Geopark Poetry Map, NaPoWriMo and More

I have had quite the hiatus from the blog. Initially, I told my Zoom group I was going to take time out in March to write. But actually, life, the universe and everything had other objectives. No worries, I am well. And just a little miffed that some doctor is opining that those who have not had Covid-19 so far have no friends. I certainly have friends – I just know how to interact by socially distanced means and have kept face-to-face interactions rationed. Well, until March anyway. And I am still fine. Just very busy. Also keeping track of those who did get felled by the illness this past month. Moral and spiritual support is a vital ingredient to all truly meaningful friendships. And March has been an intense month on both the macro and micro levels.

So, not a lot of writing done except for some haiku and a speech on UNESCO World Poetry Day when we launched the digital Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark Poetry Map. It was fifteen months in the making and the pandemic offered many challenges but the project is done! You can read and listen to the poems here. Scroll down the Communities page and you will find the link to the Poetry Map. https://cuilcaghlakelands.org/discover-explore/communities/

You can hear how the project grew and developed over that fifteen months in the video of the launch at Cavan Burren Park (yes, we did it outdoors, sheltered but open at two sides to ventilation; nothing, but nothing was going to stop us getting this project launched!) You can also listen to some poets reading their work at the launch in the video..

On the foot of the March 21st UNESCO World Poetry I conducted some haiku walks in the UNESCP Global Geopark with adults and school children.

Adult Gingo (Haiku Walk) for 2022 UNESCO World Poetry Day

For some of those kids it was the first school outing in two years. The Fermanagh primary pupils did nature art with Geopark colleague Julie Armstrong, while the older children wrote haiku poems inspired by the sights seen and touched. They got to run fingers over multi-millenial aged rock art, mosses, lichens, liverwort and lung wort. (The proliferation of the latter near where we live is an indication of our clean air quality, which other doctors reckon might have accounted for our ducking the virus. Also, we have lots of trees. And we garden so our Vit D levels might be good from exposure to sunlight year round. We do SO have friends!) The children were out and about in the fresh air for two hours before heading back to school for the afternoon classroom sessions.

Rock Art at Cavan Burren Park
Tullygobban Lough, formerly a turlough

Peering at Prehistory. View of Calf Hut Dolment
What animal do you see?

And as to that question – and from which side you look at this glacial erratic, you get many opinions. Some see a snake’s head. Others see a cat, but not necessarily the domestic variety. Still others see a frog. Here’s the haiku I wrote with the Tattygar Primary School P5 class.

Limestone tortoise crawls

Slowly – for eternity

Across old sea floor

Bee Smith, 29th March 2022

For the first time in five years I am not doing the write a poem a day challenge for NaPoWriMo. I highly recommend this exercise, but though it feels a bit weird not to participate, it also feels right. It is an intensely busy, as well as an intense time for our planet. There is plenty needs doing in the garden. Also, sometimes you need to let things fester a while before you face the page. The rapid response with a daily poem feels somehow…ill-conceived…for 2022. Certainly this time needs poetry, but it feels, to me at least, that a time of consideration is needed at the inception. A week of playing around with a phrase from the ginko on 19th March wound up as the refrain in a much longer poem written yesterday.

But don’t let that stop you from writing a poem a day this April! Work away!

I am very much enjoying the resumed Zoom creative writing group of about eight women who get together to free-write on themed topics each Saturday afternoon Irish time (though it is 10am for the participants Zooming in from Ottawa and Rhode Island.) The Irish group is also cross-border, with women tuning in from Fermanagh, Leitrim and Cavan. This group has really bonded and feels a very precious part of my life.

See! I do have friends! I just see them on Zoom a lot of the time still.

We Interrupt This…

We have had a series of storms since I last posted. Storm Dudley started six consecutive days of power outages, landline disruption and no mobile signal, since that one was swiftly followed by Storms Eunice and Frederick. Living as we do in a rural outpost of Dowra we are prepared for storms and occasional blackouts, but this winter has been the most challenging power wise. Even the arctic winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 did not pose challenges beyond snow and ice rink roads. Storm Barra was our first blackout, with some water pressure problems ensuing. Though we didn’t have the problems of friends in their eighth decade living further uphill from us who were without power for four days solid. They missed their telly, but coped otherwise. We do. But by the sixth day of random power outages I was certainly feeling a bit frayed at the edges. The prospect of snow overnight had me in full preparation mode, cooking at midday because cooking in twilight even by the glow of a head torch if you do have a gas stove has some challenges.

