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!


Finding Time

Sometimes a walk can help us to get things in perspective, to appreciate where we are, how our lives have changed, how to live in the now and not spend time thinking about the past and worrying about the future.

That’s a rather long and clumsy sentence which I suppose could be summed up in two words ‘Carpe Diem’.

On a walk last week, we passed though ancient woodland that was still full of bluebells.20220528_16012520220528_160236 Continue reading “Finding Time”

How Many More?

The days are lengthening, next weekend we’ll put the clocks forward . Spring is definitely here. The daffodils are in bloom, the leaves of wild garlic have suddenly lined woodland paths and now is  the time to prepare the vegetable plots for sowing and planting.

In the garden we can feel positive; life goes on in the natural world regardless of the mess humans are making of things.

Acceptance is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn. It doesn’t get easier as the years pass by and as we go though life, supposedly getting older and wiser, we need to keep reminding ourselves to do what we can , when we can and make the most of the ‘now’.

Carpe Diem but don’t expect life to be a bowl of cherries. It isn’t, and there are some things we can’t change. We have to accept that we can only strive to be aware, be conscious of what we can do to make ourselves and our world as good as it can be. We can’t afford to be complacent, to stop questioning, to stop hoping that things will get better.

Sometimes it’s hard to be positive.

How Many More?

spring is here

a time for sowing seeds

a time for new growth

yet we see death

every day

thousands killed

every day

how many more

for the grim reaper

before summer comes?

Following Different Paths

Reading can lead to interesting journeys – journeys of the mind that is. Recently, I’ve taken a rather challenging trail that began with Gilgamesh -both Stephen Mitchell’s translation and the earlier, Penguin Classics version by Andrew George. This meant that I became fascinated by the earlier story of Adam & Eve so I moved  on to Stephen GreenBlatt’s book  The Rise and Fall of Eve and also Irving Finkel’s  The Ark before NoahDecoding the Story of the Flood

After reading Fictions by Borges I am now looking for more on Schopenhauer. It’s like finding so many different paths up mountains – you explore one which leads to another and onto another. Some paths are abandoned, others are easier than those more challenging and take a while to master, may lead to retracing steps more than once – the journey getting slightly easier as you become more familiar with the terrain.

When reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I was interested to read poems that had been inspired by all the stories and even started to work on one of my own, but that will be left for later… I leave you now with this photo of a path which presents a physical, not mental challenge.



It’s been a month since I last wrote anything here. Partly because I’m now getting used to a new laptop and partly because life, other than the writing life has been dominated by too many other things.

Now, I have a week with more time and so hopefully I’ll get back into blogging again at least once a week. There are times when no matter how hard we try to prioritise things or rationalise which of the many demands on our time should be given priority, we end up not achieving as much as we had hoped.

So now, to quote Beckett – I am aiming to ‘fail better’. Trying to set aside a regular time to write has never been easy. It’s often a case of  stretching the day – but going to bed two or three hours later than normal works better in the summer when the daylight hours stretch well into late evening here.

Why am I writing at all? There have been days when seeds of doubt begin to grow and I think that I’m wasting my time; more profitable time could be spent in the garden or the kitchen. Maybe I should focus more on developing my photography – and so my thoughts ramble on. In Chekov’s play The Seagull one of the characters, Trigorin – a celebrated writer has doubts about his ability and imagines people standing by his grave saying that ‘he was a clever writer but not as good as Turgenieff.’ Self doubt is not uncommon even among successful writers.

So, this hiatus has not just been because of ‘life’ getting in the way presenting other demands on my time.  I have also been struggling to motivate myself to either write on this blog and also  produce poetry that seems worth submitting somewhere.

However, some progress has been made with my photography. I have been persuaded to use something more than my little ‘point and shoot’ camera and actually take a step up the ladder and start using a camera that produces RAW as well as JPEG images so I can learn how to do some post processing. This is a steep learning curve.

A walk in the hills last week didn’t produce any poetry but it did give me the opportunity to work on some photographs – one of which I’ll place below.


Carpe Diem


We took one of the few fine days in the week to visit the wood. We knew that after all the rain we’d had, the waterfalls would be looking quite impressive. The following day, the forecast was that we were to have winds of over sixty miles per hour and heavy rain showers.

As we walked, it seemed hard to believe that there could be such a change in the weather, that tomorrow we would be watching rain streaming down the window panes and listening to the wind battering the trees and flowers.

This is the wood that we chose for our first walk after lockdown in the spring had eased, and we could walk further afield. (See my blog written on July 18th). On this day near the end of February, the sun was shining, the silhouetted branches of the trees were creating an intricate tracery that reminded me of the leaded lights in stained glass windows. Here though, there was just the one colour – a radiant blue, shining through.


Days like this make us really appreciate being alive and being able to get out and walk in beautiful surroundings. The pandemic has made us realise we need to live our lives to the full and make every day count.

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


Finding Philosophy in Woods

One very positive aspect of January is that there are definite signs of spring. The snowdrops bring light into even the darkest days of winter – a sign that soon we’ll be getting longer days and warmer weather.


Snowdrops on a cloudy January day bring hope. Suddenly more things seem possible, the world seems to be less insane. Albert Camus once said In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. I think that being out in the woods and seeing sights like the drifts of snowdrops can make everyone feel less vulnerable, feel that batteries are being recharged.

