my car off – just since posting yesterday another, different, problem has developed. My small savings are visibly dwindling. My comment is because where he's about to drop me and the dog to walk home from while he goes on to work, the hedges are lush with wild garlic – the nearest spot to us, a couple of miles away, and I have zero impulse to gather it.

More family bad news at the weekend, too. More work loose ends to tie up before I leave on Friday than seems possible.

And so it goes, this period. No doubt we'll all emerge from the tunnel stronger; and meantime, our new potatoes are showing leafy green crowns; and also meantime, in the interests of sharing with you the wild strawberries of the present moment, I'm watching the antics of the birds in the courtyard with a cup of tea (me, not the birds).

All good PC people resist hierarchies ideologically – well, I do, anyway; but it's hard to argue against natural hierarchies, and this avian one is pretty strong.

The bluetits cluster in their tens on the feeder.
The great tits arrive and see them off with a certain amount of internecine jostling themselves.
The nuthatch dives in, turns him- or herself upside down and pecks fiercely and purposefully with that long honed beak at the feeder, having displaced the great tits.
The woodpecker flies in from across the valley in underarm arcs, so to speak, and lodges in the oak tree cautiously. If it's a mature bird it'll progress quietly to the feeder, displacing in its turn the nuthatch.
Within minutes, the magpie mafia arrive with great aggressive swoops and displace everyone. They patrol the courtyard officiously for minutes, and one may attempt to swing from the feeder, just to demonstrate that it can, for 30 seconds or so. Having cleared the area of all riffraff and trouble there's clearly little incentive to stay, so they parade around for a few more minutes and then flap off.
(If, though, the woodpecker is a juvenile who signals her arrival with a lot of anxious clucking, the whole process of mafia arrival is swifter.)

After all this, natural small-bird order restored, briefly, anyway, the pheasant picks its way modestly up the track, and displaces no one as it pecks around the base of the feeder, clearing up the fallen grain.

And now, my friends, to work...

Monday, 9 April 2012

reason & imagination

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~ Albert Einstein

Those kind people among you who have been reading my blog fairly consistently for a while now will know that in one guise or another this dyad of reason and imagination crops up quite a lot in my concerns. There's a great deal to say about this in socio-political /philosophical terms, but that's a book-length essay to do with the pluses and minuses of big cultural shifts in European thinking between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and how the emphasis has been weighted in our educational system.

It's a Bank Holiday Monday, and like many self-employed people I need to work today – I'm off to the Hebrides at the end of the week and I feel a little over-faced by my work-to-do list, and practical stuff like sorting my car out (whoever thought that computer-run cars would solve our transport problems? – at least on my old cars I knew where the points, plugs and mixture screws were and roughly what to do with them should things not tick over nicely. And yes, I know – am trying hard how to work out how to continue to live out in the sticks and not own a car...). Anyway, the upshot of that is that, luckily perhaps for you, this will be a briefish blog (relative to what it might have been, anyway!).

One of the things I have been finding consistently in the 20+ years I've been leading courses in creativity is that the more highly-educated a person is, often the more difficult s/he finds it to allow a kind of freewheeling process of consciousness to happen. This latter is a necessity for original creative thinking, I believe. So often the 'trained' mind throws up blocks to the sometimes-chaotic-seeming processes of the imagination, usually in the form of the 'internal critic'. (One of the habits we need to learn as writers is, I believe, to trick and bribe the internal critic to leave us alone when we need it, and to invite it in when appropriate, later in the process. I've written a lot on this in two books, Writing the Bright Moment, and Creative Novel Writing, as well as in various previous blogs, so I won't follow that through here.)

In the 1990s someone asked me to teach a 20-term novel writing course in Plymouth for Adult Education (The Guardian did a write-up). It was an interesting challenge for me: not least because the course was to be both unselected and intensive (since then, although the courses have been intensive, I have differentiated between experienced writers and complete novices in terms of many of the courses I run, on the whole, for people to feel that they can get the best out of the course). 