Sidebar: I never heard thundersnow and saw lightning in winter until I moved to Ireland. Don’t know if it is a unique weather feature to this island. Certainly the high winds are not unique and are the culprit for the power outs.

At any rate, in between blessing the Electricity Board crews and Eir phone repair people shinning up telephone poles in winds in excess of 43kph, my friend from South Africa reminded me that random daily power outs are what Johannesburg experiences all the time. So…counting my blessings even if I do feel a bit frazzled.

I was ringing the Electricity Fault Line so often my husband said that we have a t-shirt made for me emblazoned with the slogan “I am part of a known fault!”

But these interruptions are mere irritations when compared with the storms that have loomed on the international stage. But the experiences of the past ten days or so did give rise to certain reflections.

How to Undermine

Harry people until the unpredictability-
the routine dropped, changed priorities
diverting and disrupting-
unmoors them 
from the margins 
guard-railing their life.

Steal the sense of control 
over the small details that are
the adhesive tape holding the day together.
The day has got away from you,
hi-jacked, held hostage,
lost.

Make them feel robbed,
that the mortgage on life
has been foreclosed,
which is not fair.
It was supposed to be fair.
It was supposed to be fair!

Induce vertigo. Say that
the poles are switched, the globe’s axis
shifted, and everything is
falling, 
especially the stomach.

Nothing 
is completely recognisable.
The labels’ meaning has 
reversed, so
you question that you have
properly understood.
Surely not, but…


Deny access to the mother lode.
When there is a cave in
say it was their own fault,
they had it coming.
Leave them believing lies.

The Slow Accretion of Light

We have passed the midpoint between Yule, Winter Solstice, and the Vernal Equinox at Spring. In Ireland the month of February is Imbolc, meaning in the belly. Despite the fact that we have had hail stones hurled at us and sleet falling since St. Brigid’s Day on February 1st, the earth’s belly is quickening. I flicked the gardening calendar over and found that this month I can sow parsnip seeds. We are figuring out what surfaces can be cleared for seed incubating. Slowly, slowly, we notice that sunset is getting later and day break is less smudgy. Slowly, tentatively, we emerge from hibernation and isolation. The first snowdrop appeared just days before St. Brigid’s feast day in our garden for the first time in years. Normally, it would be another couple weeks before the snowdrops showed up.

I have written many poems inspired by St. Brigid and by the goddess who gave her name and many of her matronages to her over the years. Patricia Monaghan has written of the goddess Brighid as emblematic of survival. Along with Mary the mother of Jesus, St. Brigid is the relic of the cults of the divine feminine that simply would not disappear no matter how hard patriarchy tried to disappear Her. While Brighid is a fertility goddess of abundance She handed on her sacred association with poetry and song making, smith craft and healing to St. Brigid who moved with the times generation upon generation. The fertility preferment made Brigid the patron (matron?) saint not just of mothers, infants and midwives, but of dairy maids, butter and cheese making, and the protector of lactating animals – cows, ewes and nanny goats. She also gathered in poultry and egg sellers. The corn sheaves were symbolic of the abundant harvest at Lunasa in pre-Christian Ireland. With Christianity, the four legged St. Brigid’s cross made of humble rushes became more popular than corn dolly making. (though that craft is not completely extinct.) The corn dollies can become life-size has mummers don extraordinary straw woven hats, masks and outfits to stroll as Biddy’s Boys. That custom has died out in most of Ireland, but County Kerry has had a resurgence in the 21st century Imbolc celebrations.

Both the goddess and saint are beside blacksmith’s forge fire, hammer and anvil. Whether you are a blacksmith who works with iron, tinsmith, or a jewellery maker working in any other metal, the goddess and saint are with you and your craft. Likewise, poetry and song makers, harpers and writers can apply to both. The sacred, spring fed holy wells that are associated with cures of various ailments are also associated with both the deity and saint. But given that vision and prophecy are key elements to both, wells that have the cure for the eye are particularly under their care.

You can see where this is going. Basically, St. Brigid is for everyone whether you are seeking justice at the Bridewell court or are incarcerated in a Bridewell gaol. Several English cities still have law courts or police stations with the name Bridewell, notably Leeds Crown Court and London. The Irish Travelling community hold St. Brigid particularly dear. In the 1990s the Irish peace and reconciliation organisation AFRI held a conference where one Brigiding nun, reignited St. Brigid’s Eternal Flame in Kildare Town. And, yes, you can see the remains of the pagan fire temple of the goddess where 19 priestesses tended this eternal flame. Whereas after founding her abbey in Kildare, 19 nuns did the flame keeping.

