Civilisation…

Through a number of circumstances, choices and happenchances, both my kids have ended up living on boats. It sounds a romantic thing- they love being close to open sea and all the possibilities of adventure.

The realities of this life are made very real when the winter storms roll in. The power and viciousness of gales hitting a small fiberglass box can be scary indeed.

Aside from all the usual parental worries for the safety of our children, there lingers with me a feeling that their choice of shelter, positive though they may be, are also pushed by expediency. Their generation has been effectively priced out of the housing market by the soaring costs of home ownership and high rents.

It is the civilisation we made.

.

When it’s wild outside, I love

The feeling you get, when

You sit in warmth, watching the

Windows blink back rain, flung

Like black pebbles

.

When it’s cold outside, I find

A fold in the sofa, and

Insulate against the wild north winds

Under the soft folds

Of a good book

.

When it is cruel outside, I sometimes

Take fire for granted, as if

Civilisation belongs to me by right

As if these walls, now strong, will

 Stand up tall forever

Poetry giveaway…

books

Over at Seatree, we have had some more copies of Chris’s books printed for direct sales. This meant another print run, and as ever, we got a couple of proofs printed to check before the larger run… all of which means that we have proof copies of ‘Listing’ and ‘Where the streams come from’ up for grabs. FOR FREE! We will even pay postage.

(One book has a couple of typos, but if you are anything like Chris, you will never notice them!)

To enter our little free draw, all you have to do is to visit our facebook page and post a comment in the giveaway post. Perhaps tell us your favourite poem (even if it is not one of Chris’s!) or even post a few lines of your own?

(If you are not on FB, drop us a line and we will enter you anyway!)

We’ll feed your name into our magic randomiser, then contact the winners directly.

Meanwhile, here is a newish poem, as yet unpublished, to whet your poetic whistles;

Bookshop

Written in ‘Bookpoint, for ‘National poetry day’ 2018

.

So many books

Every spine like undrunk wine

Every page contagious

For words weigh nothing here

They are floating free

while I sup tea.

.

Perhaps two or three might land on me-  

Like birds – or spores – or seeds,

For I am the soil in winter.

.

High on a shelf

sits poor Gandalf.

Atticus Finch is caught in a clinch

with Molly Bloom.

Tom Sawyer hides poor Jim

In the bottom drawer.

Moriarty invites Jack Kerouac

to party out back.

Catherine Earnshaw

roams the moor no more

She drinks tea with me

In  Bookpoint

Forest gardening…

We live in a very beautiful place. Familiarity breeds a certain level of complacency, but I only have to leave our little corner for a few days and I find myself missing it. Specifically, I miss the quiet shelter of the oak trees, through we glimpse the water in summer but whose branches become frames for silver light as soon as autumn fades.

Little moments hit me like blessings. The red squirrels that dance along the finest tracery. The mixed blessing of deer munching in the bushes. The stars who have no competition. These blessings seem totally undeserved. Even allowing for the fact that reality is always so much more nuanced than a view from distance, we seem to be living out a kind of middle-class fantasy that is simply unavailable and unatainable to most. How did we end up here?

I suppose part of the answer is that we decided that we wanted to live more simply, with less impact on the planet, and with more connection to the earth, which is why I find videos like this so inspiring;

Since we moved here three years ago, we have done very little to the inside of the house (although this might be about to change) but we have done lots to the outside;

New chicken run

Poly tunnels x2

dammed a stream to make a water cress pond.

We have also cleared massive amounts of buddlea and huge overgrown Leylandii hedges, and have planted about 20 fruit trees, 5 oak trees and 50 silver birch trees.

I have built some outdoor raised beds (the climate is so wet here that we need to improve drainage) but we need more of these, and they need a fence to keep the deer away from them.

What really interests me is how we can use a small (ish) parcel of land to produce significant amounts of food. Part of this is about recognising what is already there. Some of this is obvious, like the wild garlic.

We have also tapped birch trees for sap, used many flowers and plants in salads and picked berries and crab apples.

The next step is to start introducing more edible plants into our forest garden. I tried to plant Wild Mustard, but this does not seem to have survived, and the tea plants are looking rather ropey (more eperimenting to be done with different plants here.)

I have no confidence in my mushroom and funghi collecting skills, but have decided to sow my own spores so I can be sure what I am getting- so we have some oyster mushroom spores for next season.

We have a long way to go, but watching videos like the one above makes me think that what we are aiming for is entirely possible.

Two things occur to me as I write this.

1.We reap not only what we sow, but also much that has been given to us by grace.

2. We live the life we decide to live, even if by default.

A poetry reatreat in the wildnerness…

In the spring. In partnership with Wild at Art, I am leading a group of people on a poetry retreat. You can read more about it here.

This retreat will use a familliar format to ones that I have led before. To spend time in the wild beauty of an uninhabited deserted island in spring is a truly magnificent experience, but retreats are much more than tourism. They are about delberately going deeper, beyond the surface of things. If there is a language for this kind of journey, it is poetry.



They say that everything that ever was

Is with us still  and that we are all

Connected

Our DNA, or so they say,

Contains some manta ray

Along with pterodactyl

Every leaf and every tree

Grows in you and grows in me

Every fish and every bird

Listens close to our every word

For everything belongs to everything

And we are all

Connected



It is my intention to read poetry together and to encourage one another to write. We will have some activities ready that may help, but the island is our main tutor.

This retreat will of course follow a long tradition of pilgrimmage to these islands. It will remember some of our Celtic ancestors, and the journeys they made.

By the way, Ute Amann-Seidel (who set up and runs Wild at Art) was on radio Scotland last week, talking about her other project, Fire and Rain, which grew out of her loss and bereavement. You can find out more about this by following this link.

TFT Christmas card, 2019

Dear friends, close and far, may peace be with you. May the world we live in be shaped by kindness, despite all the voices and forces to the contrary. May you know the warmth of love.

Peace be with us

.

In the quiet space between snowflakes

We listen to sad songs, and

Feel the prickle of tears, pushed

By beautiful broken things

Less than half-perceived

But never forgotten

.

In the warm space you made for me

I hide, guilty for those we left outside

Wishing our table was bigger

That every mouth was filled

Every refugee was home

Like we are. Hoping that

.

In the dark space between all those twinkling lights

Peace is waiting

Like scented water

Fingered by frost and ready to fall –

Ready to anoint our dirty old ground

Like Emmanuel

Chasm

Chasm

Cliff offers

Scant comfort

A place for claws only

Ledge after ledge looking down.

Below, birds churn and turn in space

That will surely swallow me whole.

Should I climb?

Or should I

let go?

Trusting

The heave

Of saline water

Straining against rock

Will reach up for me

With deep green

kindness

Anniversary confessional…

Last Sunday was our anniversary. 29 years ago, I married a rather wonderful person. I did not know just how wonderful she was back then – my own woundedness made me myopic in that regard – but the time in between has left me in absoutely no doubt.

As evidence of this, she was quite happy to let me go and play cricket on our anniversary- choosing to travel up to Balmoral Castle (yes, THAT one, home of the queen, who was in residence. We saw her twice, but she was busy so did not linger, not even for cricket.)

In the light of all this, I think I must now confess. I forgot about our anniversary, resulting in the terrible message that cricket is more important than she.

Before you quite rightfully arrange for my incarceration, or worse, I would say that I had ordered her a present, but had just got confused over dates- a combination of dyslexia and being self employed, both of which can detatch me from the world… but not from Michaela.

We had an adventure together, driving back over the high hills in the gathering dark with less fuel in the tank than we were comfortable with. I could choose no better companion.