Of the 27 people who initially signed up (some dropped out), two stood out as being exemplars of very different approaches. One was a woman with a highly-trained mind and a doctorate. The other was a dockyard worker who'd left school in his early teens. Cliché though it is, the docker had a phenomenal imagination but lacked the means to articulate his ideas; the doctor had an exemplary academic writing style but froze when asked to do any exercise not founded in rational thinking styles.

While I believe it's absurdly reductionist and materialistic to suppose that mind and consciousness are merely the products of neural firings in the brain, it's useful as shorthand to speak in terms of 'left brain hemisphere' and 'right brain hemisphere'. The left brain is the mode favoured in our culture: it is responsible for, among other things, the literal, logic, deduction, analysis and reason, and the formation of speech and language (it is seen esoterically as the 'masculine' mode). The right brain, on the other hand, seems altogether more chaotic: its field is associative thinking, connectivity, imagery and, loosely, feeling-based responses (and yes of course it's no coincidence that it's been associated with the feminine principle, itself deeply underrated in current mainstream/Establishment values). 

It seems to me imperative that, to be whole beings, we find ways to combine these modes, just as it seems imperative to bring together, internally as individuals, but also externally in our cultures, both thinking and feeling responses to the world. (I have lots to say about this, too, but again I've addressed some of these concerns in relation to the archetypal significance of the Grail legends from early in the last millennium – and earlier than that – in Riding the Dragon.)

Simplistic though this sounds (and probably is), when as a non-teacher I'm working in a school and am told of the 'special needs' pupils, I tend to assume that these students will respond more readily to eg sensory stimulus: images, music, concrete experience and felt experience. So often that it would be laughable if it weren't that our education system is ignorant, on the whole, of this and its importance, these are the pupils who can make lightning intuitive connections between situations and objects that seem initially to be disparate.

This has been a hobby-horse of mine for as long as I can remember. So I was delighted to read in The Guardian magazine on Saturday an article on creativity (focused on a breakthrough in the songwriting of Bob Dylan): 'A rush of blood to the head', by Jonah Lehrer.

He speaks of the necessity of those moments of blinding insight to the creative process, and quotes those well-known examples of Newton under his apple tree and Archimedes in his bath (other examples are Crick and Watson's work on DNA, and Kekulé's cracking of the molecular structure of benzene). It is as if the 'left brain' can only go so far, and then, in our frustration at an impasse, we occupy ourselves with something else, and the freewheeling state of unfocused consciousness allows the 'right brain' to draw together not only the strands that are the products of conscious rational thought, but also what we already know but don't know we know – which may in itself be a drawing-together of the personal and/or collective subconscious, in Jungian terminology, with the superconscious 'higher' modes of intuitive perception.

Lehrer also mentions the work done in the 1990s by Mark Beeman at the National Institute of Health in America with patients who'd suffered right hemisphere damage. The initial thinking was that the right hemisphere was, in effect, not just clumsy but more or less redundant, and the patients were 'lucky' that the damage was limited 'only' to the right hemisphere.  'But Beeman noticed', says Lehrer, 'that many patients with right hemisphere damage nonetheless had serious cognition problems even though the left hemisphere had been spared. "Some of these patients couldn't understand jokes or sarcasm or metaphors," Beeman said. "Others had a tough time using a map, or making sense of paintings."' Eventually 'Beeman realised that all of the problems experienced by his patients involved making sense of the whole,' [my emphasis] 'seeing not just the parts but how they hang together.' In other words, it connects fragments. I say this because I'm so aware, as many of us must be, at how fragmented our world seems. Perhaps there is a relationship here between the emphasis on the rational mode of differentiation emphasised in our culture since the enlightenment, and the downgrading of associative thinking modes?

Lehrer continues: 'Take the language deficits caused by right hemisphere damage. Beeman speculated that, while the left hemisphere handles denotation – it stores the literal meanings of words – the right hemisphere deals with connotation, or all the meanings that can't be looked up in the dictionary. Metaphors are a perfect example of this. From the perspective of the brain, a metaphor is a bridge between two ideas that, at least on the surface, are not equivalent or related.'

