Category Archives: nature

the hills have the long watch…

hills.jpg

(please read this aloud and let the words take you wherever they may…)

Here I sit, uncold, wrapped in the jumps

That my brain takes from Here, to There, from Now to Then.

When I settle, deeply, warmly into Then

Outside, the russet-tinged clouds scud and scurry

Outside, the rusted tin roof screeches, echoing the owl of last light.

The limbs of the tree dance,

wind pushed togetherly, sway mightily.

We go to the line of the roof,

gable eyes winking, flashing and winking.

It nods to the left, my right, shows me the old house.

The wall of gathered river-cobbles rounded by

Concussion, collision, crafted erosion.

Here they stand, where they were laid down, in lines of curved straightness.

Trapping a horsehair from centuries long gone.

The cobble’s an egg-shell containing a fossil.

River sand limestone, grit, hair and water.

They stack up in courses, lines and right angles.

Long stone for the door jam, windows and corbels.

Put there by Old John, Jack, Will or long-Henry.

My gaze leaps the old house, springs over tin barn

Over to the hedgerow that marches the old road

Laid down by Romans, or even before them.

Trodden on by peddlers, tin-men and farm-hands

Weary and wary and stepping through puddles

Hands cupping treasures, or casting out crumbles

The sky gaze over but never the same one.

The hills have the long watch

They’ve witnessed

The marriage, the murder, the chase and the capture

The lost and the found and the sly interloper

The birth of a baby, the death of a lover

The shriek of a coachwheel, the cry of a robber

The creak of collision, the crack of a leg-bone

The stealing of purses, hearts, souls and virtue .

This road lines past the high hills, the place where my heart lies

Heather, furze, whimberry, rowan and hawthorn

Edge curved paths hug the whitestone cliff

Past the long barrow, the holes of the dry wall a window

The home of the adder, sneck yates, the droveway.

A long stone, a walkway, a ‘wonder-where-that-goes?’

A lost hour, a found way, a new way to Haxby

A once hidden valley, a discarded horseshoe

A long line of engines, toiling and trundling.

I find myself lost and lose myself found

I trudge and upwalk, steps into bounds

The rise is a hill, the steepest of mounds

I slip, only once, my blood stains the ground.

Then I’m free of the climb, up, look once around,

free now of rhyme, now I’m on top of the hill

The top of the hill, here it’s cold and I spy

A bottle, long buried, the neck winks a glimmer.

A picnic, the twenties, flannel for him,

Wool skirt for her, a blanket for both.

Some brown ale, a salt egg, a shared patch of sky.

His interlaced fingers cradle his head

As the sky races on, clouds huddled, rush by

She talks of the future, the summer they’ll wed.

He thinks of the sky, the day it turned red.

Not here, but in Ypres

Green Howards go forward,

Onward to chaos

The mud turns to the colour

Of shepherds warning

A lobster a boiling

A storm

Of shouting, screams, shells falling then

-John, what do you think? What shall we do then…?

He blinks, shakes his head,

begs his leave (for now lads)

Of Johnson and Wilson and Smith, Lees and Thomas.

He knows where they are (forever they’ll be lads)

Forever Green Howards, never now tailor

Or farmer, or blacksmith, tanner or turner.

John turns to his Mary, sweet sun on his meadow.

She knows, will not mention,

uses love to heal terror.

They swig from the bottle, then bury it

Under a slip of a Rowan, the berries her children.

The red of a warning, food for the skylark

The finch and the redwing.

Hiding a bottle until now, when I find it.

That was my brief pause, where John had his picnic.

Onward, well downwards

The path, steep, heel ruts for toe-holds,

A curlew overflies and answers another

I dip below wind, warm now and cautious.

It’s steeply slippy, hands grasp the bracken.

hill2

The hills have the long watch, the furze, deeply trodden

A march stolen, a hidden down treasure,

A stop, stump-trip shinned knee.

The wait of a parent, the crunch of the gravel,

the kiss of the key on the lock, unsteady.

The stars freckle the night and wink.

The hills know, but will never tell

of the birth and death of those flickery candles.

The dance of the lights, the death of the night

The courtship of the dawn and the gloom.

They have felt the weight of clawed paws

The prance of hares leaping in the long grass

as they pause at the shock of the eclipsing moon.

Here ends the rainbow, here, here and here.

There goes Auld Tom, driving the herd, switch flicking

Feet stretching from lowlands to Durham, finally York.

Here stands James Douglas, his army

of Scots and their taking of Byland.

Here knelt a king, cowed by the Bruce.

The shadow the abbey, whole just for now

Bore witness to the rout.

