Friday, 22 November 2019

Grey Areas

                                                     Grey Glove on Manhattan Sidewalk
                                             

Some time ago a friend gave me a copy of  Han Kang’s “The White Book”, described as “a lyrical and disquieting exploration of personal grief through the prism of the colour white”. I had  enjoyed reading the book and engaging with Kang's unique explorations of the colour white and so I suggested to my writing group that as our next project, we could each choose a colour and, over the course of six weeks, make our own explorations of our chosen colour.

The colour I chose was grey - a favourite colour of mine. I began by mapping the associations that came to mind from thinking about the colour. I then turned these ideas into a list poem which in turn became the focus of further exploration.

Grey
Rhondda Grey
River grey
Rain
Rain
Rain

Clouds
Mist
Shadows

Webs
Eyes
Hair

Jets
Warships
Doves

Bedroom Paint
School Uniform

Slate
Squirrels
Scans

Grey Areas
Grey Matter
Grey Mare

Moth
Mouse
Moon Rocks

Grey Sidewalk
Grey Glove
Grey feather

Sloughed Snakeskin

Vacuum Cleaner Hose



Tuesday, 25 June 2019

"Across the Evening Sky..."

                                                           "Waiting for the Light"

I spent solstice with friends - two leggeds and four leggeds. We took a picnic down onto the beach that looked across the estuary to Ynys. The sky was reflected in the water and the water reflected our personal ebbing and flowing. We celebrate the longest day, knowing that the light will be less as we turn again on our axis. And we are constantly turning there, each on the pivot of our own axis. There will be goings and comings as some prepare to leave and others return home.

Dusk fell as the swifts swooped and rose again and again above us. Their lively energy felt like a thread that was weaving us together as friends - right there, right then.

We walked through the lanes to the highest point on the hill and watched darkness fall across the last pink of the setting sun. The sea was still and the harbour lights lit up one by one, like tiny beacons of hope. I thought of the song "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?"

"Sad deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it's time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it's time to go
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?"

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Pascal's Coat

 


The image above is a painting by Rene Magritte called "Pascal's Coat". At the age of 31, the  famous mathematician and scientist, Blaise Pascal is reputed to have experienced an intense spiritual vision. He recorded this vision on parchment which he then sewed into the lining of his coat. He secreted this note in each of his subsequent coats until the parchment was found after his death by a servant who, noticing the unexplained bulk in the final coat, undid the lining. Pascal's "Night of Fire" was a time of personal transformation, and he obviously went to great effort to keep the memory of it in close proximity for the remainder of his life.

The poet Jorie Graham has written a long poem called "Le Manteau De Pascal". Both the poem and the image appeal to my love of poetry and art, and the genre of Ekphrastic writing. This line resonates in relation to that genre - "You do understanding, don't you, by looking?"

Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the image and the poem in my own writing.

Here are some extracts from her poem:

.

"I have a coat I am wearing. It is a fine admixture.
The woman who threw the threads in the two directions
has made, skillfully, something dark-true,
as the evening calls the bird up into
the branches of the shaven hedgerows,
to twitter bodily
a makeshift coat - the box elder cut back stringently by the owner
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know - "


"You do understanding, don't you, by looking?
The coat, which is itself a ramification, a city
floats vulnerably above another city, ours,
the city on the hill (only with hill gone),
floats in illustration
of what once was believed, and thus was visible -
(all things believed are visible)
floats a Jacob's ladder with hovering empty arms, an open throat,
a place where a heart might beat if it wishes,
pockets that hang awaiting the sandy whirr of a small secret,
folds where the legs could be, with their kneeling mechanism,
the floating fatigue of an after-dinner herald,
not guilty of any treason towards life except fatigue,
a skillfully cut coat, without chronology,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed —
as then it is, abruptly, the last stitch laid in, the knot bit off —
hung there in Gravity, as if its innermost desire,
numberless the awaitings flickering around it,
the other created things also floating but not of the same order, no,
not like this form, built so perfectly to mantle the body,
the neck like a vase awaiting its cut flower,
a skirting barely visible where the tucks indicate
the mild loss of bearing in the small of the back,
the grammar, so strict, of the two exact shoulders —
and the law of the shouldering —
and the chill allowed to skitter up through,
and those crucial spots where the fit cannot be perfect —
oh skirted loosening aswarm with lessenings,
with the mild pallors of unaccomplishment,
flaps night-air collects in,
folds... But the night does not annul its belief in,
the night preserves its love for, this one narrowing of infinity,
that floats up into the royal starpocked blue its ripped, distracted supervisor —
this coat awaiting recollection,
this coat awaiting the fleeting moment, the true moment, the hill,the vision of the hill,
and then the moment when the prize is lost, and the erotic tinglings of the dream of reason
are left to linger mildly in the weave of the fabric according to the rules,
the wool gabardine mix, with its grammatical weave,
never never destined to lose its elasticity,
its openness to abandonment,
its willingness to be disturbed."


"How many coats do you think it will take?

The coat was a great-coat.

The Emperor's coat was.

How many coats do you think it will take?

The undercoat is dry. What we now want is?

The sky can analyse the coat because of the rips in it.

The sky shivers through the coat because of the rips in it.

The rips in the sky ripen through the rips in the coat.

There is no quarrel.



