Category Archives: thoughts

the hills have the long watch…

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(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.

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On a nightingale floor…

mhfl.jpg

Two people sitting on a nightingale floor.

One is a sinner, the other’s a whore.

Ten candles flicker, flames kissing the wall

Frozen in quiet, dark shadows dancing

one second still and the very next leaping.

in silvered quiet,

tarnished by fear, hate and crescents of wildness .

Polished by black velvet words

Silently spoken

Broken she shudders and judders

retelling the violence

through this, she’s healing

whilst sitting in silence.

Her face tells the story of

years of lost childhood

decades of darkness

splintered nights of full blackouts

where the memory is vanished

furled up in corners

foxed, stained and dog-eared

they shy from the light

the sound of kind voices and

unbidden caring.

Two people sitting on a nightingale floor.

Which one’s the sinner? Which is the whore?

Lines, bruises, tears, scars keeping score.

There a brief sound, the shadows stand silent

Another lonely Londoner, soul torn in quarters

Of moth-eaten cheesecloth, stained by salt tearfall.

Her mouth purses, fights with the silence

It opens, then pauses, lips forming vowels

Her cheeks grimace, forming those valleys

Where rivers run downward,

the spring source her eyelids.

Her shoulders pause, hitch, dip, rise

and then let go.

Is it the floor’s song?

A sigh of intrusion, or a cry from her darkness?

The ghosts, linger and circle and

test, try her patience.

They tease her and taunt her and

deride all her courage.

They hide in the not-light, that space between shadows

The gap between words

The pause before promise

the stop before first step.

She stands, covers mirror,

and kicks out the candles.

And strides out a-singing.

Laughing at shadows.

She’s not what she was, she’s now the lightness of

purpose, sweet self worth and courage.

She faced up the shadows,

And looked in the mirror,

disposed of her future,

the one they did tell her

was all she could hope for.

And laid down her past hurts

with a soft kiss of parting

and a promise to remember

and revisit the painhouse

to retain the power to

tell them to quiet

And let her regain life.

The floor is now silent as she leaves for

whatever may follow…

She is quickly…

dance 3

Here pulls a pulse, without and within you

harder than words and

softer than shadow in a warm, sun-day meadow.

There!

She stands, clothed in a smile

poised to unfurl like the newly made fern

Which springs with the speed

that a smile reaches heart

or jump-jewelweed’s gift to the world.

Soft as the touch of a warm summer night

Yet strong like the grip of cub’s mother jaws.

there is no north, south, east, neither west.

Nor have we up or down, day, night,. month or year.

There is a moment, stretched out in steps,

Pauses and pulses and gaps between notes.

Forwards and sidewards and on to tiptoes

Half seconds of gossamer iron

with thistledown drifting

And suddenly but

Slowly

she is quickly

she is pause

Then she is

The sum of everything

the universe around her

the music within her

She is, in this moment

All that does matter

circle, half circle,

sideward and forward

spinning and speaking

words without meaning

feel without feelings

All that does matter

Is she is and I am

Lost in a movement.

dance 2

Above lies an attempt to understand the way dancing makes me feel; or the way that dancing is experienced by me.

Everything stays, but lingers on the outside, like the encouraging circle of a birthday jam. So I may have a bill to pay, a friend to worry about, toxicity from elsewhere. These don’t vanish, but they step back, like a minor role in a play, lines spoken, lingering in the background, quietly susurrating, a part still to play in the seasoning of the drama.

Remains an understanding that, the circle serves to sweeten the dance in the middle.

Remains the knowledge that sweet would not be sweet if sour did not exist.

Remains the realisation that the moment of joy relies on normality to serve as a marker.

It’s taken me a long time to find my still point, this silly, funny, infuriatingly difficult dance that is lindy hop. I am glad that I found it, found the warm and smiling circles, throughout the country, that happily part ranks and embrace me, wherever or whenever I wander into a club or a dance hall. We need no words, just the sprung steel anticipatory connection. The journey changes with each and every dance, even if the song was the same one played on repeat.

