Cutting back, Seeing Through

This is  a time for reassessment in many ways and I’m finding that it’s not only the garden that is benefitting from a season of pruning and clearing out .20230212_133312_resized

There are times when you have to shed too many belongings, times when overgrown shrubs and plants need to be cut back and times when you look at a poem and find there are too many unnecessary words that can be cut.

Out in the garden yesterday I decided it was time to tackle an area that had been neglected for too long. It took far longer than I thought, but as I worked away I found it was very therapeutic. I was left with a pile of stuff to be either shredded,  composted or binned but I was also left with the feeling that I’d also shed a lot of thoughts that had been troubling me. As well as the garden looking clearer my mind was also. 20230212_142942_resized

Time to look at some poems and cut out the dead wood from those!

Winter Sleep

It’s New Year’s Day
the garden has been left
left to sleep under a blanket
of wet leaves for weeks

Leaves have been caught
among marjoram and sage that
overhang the bed of herbs
in the Buddha garden

Buddha observes silently
his ‘teaching’ hands fixed
in position as I cut back
and pull up unwanted ivy

Ivy provides birds with berries
but also chokes the clematis
with strangling tendrils
in a cat’s cradle of tangles

After a day of flooding
the sun is shining    no wind
disturbs the peace as I
work while the garden sleeps

Pruning Back

New Year’s Day         the garden
sleeps under a blanket of wet leaves for weeks

Leaves   trapped among marjoram and sage
overhang  beds of herbs in the Buddha garden

Buddha observes    his ‘teaching’ hands fixed
in position as I cut back     pull up unwanted ivy

Ivy provides birds with berries       also chokes the clematis
with strangling tendrils in a cat’s cradle of tangles

After a day of floods                    the sun is shining   no wind
disturbs the peace as I work        absorbed

I look forward to the first signs of spring           spears of
snowdrops appearing        white lights to pierce the dark



One Step at a Time

It takes a lot of getting used to – finding out just how much there is to do, just getting by after the death of a long term partner. In most marriages there are many things that are shared but also many things that are left for the other person to deal with. When that person is no longer there, then there are so many questions – how did he do that? Where did he keep that? What do I do to fix this? And so on….

It can be daunting – it is daunting! It’s also very easy to get snowed under with piles of paper waiting to be dealt with, a to do list that gets longer in spite of crossing  some things off.

How to get through all the unfamiliar tasks, how to stay calm, how to cope? Life is full of questions after a death. One thing at a time – take time out to meet friends, don’t hide away, go for walks, spend time in the garden, don’t be overpwered by the feeling that everything needs to be done now. Take time to adjust, take time to focus on what you have to get used to as being the new ‘normal’.

I’ve realised that it is still possible to be happy when still grieving – strange as that might seem. There are still beautiful sunsets and sunrises, friends and family are like a comfort blanket, life goes on, we still have happy memories. I can look back on our time together  – better to reflect on that than feel resentment about not having more years together.

There are times when just looking at a photograph will bring tears, listening to a piece of music will bring a lump to the throat and be painful. That’s not unusual – just normal. Sorting out clothes and other belongings is hard – one of the hardest things. I’m finding that having those around for a while does help, but not everyone does.

For me, taking one thing at a time, not trying to cope with everything at once is the way to stay sane, to stay on an even keel and keep positive. Life after a death is like climbing a mountain – we have to take it slowly, not rush, not be daunted by the steep climb of the unknown that looms ahead.


Life and Loss

Since 23rd November it feels as though my life has been turned upside down. My husband of very many years had a stroke and we said our final goodbye on December 7th. We have always spent so much time together walking in the beautiful countryside and along the coast. Although he wasn’t a writer, we both shared a love of photography and he was always there to help me with selecting a good composition.

A few days after he had passed away I was out on a sunny, frosty morning with my camera and was very aware of him and what he would have been saying to me as we walked through the woodland and by the lochside. Moments like this I still feel that he is with me. The beauty of the natural world is a great comfort.