I have put on my doubting, my wager, it is cold.
It is an outer garment, or, conversely a natural covering,
so coarse and woolen, also of unknown origin,
a barely apprehensible dilution of evening into
an outer garment, or, conversely a natural covering,
to twitter bodily a makeshift coat,
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know,
not shade-giving, not chronological,
my name being called out now but from out back, behind,
an outer garment, so coarse and woolen,
also of unknown origin, not shade-giving, not chronological,
each harm with its planeloads folded up in the sleeves,
you do understand, don't you, by looking?
the jacob's ladder with its floating arms its open throat,
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
the other created things also floating but not of the same order,
not shade-giving, not chronological,
you do understand, don't you, by looking?
a neck like a vase awaiting its cut flower,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
the moment the prize is lost, the erotic tingling,
the wool-gabardine mix, its grammatical weave
— you do understand, don't you, by looking? —
never never destined to lose its elasticity,
it was this night I believe but possibly the next
I saw clearly the impossibility of staying
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
also of unknown origin, not shade-giving, not chronological
since the normal growth of boughs is radiating
a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve pieces —
never never destined to lose its elasticity
my name being called out now but back, behind,
hissing how many coats do you think it will take
"or try with eyesight to divide" (there is no quarrel)
behind everything the sound of something dripping
a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve pieces
filled with the sensation of suddenly being completed
the wool gabardine mix, the grammatical weave,
the never-never-to-lose-its-elasticity: my name
flapping in the wind like the first note of my absence
hissing how many coats do you think it will take
are you a test case is it an emergency
flapping in the wind the first note of something
overheard nearby an impermanence of structure
watching the lip-reading, there is no quarrel,
I will vanish, others will come here, what is that,
never never to lose the sensation of suddenly being
completed in the wind — the first note of our quarrel —
it was this night I believe or possibly the next
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
I will vanish, others will come here, what is that now
floating in the air before us with stars a test case
that I saw clearly the impossibility of staying."


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Writing in Nature at Coed Aberneint



I belong to a small writers' group who meet regularly. Today we went to Coed Aberneint and did a circular walk, stopping at three locations to write - observing and reflecting for ten minutes each time.

Stop One
There’s a skill to being able to silence the heart and mind in the midst of turmoil, in extremes, like Primo Levi. Some psyches seem more capable of surviving- not quite intact but not completely dismantled either. The persistence of a chainsaw and birdsong dissecting the air. I’d like to pare back, to let the light in on what I love. To take time to notice what matters, to heal with the felled trees and fallen birds.

Stop Two
Beneath an oak tree. Reminded of a conversation about non native trees being “wrong”. What is rootedness? Some things survive and thrive so well out of place. What takes root and what gets blown by the wind? Dispersal, upheaval, displacement. And the wind is up now making all of that possible if not preferable. It seems we survive in such small margins of error. Birds fly over. I think of the solitary curlew that accompanied me across alien moors - the peat paths and granite boulders. The curlew calling was a constant. It sounded like my heart keening.

Stop Three
Waterfall. Water falling. The force of water on the move. It finds its ways through fissures, around stones and drops into itself over the edge. The insistence of it beats into the blood. It carries the fallen along without discernment, sprays upwards on the wind. Where is its source, where is its release? Following streams off mountains in mist. Rowan trees seeded along their sides, their berries blood red. Listening now to what the river says. Feeling more found than lost.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Awakening the Bear



I was talking with a friend a while ago about how difficult a month January can be.She called it an inward time, and said she felt like the last of the Mohicans. I found this an interesting analogy. What might a last Mohican feel like?

On Christmas Eve in 1995 my father and I had watched the film together. My mother was in Velindre Hospital having a blood transfusion. She came home a few days later but died the following March. I had stayed with her the final three days and on the morning she died I drove home listening to the film's theme tune - "No Matter Where You Go I Will Find You". I wanted some magical thinking to help bear the terrible loss, despair and feeling of isolation.

I have been thinking how best to negotiate January? Perhaps to see it as a time of reflection and preparation. In Bear Medicine, hibernation or The Great Sleep is regarded as a time of introspection and restoration, through to re-emergence.

 In his poem "Sweet Darkness", David Whyte explores the positive possibilities of going into the dark, where "The night will give you a horizon/Further than you can see". When light and energy are low, l can reference both the song and the poem as a way of affirming my connection with my essential self - until the Bear awakens.





Monday, 9 October 2017

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

"Come", "Stay", "Ouch"


"Come"
"Stay"
"Ouch"

This is the dialogue between ET and his young friend just before ET gets onto the spaceship that has come to take him back home. I always find it extremely moving to witness the acute pain felt  by these two beings who have bonded so deeply and are now having to part.

This morning, for the first time ever, Nel, my aged border collie, pulled back on her lead - reluctant to come with me on a short morning run in the forest where we live. She had shown her usual excitement at the start and had come with me for about half a mile. I put the lead on her now because as she is almost blind she often stops to take in smells and if I run on a little way without  her, she becomes confused. So we start with the lead on until she gets into a rhythm.

Her reluctance to come with me was a shock but not really a surprise. Witnessing a dog grow old is like a kind of death by a thousand cuts. I am so grateful that she had lived this length of time - she will be fourteen in February - but a dog's life is relatively short and certainly never long enough.

Nel was adopted when she was a year old, from a dog rescue centre that thought euthanasia was going to be the only option because she was so badly traumatised. We have been running in the forest together for thirteen years. I have been blessed with every step that we've shared.

Maybe tomorrow she'll feel differently but today it feels like -
"Come"
"Stay"
and most definitely
'Ouch".