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.

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Inspired by Trees

Last night I was reading Jan Fortune’s blog https://janfortune.com/2022/08/04/coming-home-to-ourselves-with-the-trees/

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.

Continue reading “Inspired by Trees”

Hiatus

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.

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Finding that Elusive Solitude

Creating something whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, a magnus opus or a short poem, we need to find that elusive thing called solitude. It is possible to create when in a busy place surrounded by others and with constant interruptions but Mary Oliver knew how much easier it is if we can rely on having the luxury of a quiet time to ourselves. In her book of essays Upstream Selected Essays, she wrote –

Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.

As she noted, it’s not always others that interrupt our train of thought. We need to somehow keep our minds focussed on the job in hand and not let our minds wander, drift off along another path which leads to a dead end. This is so much easier said than done.

When learning to meditate many years ago, I was told to acknowledge thoughts that come into my head, then put them to one side and return to the stillness. Occasionally, one of these uninvited invaders might actually be bringing a useful insight – in which case we accept it gratefully!

Sadly, I have only recently come across the work of Mary Oliver but better late …

Over-egging

Over-egging is perhaps not the best choice of expression for a vegan to use, but it does come to mind when I’m writing rather than baking. I suppose the phrase ‘less is more’ is also appropriate when writing a poem or story – it can be spoilt by saying too much, using too many adjectives, being too wordy generally. A story can ramble around with sentences that don’t really move things on – don’t give us more insight into the characters.

How do we know when to stop? One thing I discovered many years ago was that when drafting and redrafting poetry, it’s important to keep all the different versions as sometimes the first is the best.  However, very often we look at poems that have been published and see things that we would like to cut or change in some way. Yes, we can say that a poem is never finished  – it can be work in progress indefinitely and appear and re-appear in a number of versions. But – we do have to stop at some point and there is always that danger of making things worse.

Life sometimes teaches us that less can be better than more. We can try too hard and achieve less. We can worry too much about the things we can’t change.

Beckett

Samuel Beckett, in my opinion anyway, is one of the most thought provoking writers. He must surely be one of the most quoted and, bearing in mind my references to Dante in a previous post, I have to remind you of Beckett’s comment

All I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante.

But possibly my two favourite quotes of his are

Words are the clothes thoughts wear.

and

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

The latter is on the wall in my study beneath a portrait of Beckett – something to inspire me when my thoughts are naked.

Inspiration

I was inspired today by a piece written for Autumn Voices by David Donnison. See http://autumnvoices.co.uk/creativity-old-age/

David Donnison died in May  this year, but he was 92 when he wrote the piece for Autumn Voices. Please read it for yourselves. I think you will find it encouraging and inspiring. If you’re over 60 you will also find opportunities for promoting your writing. The book Autumn Voices was launched last month in Edinburgh & Glasgow and the website makes for interesting reading too.

These days, not many regard ‘three score years and ten’ as old. Well, maybe that’s not quite true as younger folk will still regard that as ancient. I can remember the time when I thought anyone over forty was old.

It has been said that, generally speaking, we consider someone old if they are sixteen years older than we are at the time. I can’t remember who cited this, but I can see what they meant. The ‘old age goal posts’ definitely shift as we ourselves get older.

We may not feel very different ‘inside’ but a glance in the mirror reminds us of how much time has passed.

Past Reflective (After trying on a hat in BHS)

A look in the mirror

what do I see?

I see my old mother

looking at me.

 

Look in the mirror,

take off the hat.

Thank God for that,

it’s my own face back.

 

In the light of day or

the black of the night?

age sneaked up

like the apple tree’s blight.

 

(And now even BHS is a thing of the past!)

 

 

Time!

So much for good intentions. More than a week has passed since I posted anything on my blog and I can’t think what has happened to soak up all my time. Even emails have been neglected for days.

However, walks on the beach usually trigger thoughts and the last couple of days have done just that.  The amazing hot weather has slowed down the thought processes though and it might take a while for random thoughts to develop further.

Scoured by sea and sand

two thrones await king and queen

on the evening tide

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Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich was a C14th anchoress, yet her writings contain so much  that has meaning for us in the C21st.

Perhaps she is best known for the following

‘All will be well, and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well.’ The translations from Middle English vary slightly, but the message is essentially the same.

We find this quotation in numerous texts – TS Eliot used it twice in part III of Little Gidding, the last of the Four Quartets,  and again in part V

‘All shall be well, and

All manner of thing shall be well.’

In Norwich cathedral there is a statue of Julian of Norwich holding her  book Revelations of Divine Love. In chapter 86, we read ‘ …I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning … Love was his meaning.’

From another source, written in the 1960s and sung all over the world, we read ‘All you need is love.’

Father Christopher Wood, rector of St Julian’s church in Norwich which includes Julian’s cell is quoted* as saying ‘Her gift to the world is the message that things go wrong, stuff happens, that we might make mistakes and bad decisions, but there is a bigger picture, there is hope even if it is beyond the horizon.’

Sometimes ‘stuff happens’ that is not a result of our bad decision making or our mistakes made, but hope and love are essential to acceptance.

*Eastern Daily Press 13 August 2017 – (found on the web.)

 

 

Fishing for Poets

My love of poetry dates back to my years in Victoria Junior school Barrow -in Furness. In the third and fourth year, I was fortunate to have a teacher who introduced us to a great deal of poetry – some of which we learnt by heart.

He made me aware of how a few words could conjure up fantastic images. At ten years old, my ambition was clear – I wanted to be an author. I wasn’t sure what I would write, but I knew that words were going to play a major part in my life. I’d always loved reading; books were always top of my Christmas and birthday wish list (and still are!), but writing as well as reading became another addiction. To begin with I wrote stories, then poetry gradually took over and latterly I found I was also drawn towards writing monologues and short plays.

But it all started with a certain teacher …

Fishing for Poets

You stand, hunched in peat brown water,

old and ragged but with piercing eyes.

You remind me heron, of a teacher

who, years ago, gifted me love of  poetry.

Mr Smith, a common name for

that very uncommon man.

His fine grey hair, slicked down

but flicked out at the back.

His blue-grey tweed jacket

topped long grey flannelled legs.

His head, twisting on a slender neck,

fought restrictions of stiff collar and tie

while his amber eyes sought out

the wrigglers and the dreamers.

Fastening their attention,

he pierced hearts with words

and fished for imagination.

A version of this poem was first published as ‘Heron’ in Markings magazine.