One of the tasks I set my poetry course students very early on is to learn to look, as a habit, for new metaphors – in other words, to develop or progress associative thinking. The importance of this can't be overstated.

Lehrer says, and it's been my experience too – and no doubt you'll recognise this if you too rely on your creativity in your work and/or your life – that every creative journey begins with a problem. 'It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer.' This in itself takes us to the edge of quitting – which of course, ironically, is also the threshold of breakthrough insights (this is the thrust of Lehrer's reportage on Dylan's song 'Like a Rolling Stone', which he describes as ushering in not only a new and enduring phase in Bob Dylan's own writing, but a revolution in rock'n'roll generally).

If we're in the habit of being creative, we'll all know the rituals we can develop around facilitating the creative process – it's rather like leaving out raisins and honey in the hopes of catching sight of an elusive badger – in order to experience those precious epiphanies that take our work into a different sphere.

Lehrer speaks too, interestingly, of how important the use of structured forms are for poets to facilitate this process of enabling new insight: 'Just look at poets, who often rely on literary forms with strict requirements, such as haikus and sonnets. At first glance, this method makes little sense, since the creative act then becomes more difficult. Instead of composing freely, poets frustrate themselves with structural constraints. Unless poets are stumped by the form, unless they are forced to look beyond the obvious associations, they'll never invent an original line. They'll be stuck with clichés and conventions, with predictable adjectives and boring verbs. And this is why poetic forms are so important. When a poet needs to find a rhyming word with exactly three syllables or an adjective that fits the iambic scheme, he ends up uncovering all sorts of unexpected connections; the difficulty of the task accelerates the insight process.'

Just so. I'd say that while you occupy the left brain with a 'join the dots' kind of problem that taxes the rational mind, the right brain is free to do what it does best, akin to pollen-collecting from a meadowful of flowers to make a teaspoon or two of honey.

So, dear correspondence course students, when you complain at having to create forms which so many of us love to hate, be reassured that I don't just include them to give you a hard time!


Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine: How Creativity Works is published by Canongate Books on 19 April.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Out to Pasture

Working days over
penned and tamed
the old bull
standing alone
at the gateway
breaks my heart

~ Roselle Angwin

Friday, 6 April 2012


Well, in the world of hot-cross-bun-making, my enthusiasm is not matched by my skill. Never mind – TM was polite; and I was hungry.

Better luck in the veg garden today, where I have now planted three blackcurrant bushes, four raspberry canes from one that had self-seeded in a dwarf iris pot from wild stock in the woods on the Bere peninsula where I used to live, several salad mustard plants and some watercress, a row of rocket, a row of spring onion, two rows of leeks and two rows of leeks and carrots sown together. (I discovered last year how successful this was: the allium family repel carrot-fly and we had an amazing crop of huge fat juicy carrots, and in effect we had a successional sowing of leek, as we transplanted these as we lifted the carrots, so they came on later than the leek maincrop, and we're still eating them.) Oh and some sunflowers.

TM meanwhile, as I messed around with the girls' 'work' ('hello clouds, hello sky'), had excavated the whole massive compost bin, turned the other one, dug over two big beds and planted all the rest of our potatoes.

I also managed to avoid pulling up several dozen stunning little blue-eyed miniature forget-me-nots, instead planting round them. What is it about tiny wild things? Is it the 'cute' factor? These are barely 2cms tall, the whole plant that is: little pieces of brilliant sky fallen onto the soil.

As someone famously said, a weed is merely a plant growing in the wrong place. However, there is a question here: by leaving them where they are I have noticeably reduced my planting area. So what does one tend: the things one really needs to grow, or the things that are pretty? What one gives attention and space to is what will thrive.

This gets me to thinking about the weed equivalent in a human life – not innocent little forget-me-nots, but invasive bramble, nettle, dock – how greed, ignorance, melodrama, addiction, unhappiness, dysfunction etc are so often so much more interesting, compelling, and vigorous than other more worthy things: 'vice' is more seductive and pervasive than 'virtue' (and makes a better story).