How do I dance? Sometimes I mess it up, sometimes the pulse eludes me, sometimes it’s nerves when I dance with someone who I’m a bit in awe of. But it’s all worth it, and the dance muscle strengthens with each dance, each missed step, each acknowledged ‘reset’.

Now, I’ll not worry too much about what I’m going to do, it usually seems to happen. Every now and then my brain will go, “ooh! remember you know how to do ‘kick the dog’!”

And I’ll do that move, whilst accepting that another move will shuffle off the rolodex of my dance memory, for a short time.

What has it taught me? Well, it’s helped me to realise that, despite being introverted by nature, I can still jump around a public place and make mistakes; that I can blend into the background when I want; that I can forget, forget, forget, just for the phrase, the 32 beats of musical perfection. I can make new friends, wherever I go, regardless of age, sex, class, race, colour or creed. It levels me.

And the people, the amazing people. Thank you, each and every one of you, including the ones I’ve not met yet. dance

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

It’s lighter in the dark…

This wizened bough bent and hollownight tree

Willow waving  and whipping

Twisted Haw-

-thorn May bud and holly berry

My footprint is silent

My footsteps are loudly

The church she sings proudly

warmly bell ring

The lane it is

silent yet far in the village

A laugh runs towards me

A laugh lights the darkness

Warms the silence.

Walking in the night. I followed the glisten of the puddles and the sky-pointing arms of the hedges. It is dark. Night. December night. But walking without light from a lamp, well, it doesn’t take the eye long to realise the secret of night.

It’s not dark  at night.

Light makes the night dark.. It pushes and condenses it into a choice. Here is the bubble of light; there is the sea of dark. This makes it a constant struggle as the night leans into the glow. The light makes it harder to see out of the bubble.

No light means that there isn’t a line, there isn’t a state of here or there.

It becomes light enough to see, navigate, walk. And it opens your ears, heightens all the senses. And it gifts you a glimpse of a vole; or a hedge pig. The sounds from afar come and go but, and this is true, the ears work better when they are not lulled into lazing by the vigilant eyes in light. This is much more of a co-operative effort. The body working as it should, with every part doing it’s fair share of work. I sensed a little obstacle, didn’t see it, but, sensed it. So I stepped over it without a thought.

So what can I learn from this? That the world isn’t made to work to extremes. It works in shades, graduations. There is room for people to have different points of view and both people can be right. Or no one can be wrong. And the other point of view- if you create a bright light, you will create darkness.

Take from that what you will.

And let me know what it is.night tree two

Here we go again…

Here we go again,

Living at the same address,

Picking up the same old mess.

in the sky

Here we go again,

Shouting at the lying press

Touting store-bought happiness.

Here we go again,

MPs cheering  their ‘success’

War’s boots forced acquiesce…

Here we go again,

Sickened at the bombs progress

Making worse this worlds distress.

(Now I’ve had my fill)

I’m talking to you

I’m talking to you

Can’t you hear me?

(This is what you’re causing)

A shout-

“Bring out your dead!”

“Bring out your dead little sister.”

“Bring out your dead!”

“Bring out your dead little brother.”

(This is what your bombs cause)

He cries-

“I’m the one feeling alone

I’m the one sitting on stone

I’m the one without a home.”

 

This is what we are causing. There will be people dead now that were alive yesterday. Killed by bombs that we paid for.

What’s a life worth?

How many families would each bomb have paid to look after if we had spent the money on them, rather than building something whose only purpose is to kill and destroy?

Each bomb we are using costs £800 000.

That’s per bomb.

What’s a life worth?

 

 

 

After a storm…

after.jpg
After a storm comes a new sunrise.

After a storm

Comes a pause, a deep breath.

a moment of blissful

Unknowing.

a conscious step

survey  damage, tread boundaries and

take stock,  the next breath.

 

After a storm

Comes applause, a steep path

a moment of mindful

Knowing.

unconscious steps

repair damage, strengthen boundaries and

make stock, a new breath.