Fisherfolk come under her care, too. When Ireland was about to have Russian war games start in our economic zone start on 1st February I almost felt sorry for them. The Cork fishing fleet was intent on going out and interfere with anyone who was interfering with their livelihoods. This was all supposed to kick off on St. Brigid’s Day and those who farm in the sea are dear to her. And she was allegedly a very cunning negotiator with those in power in her time. They never came off looking good or gaining anything. She heard our prayers and the Russian navy did not play war games in our waters.

As you can see, adaptation and moving with the changing times has been part of Brighid’s strategy for surviving, and becoming ever more relevant, in the 21st century. All those plants and flowers make her a Climate Change Saint I reckon – the oak, feverfew, the dandelion, the bee who pollinates.

If you would like to learn more about various traditions and associations with the goddess and saint, I invite you to scroll back to past January and February posts on this blog. Google Sojourning Smith St. Brigid and you will find lots of posts.

After my own hibernation this past month I can confirm that I have been writing, just not posting. This felt very restful. But I felt spurred to post today after last week’s modest Brigid’s Day festivities were over. I read two poems on John Wilmotts Nature Folkways yesterday if you would like to listen.

The various animals associated with St. Brigid or the goddess are many and various. This year’s Imbolc poem celebrates some of them.

Bear, Swan, Cow and Calf


		1
Bear bones buried in pre-history’s caves.
Mama licked her cub, giving it its shape.
Devotion her art, giving her infant
the strength from her mighty beating heart. 

		2
Each winter the whoopers return to Lough Moneen,
swan’s down littering lough’s verge,
their harsh honking a joyful noise, their flight
a confident formation, each knowing their place
in the scheme of things.

		3
The cow keens in the pasture,
her calf sold off. This one would never
find the kine to offer strangers a third milking
in a single day. Her mourning echoes
round the townland.
A child is given, lives by your side,
sucking, grazing, lying by your side.
A child is given. It grows. It goes away.
A cow keens for her calf lest we forget
how.

		4
The fox flicked its tail. It danced a few tricks.
It kept the King happy enough before
the fox flicked itself again. And disappeared
right under the hedge. Gone.
King out-foxed. Again.
Timing. Everything. All. 
We wild things.

		5
In the islands of Skye, Lewes and Uist
they say that it was a seal swimming out to sea 
and the oystercatcher flying above the waves
that acted as pages for St. Brigid’s mortal remains
when the angels carried her beyond
the Ninth Wave, out of sight
until there was just a shimmering
of her at the turn of the tide.

		6
Once
a  white bird singed its feathers when it flew
too close to the smithy’s forge.
It flew out black as the anvil,
its golden beak ember bright.
Only its song remained the same.

A blackbird visits my garden.
It has two white spots either side of its beak.
Those were the feathers spared the flame,
the badge of what it once was until
the forge made it what it became
what it is now.

I hope that this slow accretion of light bring you new opportunities, projects, or people who come to inspire you and blow the fresh winds of spring through your life.

Time for Hibernation

It may seem counter intuitive to many people, but the Yuletide season is one where I deeply yearn retreat. I don’t want to be wildly social. I want to burrow in and read, write, dream, and eat lovely food. The hibernation instinct turns out to be a clever strategy while Omicron is rampaging around the island of Ireland. I promised myself a full Twelve Days of Christmas of down time, but I was itching to get back to the blog.

What I have been doing during my winter’s hibernation is observing the Omen Days with writing a haiku or poem each morning and some meditation time. I was really craving time to withdraw the way some people jones for mince pies. I have kept the profile low for most of these Omen Days. In the background, friends and family have had illness to contend with, or a bereavement, but also the jubiliation with the birth of a new grandbaby.

Uncertainty, sorrow, joy. All of these have played a part of the Twelve Days of Christmas that make up the Omen Days this Yule season. Each is a thread pulling through each and every year. Amidst so much change, these three are constant themes – uncertainty, sorrow, joy.

I have lit many candles and silently sent out many wishes, prayers and intentions during this time of quiet. This is how I fill the well and replenish myself.