Love Endures

Questions remain,
faith suspended,
doubt always there,
belief upended.

of what lies ahead,
what faces us beyond
that final curtain.

When we face the end,
will we see and know
beyond that cloud
of unknowing?

Live for the now.
Of the present we are sure.
Though our lives will end,
love will endure.




Days of Rain

The last  couple of months have been very wet. A week that has more than a couple of dry days is a real bonus. I guess we have to get used to more stormy weather, more rain and more unseasonal high temperatures. Recently we had an overnight temperature of fourteen degrees – that’s ten degrees higher than we’d  expect at this time of the year.

Now we hear of severe floods in Pakistan and various other places. What we have to cope with pales into insignificance. OK, the grass is six inches high in places and we are still waiting for it to be dry enough to cut, but that really doesn’t matter. We are fortunate.

Donning waterproofs before heading out for a walk is becoming a daily routine.If it’s not raining now, it probably will be before we get back home. There are some compensations though. Without the days of sunhine and showers we wouldn’t get rainbows. And what gladdens the heart, lifts the spirits and makes us smile more than a rainbow?


Being a Willow

We’re nearing the end of yet another eventful year. Autumn is a good time for walking in woods, for remembering and reflecting. It’s a time for looking forward, not just for looking back. A time for looking for the positive, for being hopeful.
For some the autumn is a sad time – they look on the fallen leaves and the flowers dying, going to seed and find that depressing. Much better to think of the new growth that will come in the spring. Much better to love the autumn colours, admire the silhouettes of the bare branches, the delicate tracery of the finer branches that stand out against the blue sky.

A recent walk through one of the nearby woods, reminded me of the advice given by a dear friend many years ago –

Being a Willow       i.m. of HW

You always told students
to be a willow not an oak

to play a violin you need
willow flexibility not
solid rigidity of an oak

bend as you bow
let music flow
through you

remember those words
that also ring true
weather life’s storms

not by putting down
stubborn roots
like those of an ancient oak

be like willows- bend then
you can find strength and survive


A time for reflecting …

Schopenhauer & Waterfalls

One thing leads to another – I have been enjoying re- reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. The last time I read it I was in my teens – a very long time ago. Now, I am appreciating it far more.

It also made me want to read more about Mann, so I started to read Ronald Hayman’s biography of Thomas Mann. This led to more reading about Schopenhauer (as Mann was influenced by both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche). In Nigel Warburton’s book Philosophy:The Classics 2nd Edition, there is a section that particularly interested me –

Schopenhauer and Art – here he explains how ‘ art has a pre-eminent position in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. When we contemplate a work of art we can, and should, set aside any practical concerns and cares, any notion of the work of art serving as a function for us. We lose ourselves in contemplation. The same is true of our experience of beauty in nature: we can achieve this state of peaceful contemplation looking at a waterfall or a mountain just as much as a great painting.

Today, this passage seemed even more relevant as we walked in soft autumn sunshine through the Wood of Cree.

Lost time

A whole month has gone by. Tomorrow is November 1st and as I look back I can’t help but wonder how this month has passed by so quickly. It’s quite disconcerting to find life slipping away.

I have resolved to make more time to write and more time to read. Someone said that as a writer there are three things you must do – read, read and read! This is so true – I’m sorry that I can’t remember whose advice that was, but if I do remember, I’ll come back and edit this post!

At least now that autumn has come, there is marginally less to do in the garden although the wet weather in October prevented much of the usual autmn jobs being completed. There is still a long stretch of hazel and birch hedge that has yet to be trimmed. It’s a case of waiting for two fine days in a row as it takes that long to reduce the height, tidy up afterwards and then put the shredder to work to produce mulch for the garden.

Now that the clocks have gone back, the days are shorter and evening walks are a thing of the past. All outdoor activities now have to be crammed into shorter days. Even less time to fit in regular walks, but in order to keep fit, these are an essential part of our daily routine. A short spell of illness (that’s how we lost a chunk of this month I guess!) meant that we now have to build our strength back up again so we can trust ourselves to be more adventurous up in the hills.

