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



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.




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 …

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!


August 1st – time to celebrate?

Lunastal  – a time of year when

here, the first fruits of the season

are harvested, we look forward to good crops.


this year, over eight hundred million

will die of hunger

while we look forward to our good crops.


Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan,

Syria, and Yemen, families struggle to survive,

send children to beg for food, dream of good crops.


can four giant transnationals dominate,

exploit the global food system as they

account for nearly all of global grain trade?


makes things worse, less grain exported

from Ukraine – some countries suffered

more than others. Egypt and others affected badly.


a time of year when the first fruits

of the season are harvested, time for the world

to celebrate and look forward to good crops.


This will probably be the shortest blog post I’ve written. A bout of Covid and a garden that is demanding a lot of attention at this time of the year has meant there’s been very little time to write.

However – I couldn’t resist posting this – sheep around here have been losing their thick fleeces – they are the kind that don’t need shearing but they leave their wool along fences – great for the local spinners and weavers!

Time to shed winter coats!

Washing Line

By the coastal path

frightened sheep run under wire

leave woollens to dry

Walk into the Past

The walk in Knockman Wood not only triggered a number of thoughts but also inspired the following poem.

Light Shines Through

in ancient woods of oak and birch

scents of wild garlic bluebells mingle

among cushions of mosses. A woodpecker

drums a background beat to birdsong

I feel the presence of past lives,

smell the charcoal burners,

see farmers drying corn in kilns, hear

ghostly kye grazing among the trees.

Young birch trees have white,

paper thin bark that curls and peels

to make perfect kindling for

fires in kilns and homestead hearths.

Light shines through these woods.

They encourage me to linger,

to share their past, listen to stories told

by ghosts, grasses, stones and trees.

Knockman Wood

Time Flies

I didn’t think that it was so many weeks ago that I made my last entry. The old saying is that ‘time flies when you’re enjoying yourself’, but I find that as I’ve got older, time flies regardless.

Now that the weather has finally decided to be more springlike, there is what seems like a rather daunting list of things that need doing in the garden.  Being outside and working in the fresh air, even if it’s a mundane job like weeding, I find that it’s very  therapeutic.

Just now we have large flocks of goldfinches,  with smaller numbers of siskins feeding on the sunflower hearts in the feeders. They are a joy to watch when standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil or the toast to pop up.

On Easter Sunday, I was gazing out of  the window in the morning and later in the day found that my thoughts had led to the following  …

Easter Sunday 2022

The bird feeder is full

sunflower hearts, no husks.

It’s early, but first arrivals

land on topmost branches of

the Himalayan birch tree,

trampoline down to the feeder.

Branches spring back

as they land to feed –

first five then six feisty siskins,

goldfinches – too many to count.

The sky fills, more arrive

then, as one they leave in

an amoeba-like cloud –

circle, undulate, twist

turn then back to settle again.

Paper-white bark of the birch

stark contrast to grey clouds

telling only rain threatens here.

I look out on a peaceful scene –

how different in Mariupol,  Kyiv

Kramatorsk, Donbas, Bucha,  Brovary, Lviv …

No matter what we’re doing at the moment it is hard to forget ( and we shouldn’t) the horrors of war in Ukraine.