The poem I will kick off 2022 on the blog was written on St. Stephen’s Day. I read it on John Wilmott’s Nature Folklore You Tube channel that very afternoon. Day One of the Omen Days there was my Hibernation celebration. No need for first footing, wassailing or any thing other than quiet and a feeling of deep, restful peace.

Bee Smith reads her poem Hibernation on this show
Hibernation

Some mornings in winter
the stillness covers you right up
to your chin,

a comforter, a weighted blanket
tucking up in, persuading 
you to stay.

There is nothing to do or be
or review, Just moments ticking, nothing
to foresee.

Some mornings in winter
when dawn is dusky and long
a key turns

in memory and your warm bed
allows your head to entertain
old stories,

not od demons or dangers, but
softer imaginings - legions of
friends who love

and know how to play - nicely -
as your mother would say,
and it's safe

in this stillness, that memory
of snow, piled blankets, the warmth of
winter's sleep.

The featured photo today is of our rescue dog who arrived this day eleven years ago to his forever home. He can teach me a lot about the value of hibernating.

Also, my parents were married this day seventy-five years ago, too.

The sun is shining and it is very cold for the first time this winter.

It felt like the time to break out a little from my self-imposed hibernation had come.

My word of the Year for 2022 is Joy. I wish you an yours much joy this New Year.

The Octogram of Joy

This is a very, very late post. But after our session I was filled with a flurry of joy making activities; Christmas crafting (masked indoors, and very well spaced), foraging for holly and ivy, weaving willow into a wreath, writing cards, wrapping parcels, mailing both, decking the house out with more and more strings of light. And then the husband and I spent a mild morning putting Christmas lights onto the new garden shed. The shed is a major delight of this pandemic year and was facilitated by our new neighbour, which makes it all the more sweet. Joy is, as I often think, found in the small details that then expand, growing larger and larger. At any rate, I have been wearing a foolish grin all week. The cherry on the sundae of the week was a brief visit from a young relative with her new beau. Even with windows open and masked pandemic hugs it almost felt like Christmas and was certain cause for joy.

The Garden Shed resplendent and festive

Needless to say, blogging and other writing has been left to the weekend.

The Weekly Poem, and a source of joy and amusement, is inspired by the backwash from Storm Barra.

Shelter

Here I am Sunday morning, bathrobed and slippered,
padding outdoors in a midwinter
charcoal drawn dawn

bearing breakfast for the boarders
who blew in on Storm Barra's
Big Wind

a young mum and her kitten
sheltering here, emerging after the storm
feather light, hungry

volubly so,
pathetically pleading
meow - ow- ow-ing so...

Squatting in our cat kennel
on old Guardians and straw
clearly stating

the obvious, the necessary answer.
With cats, as with humans
community is no easy task.

We need two more like the proverbial no less.
We chip away with milk and meat though,
lecturing on fellowship

that we serve up with treats -
for our own sakes
as much as theirs.

Doorsteps 
are good places
to start giving.

Shelters
may
lead you home.


I know that this Sunday is for peace. But the joy was so overflowing I had to share even if belated.

We are having our last session of Writing the Light in the Season of Darkness today and this group – including Canadians, an American, a Yorkshire woman, and Cavan and Leitrim Irish residents – has been a wonderful opportunity to develop soul friendships. In Ireland we call that Anam Cara. I am blessed with so many soul friends. They are a great source of joy and buoyancy for which I am very grateful.

Powering Down and the Octogram of Love

The weekly poem and blog is very late this week. Blame it on Storm Barra. Since Monday we have had intermittant power outages, some as long as ten hours or more. We have an electric power shower and I was feeling full of gratitude this morning for hot water without the fear of a sudden drench of cold water. At one point we were out of power (and wifi goes with it), landline and no service on the mobile. But we live in the country. We adapt. We have a log burner. We have a bottled gas cooker. A You Tube hack that says tea lights on a metal pie plate with a terracotta flower pot over them will generate heat – it works! So what I have been experiencing most of all this week is gratitude. Also, we had a lot of strings of battery powered Christmas lights on hand…

In our Sunday “Writing the Light in the Season of Darkness” we had a prompt using the Octogram of Love. From this I raised what the ancient Greeks defined as the eight varieties of love: eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendship), ludos (playful love), agape (love for everyone), pragma ( longstanding love), philautia (love of self), storge (family love) and mania (obsessive love). We had a lively debate on the limits of this definition. Where is love of the natural world? Where is the line between self-love and nacisissm? And is romantic love a purely modern addition, because it is not just sexual passion or obsession argued one of the participants.