Earlier this month, in another wood not far from home, there was evidence of the damage that had been done by storms in the past. Many trees had been uprooted and over time they had been colonised by mosses and lichens. Not only that, some had put out new growth and where there had been branches, the tree had sprouted saplings, growing at right-angles to the fallen trunk. These were thriving, evidence of nature’s powerful resilience and ability to overcome adversity. We can take that as an inspiration for our own lives.

In 1888, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first stated, Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.


Making Meaning

This week has been very diferent for Wigtown. Instead of the usual Book Festival when the town has ten days of live events with authors talking about their latest publications, we’ve been seeing it all happen online.

This has had the advantage of being able to catch up with events that clashed with other appointments or that we had missed but then heard enthusiastic reports from others, making us decide it was one we must listen to after all.

It’s possible to see the whole programme of events and watch them wherever you are if you look for the Book Festival website –

The festival started on Thursday 24th September and continues until this coming Sunday. One memorable event was with Richard Holloway discussing his book Stories We tell Ourselves with the subtitle Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe. I think that there are millions of folk trying to make meaning out of the world where so many aspects of life are causing us to wonder just when life will revert to being more sane.

In his latest book, Richard Holloway shares his search for meaning and quotes poets, philosophers,scientists and fictional characters. It truly is an exceptional, thought provoking and at the same time reassuring read.

His talk was one that we had to catch up on the next day because on Sunday morning at 11.00 – the time for his event, we were attemting to climb The Merrick . This is the highest of our Galloway hills – just short of three thousand feet. It has been some time since we last reached the summit and we decided that it was time to see if we were still capable of doing it again.

The last time we were there we met just four other people. On Sunday there must have seen about fifty in the eight hours we were walking. I should rephrase that as we had a number of stops to rest and refuel – coffee, first lunch, second lunch, mid-afternoon break – very hobbit like!

It seems that people of all ages are now needing to get out into the fresh air more, get up into the hills and just appreciate the beauty and serenity of such an environment. Standing on top of a mountain or hill with a panoramic view over lochs, beautiful countryside and beyond to the sea, it helps to get things into perspective. It helps to feel at one with the natural environment, to get away from the uncertainty that seems to prevail in life at the moment. We search for meaning in a meaningless universe and somehow it’s easier to find peace of mind up in the wide open spaces of mountainous countryside.

Letting the Sun in

Today, on one of the hottest days for a while, we finished taking down an evergreen that had sadly developed a blight. Its lush green had turned to rust and the ground beneath was littered with russet needles. No evergreen now.


It wasn’t the best of days to be doing it. Yesterday, when I started, I was in the shade for a while. We did need to remove it fairly urgently in case the blight spread to the trees on either side. Today we were in full sun by the afternoon.

Later on, I came across a poem that seemed rather apt – see an extract below

When people are born they are supple,
and when they die they are stiff.
When trees are born they are tender,
and when they die they are brittle.
Stiffness is thus a companion of death,
flexibility a companion of life.

Thomas Cleary

Our tree was certainly brittle, the branches that had been so supple were transformed into brittle, fragile fronds that shed their needles onto the ever thickening layer carpeting the soil.

Sadly this tree, planted we were told back in the early 1990s, will no longer shade the path to the side gate but, as we cleared up, we could see that this particular corner of the garden will now get the benefit of more sun. In the autumn we’ll plant wood anemones and wild daffodils around the tree stump and, now we can get to the part of the ground that was smothered in ivy, we hope that next year we’ll see a clump of bluebells to complete a bright natural patchwork.


In a time when we should be planting more trees, it seemed sad to have to take one down but, it’s not just Covid 19 that’s causing loss of life. In the natural world there are constant battles against various diseases and many of our woodland areas are witnessing a loss of larch trees. We hope our other cypresses survive to be ever green.

As people, we have to learn to be supple like willows, not stiff like an oak. Both our minds as well as our bodies need to be flexible, open to ideas, suggestions from all directions.  A violinist who is standing stiffly needs to learn to bend like the willow, letting the music flow through him. If in our thinking we refuse to change old attitudes, refuse to learn and absorb new ideas then we will remain as one turned to stone by Medusa. We need to be ‘open to the light’ from all kinds of sources.

The Joy of Living

Lockdown continues and on a rainy day there is less time spent in the garden and more time to think, reflect and write.


The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk on the joy of living*

Summer in lockdown and a heatwave;

we walk each day – average three miles.

Stay local we’re told, so the hills remain

tantalising, too far away for now.


Each morning we look out on Larg,

Lamachan, Curleywee, Cairnsmore.

Can we stay fit to stand again on the tops,

to gaze down on our home in the Machars?


The months slip by, the sun beats down.

I think back to that cold November day

we climbed Cairnsmore, reached the

snow-capped summit in sunshine.


Resting backs against a drystane dyke

we sheltered, drank the wine of the air,

feasted eyes on feathered cirrus and frosted grasses

while our thoughts drifted hundreds of miles


south, to where you lay, immobile. Once,

you would have shared this walk with us,

quoted Ewan MacColl. That November day

we toasted your friendship, and the joy of living.


We knew you didn’t have long; that fact made

our own lives seem more precious. You were

one who lived mindfully, who lived for the now.

On Cairnsmore, we followed the map of your life.


*The Joy of Living – written and sung by Ewan MacColl

not long before his death.