 

After a storm

Comes a new you.

After a storm

Comes renewal.

 

Life, like a storm, can be unpredictable. We can be bumbling along, blissfully unaware that, all of a sudden, a storm is going to hit. Then life can change, on a penny. I started considering this after the horrendous slew of events that have happened in the world recently.

Those people, innocently living. Unconsicously only breaths away from their time of dying. It’s the randomness that strikes home. And it strikes hard. What if they had missed a bus, lost their keys, gone to the toilet?

And then I started thinking about aftermath. That’s when the mettle shows. What do we do after a storm?

Sit and wonder what on earth the first step is going to be? Take a deep breath and just start?

Over the years, I have weathered many storms. I won’t go into them, but I will say that they have taken me right down to the bedrock of who I am. I have been broken. Shattered. Excoriated and ravaged.

I kept on breathing and took the little steps. Because those are the hardest ones. I heard a song, many years ago. It is called ‘Keep Breathing’ by Ingrid Michaelson. I suspect it may have been on a TV programme, but I heard it during a wander through You Tube. Please listen to it:

“Keep Breathing” by Ingrid Michaelson

I then came across the Japanese art form called Kintsugi. This amazingly beautiful process takes broken items and repairs them. But the wonderful thing is that it doesn’t try to hide the repairs. It highlights them by using gold to make the repairs.  It’s breathtakingly beautiful. And it’s a superb metaphor for how we act after a storm. Don’t hide the scars, the stretch marks, the wonky bits. Polish them and be proud. They show that you survived…

kink2

Give us this day…

Making bread. Our daily bread. That’s what I’m doing right now. And this is what I want to explore in this post.

Why did people stop making their own bread? Time. It takes time to make bread. And most people simply don’t have the time it takes to make bread, so the supermarket loaf is an easy an appealing alternative.

The process is simple, but not something which you can speed up in any way. There are three distinct periods when when you have to wait. The first prove; the second prove and the final baking.

So lets go through the stages which include the gifts of time:

1: Mixing the ingredients:Bread ingredients

I use:

500g of strong wholemeal flour

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of sea salt

25g of fresh yeast (amazingly cheap from the local supermarket they won’t advertise it, but will sell it to you if you ask them)

25g butter

340ml lukewarm water

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Mixing the dry ingredients.

Now, my tip is to put the butter into the water so it melts,m thus making it easier to mix by hand. Ideally, put 200ml of very hot water in the jug, then the butter and add the remainder of the cold water when the butter has melted. Melting the butter in the water.

The fun bit comes next. Add the water and mix the dough with your hands. It’s wonderfully grounding to mix and knead and transform the initial soggy mess into a firm ball of dough after 10 minutes or so of kneading.

Then comes the first prove. the yeast needs time to eat the sugar and fill the dough with air, so its covered with a damp tea towel and left for an hour in a warm place until it has risen.

proving the dough by the fireside

2: The first rise:

And this is when I get the first gift from my bread. I have a spare hour. The bread can’t be rushed, so I have a while hour to turn to another task. Some days I will cook a soup; other days I will go for a walk, or pop to chat with a neighbour. This time, I am going to spend a little time finishing a lino cut for a Christmas card. Just a few extra slithers of lino removed, until I’m satisfied. Then Bert the pug is finished:

bert

After that, I will wash the dishes and have a cup of tea.

And this is the incredible benefit of making bread. We think that it is easier to buy a loaf from the shop, because it takes too long to make a loaf. Yes, it does take time, but making bread has it’s own swathes of free time, bookended by the stages of the process. This is the gift!

Here you go! Here’s an hour? What would you like to do? Read a book? Pop to the shops, or the gym? Have a nap? Watch a tv programme? The last loaf I made saw me sitting in the living room, kneading the dough in a bowl as I watched a film with my children. (Gremlins, if you are interested!). Making the bread didn’t interfere with a normal evening. It was just a part of it.