Eventually the weeds displace the food crops.

I notice how averse I am to weeding out the distractions from my life: hours lost each week to facebook, twitter, emails when I could be spending that time writing, or seeing friends and family. And how I feed the weeds in my life which have pride of place in my identity: the 'poor exhausted me' wasteland, the 'stressed me' thicket, the me-with-a-dramatic-or-turbulent-history dark forest, and so on.

But those little blue-eyed forget-me-nots – ah, my soul needs them...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

that hare, my mind, jumping

No swallows yet. They're late, considering the sunny weather we've had here in the southwest for a month. I need to check the various migration websites: have there been storms impeding their crossings from Africa over Europe and the Atlantic? Or have too many watering holes dried up in this unprecedented drought (river levels in England as low as they were in the very hot summer of 1976)? Or maybe they are simply late. [UPDATE 6.30pm today – driving back through light snow on Dartmoor, as I emerged into the South Hams lowlands, there were 3 swallows! Let summer begin!]

But there are skylarks aplenty, and the hedges are swimming in primroses, periwinkles of every shade on the spectrum from white to lilac to darkest indigo purple; and the greater stitchwort is now open. It'll be a race between ash and oak to leaf first.

Around us is the continual bleating of lambs, and the tractors are very busy ploughing, fertilising, sowing. We've put our early potatoes in, and I've replanted onions and broad beans where they didn't come through from last autumn's planting. The garlic's doing brilliantly. I'm feeling both excited and rather over-faced by a huge quantity of seed to be planted before I go north next week.


There are periods in our lives when there seems to be nothing but a torrent of troubles, one after another. Sometimes they are specific to one's own life, sometimes they are circumstantial, or crop up in the lives of people one loves. Always there's the spectre of larger global troubles, of more significance than one's own micro-life; and while that can sometimes put one's own trouble into perspective, sometimes the news items simply exacerbate the sense of dis-ease and unrest. This week I remember why, although I feel I 'should' engage with it, I try on the whole to avoid hearing or reading bad news every day – it colours not only my waking and sleeping life but also my perception of the world. Of course it does. This subtly alters my behaviour, as well as creating a change in my expectations, which is then circular. It's so easy to forget that everything has an impact, and lodges, at a subtle level. It seems important to be aware of this.

I can choose, of course, to a large extent how I relate to the troubles, but that doesn't mean they go away. It's one of those rather relentless periods in my life, as you might have gathered from previous posts; hence a certain lack of sparkle here on the blog (and in fact a certain lack of blog too!). Normal service will be resumed soon! And going off to the Hebrides will make a very big difference, as it always does.

The transits of the planets through the skies, and their mathematical relationships to each other and the earth, can offer symbolic insights, if one takes the view of 'as above so below'. If you are interested in astrology, then you will know that there are 'big' aspects between some of the outer or transpersonal planets and some of the personal ones at the moment, reflecting turbulence and the potential for transformation. In my own personal life, by age-point I am at the second Saturn return, with its prompt to explore internal limitations, boundaries, and that which does not serve us any more; through deconstruction and then reconstruction it offers an opportunity to finish more subtle levels of work initiated at the first Saturn return at 28-29 years (most people can relate to the idea that big changes in their life happened at that time: people often meet a significant other, get married, divorced, move house, start a new job or creative project, or have a baby at that time).


This morning, just down from the crossroads, Dog and I stood for a few minutes watching a hare on its hind legs maybe 3 metres away: it was so preoccupied with sniffing the air at the edge of the hedge that it didn't spot us initially, and I was able to admire its glossy coat and black-tipped ears. There's much to write about hares in mythology, and their connections with both moon and goddess; another time...

at the crossroads
that hare, my mind
jumping this way then that

Monday, 2 April 2012

woodpecker mind

under the trees

another blue day to receive this 'I'

and dissolve it


woodpecker's drumming fills the whole valley

the way our minds too probe 'what is'

until the universe is riddled with holes


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