One of the revelations of the power outages was my intense gratitude for powering down. We kept indoors with our tribe of fur persons. We managed to keep warm and well fed. I read a novel by head torch. I cooked soup and stew on the gas hob. There was no background electric hum of appliances. There was no news except that brought by the wind howling and the rain lashing. We were a safe island in the chaos of Storm Barra.

But I am, of course, very grateful to be able to connect with the world again. I am grateful for clean hair and the blow drier. But what I realised was that ‘powering down’ for a couple of days is an exercise in love of self. I needed to unplug from ‘stuff’ a bit more, that nervy background humming of electronic devices and anxiety inducing world news. Actually, even as the wind howls and rain pours if we hunker down in the silence, we are okay. And, I feel recharged. Or, perhaps more accurately, more centred.

The Weekly Poem is one that came out of my recent Saturday Zoom session with wintering out Word Alchemists. In a way, I hope it redresses the lack of a catagory for nature love in the octogram of love.

Wreath

Tis the season to deck halls and wreath
our homes and hearth with mirth, the keeps with peace.

Tis the season to circle with a wide smile,
to not let the holly prickle, not even a little.

Tis the season to let fir boughs wave and tickle
everybody's joy bone, to chuckle and even cackle.

Tis the season to crown with lit candles,
to St. Lucy's parade, for the empty manger cradle.

Tis the season to pause, to watch the dark beneath,
to circle together, as we each weave a wreath.

And yes, those strings of battery Christmas lights were wound around wreaths this past couple of days and illuminated the perpetual dusk of our midwinter gloom.

Featured Image Photo by Sebastian Fröhlich on Unsplash

Weekly Poem: Of Octograms, Anchors and Hope

The first Zoom of the “Writing the Light in the Season of Darkness” sessions began this past Sunday. It coincided with the first day of the eight day Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the first Sunday of Christian Advent. I was looking at stars, (being bodies of light) and stumbled upon the Octogram, an eight pointed star that seems to have worked its way into just about every religious (and secular) tradition you could imagine. It figures into Goddess spirituality as the Star of Ishtar and Hinduism as the Star of Lakshmi. It appears in Judeo-Christiantradition as the Star of the Magi and kabbalah, and symbolises Islam in the character Rub el Hizb. Buddhists use it to represent the Eightfold Path of the Buddha. Michael Moorcock designated it the Chaos Star and I found an obscure reference to it as The Warrior Star. But to Native Americans an octogram signifies Hope. And hope was the theme for our writing prompts this past Sunday.

Coincidentally, there are eight women who signed on for this Zoom workshop, too! So athe group is also an octogram.

We started with some of the usual symbols of hope as prompts: anchors, rainbows, birch trees, butterflies, as well as that old Emily Dickinson chestnut “Hope…that thing with feathers…” (There was some rebellion in the Zoom Room as a few took exception with Emily, especially since one of our number had just been nipped by her parrot!)

I played around with a few things but what challenged me was that phrase “Warrior Star” and how it connects to Hope. Mostly because I resisted the idea of yoking hope and warrior…but poety is the path of surprise and this is where it led me.

Maybe Hope

Maybe hope is what keeps you fighting your corner...
Maybe hope is the courage that anchors...
Maybe hope is what never shall be moved...
Maybe hope is the motor of survival...
Maybe hope is the highest stake against high roller odds...
Maybe hope is the adreneline rush  with the pay off...
Maybe hope is the warrior that wears wings...

What is hope to you? An anchor, a butterfly, a rainbow, a thing with feathers, a tree? Can you write eight things, people or events that fill you with hope? Light a candle to them.

Featured image this week is Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Thanksgiving Grace and Gratitude

It’s been forty years since I left the motherland and I have only partaken of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey celebration meal a couple handful of times over those decades. Sometimes I travelled back to family. At other times, I celebrated with other ex-patriots in England or Ireland. This does not, however, prevent me from contemplating gratitude on an annual basis. That is bone marrow deep. I don’t miss football games, parades, marathons or anxiety over gravy making. But my husband has often commented that having an annual day for gratitude is A Good Thing. So this morning, instead of making stuffing and pumpkin pie in preparation for the Great Feast tomorrow, I contemplated current events and gratitude…and the state of grace.