The first rise

3: The second rise:

After the first rise comes ‘knocking back’. Basically you knead the dough for about 3 minutes longer, gently. After this, you put it into an oiled loaf tin (I use a 2lb one). Then, here comes the second gift fro the bread! More time. This period is roughly 45 minutes as the bread rises for the second time.

On this occasion, I am going to play my guitar and intersperse this with another cup of tea. What would you do if you had a spare 45 minutes? Go for a run? Walk the dog? You have enough time to write a blog post maybe? I would be interested to know how you would spend this time.After the second rise

4: Baking the bread:

This is the wonderful stage when the house fills with the soul warming scent of baking bread. There is a sense of anticipation as the dough transforms into a golden brown loaf. The oven is set to about 200 degrees C, for about 40 minutes (until the turned out loaf sounds hollow on the base when knocked with a knuckle).

And again, here comes the third gift. More time! Another block of time in which I can do something. I’m going to tackle a bit of ironing. With the radio on. I find ironing a meditiative process. Soothing, calming and centreing. I appreicate the measured blocks of time that come with baking bread. Simple tasks of this nature have the effect of freeing the mind as the hands work. I find myself solving problems and coming up with  new ideas as i knead the dough. It could be a poem, a song, or a way to refine a part of my life.

5: The finished loaf: Time to eat...

And there it is. Hot, golden, smelling amazing. The finished loaf, tastes so much better than a loaf bought fom a shop. Partly because I have invested so much time in it; partly because I appreciate how much time it has given me to do other things.

Does a loaf take too long to make? I’d argue that the opposite is true. Making bread creates time.

What do you think?

Patience is a…

Patience is a natural human state. This is something which I have realised of late. We have been inculcated since the Industrial Revolution into thinking that we aren’t, and that patience is some lofty virtue, almost unattainable in the modern world.

This is the view from inside my village bus stop.
This is the view from inside my village bus stop.

Patient people are portrayed as being highly spiritual, wise, often mature in years and wrinkled of countenance. ThinkMother Theresa, The Dali Lama et al.

There is a lot to think about here, and, here I sit, the words are unformed as yet. I have to explore this and I’d appreciate feedback and discussion.

So what is patience? Patience is freedom, Patience comes with freedom and it makes you freer.

It makes you appreciate the things which you have. I currently am hungry, so I have started cooking some food. I know that I will have to wait for longer than would perhaps be usual because I am cooking, as is my wont, over the fire. This takes longer, but, with patience, I am free to sit and write this, look out the window at the swaying trees, smell the onions and chilli wafting from the fire place.

So I am hungry but happy knowing that this is the best seasoning. When it is cooked (an hour? Two? I honestly don’t know how long it will take), I will enjoy every last mouthful and be thankful that I have food.

I am just brewing my second cup of tea. I had to wait until the kettle boiled before I could start cooking my break fast meal. But I have time and time is patience.kettle whistling

And I think thats the trick of it. Time. We are so constrained by time in this modern world. We judge people by their ability to be on time. And we have broken it down to time units. A minute. “He’s five minutes late.”

Are birds late? Do snails berate each other for tardiness?

Consider dogs. Dogs have patience in spades. They can sit and sit and sit. And when the time comes, or the owner comes back from where they have been, what does the dog do? Act cross because he’s been waiting? No. the dog is rewarded and happy and this joy is seasoned by the anticipation.

“You’re late.”

We all have heard this in the workplace. Yet somehow, it’s ok to stay late. If being on time was such a valuable skill, surely managers and bosses would value leaving on time too. Other wise, staying longer at work means that you are late somewhere else.

So whats it about? Control. Plain and simple.

Patience then is power and generosity. It gives pleasure and takes away other people’s worries. If you are late, I don’t mind. why should I? I have no right to control you, no desire. If I’m late, maybe I stopped to look at a pretty scene, or help someone who was lost. Maybe I forgot my bag and went home to get it. If you’re waiting for me, look up or look inwards and look forward. It’ll be worth it.

What do you think?