This photo is a reminder of times past and days when mountains didn’t seem quite so challenging (November 2019) and we were certainly fitter. We need to work on getting that fitness back. Setting our sights on seeing this view again is a good incentive. Covid limited our travel for about three years but hopefully those restrictions won’t return.

September a time for reflection

As the days shorten, we have fewer days when there’s time for an evening walk. It is a time of year when we do tend to spend time looking back as well as planning for the future.  It’s the time of year when many families are facing big changes as their children leave home to go away to study. It’s many years since ours were that age but we know of a number of friends and relatives who are adjusting to major life changes.

Looking out one September Morning

The flock follows its bellwether
towards the top of the hill.
Squadrons of swallows, drawn
by the sheep’s company of flies,
dive around them as they graze

on the patchwork of dry ochre
grasses and others, softer green.
Autumn colours appear
early this year; haws already
show among hedgerows.

We have our own bellwethers;
different ones for different times.
One in our teens is supplanted as
we mature, have other needs, but
there’s usually one who leads, inspires.

Autumn  –  always a time for reflection,
a time for change, when young
leave the nest, leave parents who now
remember their own youth, wonder too
how they’ll adjust to that looming void.

Sappy greens of a hopeful spring
have long since been replaced by
ageing sombre shades; lawns
wear an early layer of windblown
leaves weighted by heavy rain.

Clouds gather, there’s a sense
of uncertain times, of loss.
Unknown paths yet to be trod,
ties to be loosened, to let go,
for all to be ready to accept, to grow

In between aerial forays,
swallows line up on wires,
prepare for long distant flights;
parents leaving their young
to rely on the GPS in DNA.

Finding Inspiration

A walk is the best way of curing writer’s block!

Art and Life

For years they stood
lining the coastal path
slim silver-grey sculptures
arms pointing skywards

no indication of what they
might have been as their
bark seemed eroded
leaving a smooth grey skin

in time one then more changed
hints of green growth appeared
skeletal sculptures transformed
now by clusters of new leaves

revealing a second lease of life
and the identity of old oaks
they stand now defying death
by a chain-saw massacre

This poem was written after being inspired yet again on one of my favourite local walks. So often a walk, either in the hills or by the sea, triggers a response that results in some form of writing. This time, a number of photographs were taken but I’ve yet to transfer them to the computer – watch this space …


Ursula La Guin – I’ve been reading an article which has made me decide to look for some of her books. I remember my daughter being a fan of many of her books for children, but Le Guin also published philosophical works, and it is those books I want to find. This is just one quote I came across when reading about her –

Whether through art and literature or personal experience, Le Guin reminds us that no matter how strange or hard times may seem — the potential for something better lies within us all.

Another promised photo!

Inspired by Trees

Last night I was reading Jan Fortune’s blog

Her words have prompted me to work on something that has been in my mind since the 1980s when I was collecting poems and various pieces of writing about trees. At the same time a dear friend of mine was also compiling a similar collection. His led to the publication of a beautiful book ‘Touch Wood – A Journey Among Trees’ which also included many of his photographs.

Every time I go for a walk, I am fascinated and in awe of  trees in all seasons, in all stages of growth or decay, whether battered by storms or sculpted by wind.

Trees – so much has been written about them over the years, so many artists have been inspired by them. I have hesitated to produce something that represents my own thoughts, feelings, relationships with these awe inspiring beings.

I hope that this year, I will start to collate all my tree photos, redraft some  poems and other writing inspired by walks through woods, trees in gardens, planting trees.  I might also consider the many aspects of wood – the beauty and the usefulness among other things. Perhaps commiting this hope to a blog page will give me the incentive to get on and do it!

In the meantime, this is just one of my many favourite trees – an ent-like character who has survived many storms in his lifetime. I refer to him as a ‘he’  – some trees do seem to have very definite personalities.

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