They marched on the old road, laid by the first feet

Which laid the barrow,

Opened the lime of the hill to bury a king.

The hills embraced him, enfolded his cairn in moss and turf.

Then they waited, until he became part of the earth,

Returned to his home,

Returned to the long watch.

hill3

where the gravity’s silent…

IMG_20160320_222823.jpg
Original pencil, type & ink drawing, available in my Etsy shop: UnderAVintageSky

A flicker, sensed more than seen.

 

No sound, no storm she foretells today.

White night owl, moon-ray above the hedge

Circles, tail chased by the night,

Lofts, dodging the evening,

12885708_1277265058957115_6388395575950480432_o.jpgHangs, catching the scent.

Or is it the scurry of a heart beating fast?

The floating feather of light,

blots out the night.

In this indigo woven blanket of eventide

The weary day feeders hunker down and doze

Above she glides, feathers fanning the air

Above she gazes, eyes examining the ground.

Down!

Down!

Down she dives, an explosion of silence

A flurry of hastily expelled air.

Up!

Up!

Up she leaps, now done with violence

Aloft in the night sky, an absence

A white hole, where the gravity’s silent

White night owl, a light in the darkness.

IMG_20160321_120959.jpg

Through a cloud…

moor
Stones or people?

 

Into the unknown, high through a cloud we trod

Haze hidden tarn, a secret from one, lost in the fog

Those words, unbidden, unplanned, dear and deep

Taking a path, converging, winding, slippery steep

To the well, to the well where they gathered

Mossed up history, stones old wind blasted statues

Deep carved words, wounds in the stone.

The well, she sings, she’s sung here forever.

Into the unknown, deep in our minds we delve

Hurt hidden turns, a secret from one, lost love solved

Those words, unbidden, unplanned, dear and deep

Talking the path, conversing, listening, pain to sleep.

To the stones, to the stones where they gathered

Propped up mystery, old stones gathered in pairs

Six leaning pairs, deep in the earth.

The stones, they stand, they’ve stood here forever.

Out into the known, back to the world we go

Cloud free, no secrets at all, jump beck’s flow

That view, unbidden, unplanned, clear and crisp

Taking the path, concluding, retracing our steps.

When we walk, I never know where we will go. One of us at least, knows the place, the geography, the way the path curves to the right; the name of the little field, or the old stone. But that’s not why we walk, where we go is important but it’s the stage upon which we extemporise, speak true and open. We go to get lost in the tangles of the tangles of the tangles. One by one, instinct seems to pick a thread and, gently, carefully, with love, respect and understanding, tease it free from the others.

I won’t share the things that we discuss, but it mixes with tales of the past, the origins of words, songs, places, and people to become a cleansing, somehow a theme which we follow to a natural conclusion. We manage to talk. We listen.

And what does this tell me? Respect, trust and kinship, this comes unbidden. It tells me that, within, we instinctively know what we want to, what we need to exorcise. And, as the body is distracted by the joy of exercise, the head distracted by the beauty of the open countryside; then, the heart can weave, gently, the worries and the concerns and find a resolution in the rise and fall of the feet, the ups and downs of the conversational journey. Listening is the way to have a conversation. And, like a cloud lifting, once the thread has been unravelled, it’s time to go home and ground again.

And I know it’s the old stones, the paths trodden for centuries, the heart-piercing beauty of the heather, moss, slippy stone, the peat stained becks, that make the conversation naturally flow and rise. There places hold wisdom, they have been special for centuries. Countless feet have trodden and created the paths. Hands have carved and lifted the stones, lips drank the water. Sun warmed backs and frost-bitten feet. Love found, lost and regained. Lives too. Old ways lost and new ways found.

All under the sky. All on the moors. The beauty, bleak and brutal. This is when I find my voice. This is when my soul finds an answer. This is where I go to be renewed.

That’s why I carved a hare. The symbol of rebirth.

hare

She is fierce…

Where do we go in search of peace and solitude? Where do we go to relax and connect? Where do we go to find answers to the questions we weren’t even sure needed asking?

haxby.jpg
Hawnby Hill, North Yorkshire

 

It depends who you are I suppose. Some find solace in noise and bustle. Some find solace in the molecular bonding of a stadium full of like minds.

Some sweat in a gym. Some run, walk, dance, meditate. Some do all of those things. Some medicate.

Some find, through choice,or lack of choice solace in the unfathomable depth of the mind.

I am one of those who heads into the countryside. I know that the meditative step step crunch crunch squelch squelch will free my mind and help me to balance and work my mind in a way that allows me to find peace. I might not find answers to everything. Not all problems can be solved immediately. But, even with those ones, I am able to find perspective and an acceptance of the situation.

