Tag Archives: life

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

hare she leaps…

12768130_1261241263892828_526338452705703039_o.jpgIn the night

In the night we leap, lope and love

In the creaky, misty, care-worn spouse of the day we lay

Lay low and listen, quivering lines

seeking the man’s tread, the whisper of an owl

brock wander, grey shadow sideways bound

there’s a silence hanging heavy, dew not yet formed

rasp of grooming kitten fur, vixen starts and growls

hare she leaps,

hare she stands

hare she listens

In the morn

in the morn we hide, heal and home

In the dewy, promising night’s lovers entrance

we scratch a form and lie and rest.

Brock he sleeps also, vixen she dreams of the open coop

an engine coughs to life and she starts, tasting the oil as it

drifts down the lane to where she coils the legs that spring

hare she wakes

hare she speeds

hare she races

In the spring,

In the spring, we bound, bond and box!

In Eostre’s waking dawn, mother of the harvest

We box, hare she stands, hare he stands

and we box

Until the day she says,

“leveret come to me, come to my form and be

a hare, the spirit of the fields

leveret she comes

leveret she comes

In the night…

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?

 

 

 

I see you…

I see youtree

Tree from the old days

Guarding the byways

You see me

You tree from the old days

Watching my hair grey.

 

I see you

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Road from the old days

Making the highways

You see me

You road from the old days

Feeling my gait sway.

 

I see youstone

Stone from the old days

Marking the old ways

You see me

You stone from the old days

Hiding my shade away.

 

This post is about looking. The gaze. Eyes. The eyes within the mind.

The idea that, as we look, so we are being looked at.

We rush through our lives, ascribing varying amounts of import to the concerns that are whooshing though our grey matter at that moment in time.

I live in an old place. The Romans were here; they buried their dead below the windmill a quarter of a mile away. They built the road less than a mile from me. This road was called Dere Street, running from York up to Scotland. It was built in the 70s AD, after Boudicca was savagely dealt with.

It’s humbling to know that history marches through the lanes and streets that I wander. Lives will have been made, lost, broken, saved and joined right where I stand, looking at the undulating road surface.

Trees watching me, each breath they take a month in the inhale, seasonal exhalations. What concerns the mind of a tree? Do they notice the scurrying people, flashing by in their rushed lives? Or is each week long eye blink of an oak too ponderous and serene to even notice the day I walked by, lost in grief, or the day I strode by, found in love?

And yet, even the Romans were new to here.

This road, this march, this ribbon of trodden earth has the age of an eon. Ten thousand years. For ten thousand years people have followed the line of the lane, Sneck Yates and the high drove road to the right, skimming the curves of the river Ure. (This river, once called Jor or Yore has gifted (in my opinion), the once capitol of Viking England- Jor-wick. The town on the Jor.)

Marking the way, the old folk left stones. Up on the tops, there’s a long barrow I visit, where rests someone from then. I sit and look out, overdown on this place I call home.

On the route, the Devils Arrows pierce the earth; standing proud, so tall that they hide my shadow when I stand under them. A short walk takes me to Thornborough. The henge there is special. Three henges, linked.

The number 3 is sacred to the people we call Celts. It represents the three-fold marriage of earth, sea and sky. The trinity, so central to Christianity, was taken by St Patrick from the Celts, appropriated as a marriage between the old lore and the new. We keep them still.

On the count of three.

Three is the magic number.

Weave a circle round him thrice.

The stones watch, their inhalations so slow that they barely register the sapling as it grows into a half centuried oak. Do the stones remember the forming? The heat and the flowing?

The worries of a stone are nothing to the earth; the worries of the tree are nothing to the stone; the worries of the man are nothing to the tree. Next time you look; look through the eyes of something older. There may be wisdom. There will certainly be a different perspective.

The road marches on. The river washes stone. Time to look anew.

 

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?

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?