I write in Ireland when the L word has not been spoken, but rising infection rates are causing government to somberly talk of ‘extra measures’ and a plea for office workers to go back to working from home. With the riots against increased Covid restrictions across the continent this past weekend they are taking a softly-softly approach. Now Northern Ireland is also asking folk to work at home…but humans are social animals and after so much isolation they appear reluctant to give up on their face-to-face life. And, it has to be admitted, the seclusion and isolation has had a big impact on the collective mental and physical health. High Covid infection means elective and non-urgent procedures get delayed. For want of ICU beds a cancer patient’s delayed surgery may mean they get a terminal sentence.

Ireland has reportedly one of the highest take up rates of the vaccine available to eligible people. But the vaccine is no silver bullet to this viruses. Keeping our distance and wearing masks indoors is going to have to be a feature of our lives for some time to come.

Everything takes four times as long to get accomplished under Covid measures. Everyone is frustrated and sometimes that bubbles over into anger. No one is immune from this pandemic symptom. I suspect even saints are having a hard time of it these days to hang on to their haloes.

The great themes of 2021 have been Safety and Liberty. We have seen time and again great migrations of people fleeing war, civil unrest, the threat of gang rape, torture and death. Who can blame a family for taking to the road in the hope that they have a better chance of surviving. They seek a place of safety. Just as those of us in our various Lockdowns tell others in virtual messages to ‘Stay Safe.’ We do not just want to stay well., we want to stay alive from a virus stalking the globe.

On the other hand, there are the ones I think of as the Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry Brigade. Yes, civil liberties are under threat. But, for the time being, the virus is winning the Four Horseman of the Acopalyse Steeple Chase. Medical staff are quitting because the stress of dealing with this virus has stretched human and institution to snapping point. Even if the virus does not kill you, whether you choose to vaccinate or not, the more freely and widely we mingle we may asymptomatically spread it and unwittingly harm someone. That is a huge responsibility. We may hold the fate of a stranger in a breath we exhale.

Little wonder we are anxious…

Who is not vexed to the point of exhaustion with not seeing loved ones, or having a celebration with more than a handful of people, with the one with the cold masked in the corner. Love now comes with a health and safety risk assessment attached it seems. How much have we mingled before meeting indoors? Who does not want to hug? How many lateral flow tests can you do before your sinuses rebel? How many lockdowns before the economy, if not the health service, falls down?

My Thanksgiving meditations swung from the collective energy around to St. Brigid (random, I know!) and then it settled upon grace.

Gratitude and Grace

The grace for the bread we break.
The grace of the friendships we shape.
The grace of time to create.
The grace of the lucky escape.

The grace when we first awake.
The grace with fading heart ache.
The grace to hold and contain.
The grace, feather light, unexplained.

To partake. To not forsake. To sustain.
Just the same, grace and gratitude remain.



I wish you grace and its filling joy thi Thanksgiving.

Weekly Poem – We Need the Eggs

How are you doing? There are solar flares and who knows what else out there wrecking havoc. It has been a week of multiple frustrations. One step forward and two, sometimes three or more steps back This week the car battery became as extinct as the dodo. The oven door fell off and smashed to smithereens. It felt like a good metaphor for my state of being. My nervous system feels hyperstimulated; to ground myself I am doing hand work. I darned my husband’s gardening jumper. I ordered more wool for a knitting project. An Post virtually teleported it to me so I began last night. Pity the courier has lost my new boots into some black hole somewhere in Ireland since 25th October.

Enough of my kvetching! I also started some deep breathing exercises and saying my gratitudes out loud. Gratitude is not just about being thankful that bad things have not befallen you by comparing yourself to others’ troubles. (Although that may be gratitude’s warm up act some weeks.) It is about the basic wonderful things. My husband is often vocally grateful for his electric tooth brush.