Lets say I have a certain problem which is preying on my mind. It’s easy, so easy to think and keep on thinking and get lost in the worry.

The moors save me from this, every time, they save me.

The meditative walking helps a huge amount. And peril. Peril helps me a great deal.

I remember having a walk with a friend last year, and we got to talking about how every walk we had together always ended up with a certain amount of peril. Genuine peril.

Enough to make me think, even for just a second, “oh, this might be painful or, possibly, terminal.” (usually in a more sweary way, if I’m being completely honest).

So in those situations, two things happen. Firstly, I totally forget about the bill or stressful situation. Completely.

Secondly, my mind connects totally to my body and lives in the moment. It’s Zen I guess. I become hyper-aware. Switched on and full of purpose.

And afterwards, well, my mind looks at me, and waits, like a patient parent, waiting for me to come to the realisation all by myself. My problems, while they may, on occasion be very difficult and hard; they aren’t as bad as others have it, nor will worrying about them solve them.

Take away the power that unkind and toxic people have. They won’t occupy my mind, except on a very fleeting basis. Also, and this is vital. Forgive them, even if it is hard. In fact, especially if it is hard.

After that, I take a pretty photograph and enjoy that hot cup of tea from the flask and sit and drink in the sheer beauty of the world.

Now, of late, the North has been given a stark reminder. Peril and disruption, as well as a reminder that, yes, She has teeth. We don’t own the world. We are tolerated but can be evicted at the snap of a finger.

glen mess.jpg
Glenridding, Lake District

 

We have been reminded, starkly, terrifyingly, viscerally for many, that we have stewardship of our world. No more.

The green valleys. How did they get there? They were carved by water, pounded by rock, boulders and storm-torn trees. The land is scarred by the power of water. The world is shaped by water.

And the world, our Mother Nature, is taking it back. We have failed in our stewardship and we are being reminded about this.

So what can we do? Plant trees, conserve energy, recycle, reduce CO2 emissions, dredge our rivers & stop spending money on exploding orphan-makers.

We are on our final warning.  What are you going to do? If we don’t do something soon, the decision will be out of our hands…

glen
The water reclaiming a tree.

I used to be a railway…

I  used to be a railway

I used to be a railway...
I used to be a railway…

Down my gleaming silver ribbons

Dashed carriages and steamy, gleamy engines

Carrying dainty painted crockery

Sacks of sweetheart’s kisses on envelopes

Crates of polished apples

And sons off to war.

I used to be a railway

Past my gleaming silver ribbons

Toiled doughty men of clod and clay

Turning earth and tilling the day away

Waited those men of clod and clay

Willing the train to come and

Carry them off to war.

I used to be a railway

On my gleaming silver ribbons

Those powerful chugging engines worked and

Brought cloth to swaddle baby

Black lace to trim the clothes

Of the mothers and mourners

And the shrouded shells of sons home from war.

I went for a walk this morning, looking for something. Over the humpy bridge built by the original inhabitants of my cottage. Down the side, under the bridg I visited this liminal place. The tracks are gone but the ghosts remain. I was filled with thoughts of what had been carried up and down the line and the words above were there, waiting to be plucked out of the air like a ripe apple.

I found some wood for the fire too.

What have you found today?

From the morning…

One misty, moisty, morning, When cloudy was the weather, There I met an old man All clothed in leather All clothed in leather, With a cap under his chin. How do you do? And how do you do? And how do you do again?
One misty, moisty, morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man
All clothed in leather
All clothed in leather,
With a cap under his chin.
How do you do?
And how do you do?
And how do you do again?

I have started using the morning as a time to go and find something new.

Light the fire, kettle on and this gives me a rough sense of time to focus upon.

The kettle will simmer away happily but will will take at least fifteen minutes to boil.

So this gives me a certain amount of freedom, with a constraint, guided by my thirst.

I walk the lanes, looking for something. It could be a branch that will go on the fire; it could be a handful of berries, some rosehips; a pretty stone; or a photograph. It could be an idea for a song or a poem or artefact.

This morning was misty and ever so still. I turned right out of the door and headed for the lanes.

The air was light and the light was thick. My breath invisible, just like the end of the lane, hiden by the sepia fog.

I decided to go and say hello to the old windmill. Then I walked on, looking at the flowers in the verge, hearing little birds flitting and foraging for breakfast.

I found this scene to photograph, then I went home and the kettle was bubbling away, ready for a cup of tea. As I was uploading the photo, I searched for poems about mist and I discovered the old nursery rhyme above. So that was two new things this morning and a clear head.

What have you discovered recently? I’d love to talk about it with you. The kettle is always simmering on the fire for a cup of tea.