One of the wonderful things this week was appearing on John Wilmott’s Nature Folklore channel. I read the poem that appeared in last week’s blog. I also got to see my friend Suzy Venuta, who was coming into the studio from British Columbia. If you would like to listen in here is the link:

In which I read the poem Silence and Juice

If you listen in you will get a snippet of update on the Geopark Poetry Map project and a Zoom online writing workshop I am leading each Sunday from 28th November to 21st December, “Writing the Light in a Time of Darkness.” Message me your email address if you are interested.(DM on Twitter @irishblessingst). Also (Spoiler Alert!) Suzy aced the audition for TedX Surrey! YAY! Watch this space. She has amazing stage presence and authenticity. Shout out for her blog https://www.suzannevenuta.com/

Part of our conversation on the show was ‘where do you get your inspiration for a poem?’ I partially answered that question, but I can speak directly here to what sparked this week’s poem. It is related to the hand work I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Somehow, I fell heiress to my mother’s wooden darning egg. She showed me how to use it once, but I grew up during the peak polyester decades, so did not have much opportunity to practice. But the darning egg as an objet d’art appealed to me as a thing of beauty. With a move to Britain and Ireland where woolen sweaters are very useful garments, the darning lesson came in handy.

My Mother’s Darning Egg

Here is the hole that made a moth’s feast.
Here is the tear from some careless wear.

Here is the needle trailing its tail.
Take the darning egg. Tackle the beast.

Here. In. Out. And over. And under.
Here. Trace your way back home again.

Here’s where the heart is frazzled and frayed.
Here’s where rent garments are cherished, saved.

Here is the way to weave in and out.
Here is the hole we mend, in and out.

Here’s where we hide what's been torn open.
Secrets escaping, into the open.

Here is the egg that once hatched a moth.
Here is the needle that pieces wrath.

Here is the old that looks lightly new.
Here’s the pattern in fabric renewed.

Here is the egg that opens the hole.
Here is the egg that mends and makes whole.

When I Am Not Writing I Am Writing

Samhain season is here. The clocks have fallen back in Europe and North America. This is the season of the Cailleach (sounds like call-yuck). She is the Old ‘Un, considered the creatrix of the island of Ireland. The myth says that this Mother Winter piled stone upon stone to create this island in the North Atlantic. While autumn temperatures are still nmild here, and the Virginia creeper was slow to turn crimson, the darkness has crept in. I want to be a bear and sleep in my den. Maybe that has to do with solar flares, or the clock time shifting around, or the darkness that requires artificial light in at least some corners of the house all day. How did they cope before electrification? Most any time of the day requires some extra light for reading or writing or any close work…

While not ascribing to writer’s block, I do believe there are creative lulls. Sometimes it just needs to be pen down. Meanwhile, I have hoked out bag after bag of comfrey root before dibbing in many kilos of narcissus bulbs to naturalise. I also felt an urge to make an effigy of the Cailleach. Tis her season after all! And then I still had some wool and made her a Wyrd Little Sister. Or Maid. Or Assistant in the creation of the world. While the Wyrd Sister has the button face that many folk Bridéogs have had, I really felt that the Cailleach needed a blank face…sort of like Original Face, since she is Origin. I also found a piece of felled tree branch that works as a stick for her to lean on and into the winter gales. She is a giantess and the Wryd Little Sister is considerably smaller even with her bending into the wind. They have stones in their aprons in accordance with some legends and stones at their feet as they empty load upon load. Creation begins…over and over.

Which really does prove that putting tools down and getting away from the screen or the page can fuel your creativity. Sometimes, some other creative activity will fill your well. I play with wool, collage, cook, bake; I specialise in garden demolition work! The words will come eventually, but first I need to shush the mind chatter and emotional whirlwinds. I need the silence. Perhaps silence is the writer’s equivalent tool to an artist using chiaroscuro in a painting. Silence helps delineate the light and shadow.

Onward to the Weekly Poem in its infant form… It arises from a interrogating myself on what do I want and need to myself at this Samhain time.

Silence and Juice

I want more...
silence to quell the deep uncertainty out there beyond
our small sanctuary of green beginning to sleep,
beds caped against frost, for the frost will come,
it will bite, it will bleed the juice from the comfrey
that will wilt and blacken and lie flat
down on the ground, macerating.

I want
some of that juice. Let it flow.
Let it allow something new to grow.
Let it be strong and useful and somehow
even a little bit beautiful.

I need some of that juice from the get go.
Also
deep sleep, like some bear in its winter lair.
I need this darkness
though some may feel despair...

There is the soft heart beat
of seeds waiting for more light, 
for more warmth,
for some water and some wind,
some thing...

I need to just put my ear to the ground
counting earth's twenty-three beats per minute
even in the winter,
even in the dark,
even in the cold.

I want silence for myself, but I need the beat.
I want the beat for myself in the silence.
I need the silence to hear the beat.
I need the beat to soften the silence.

I need to trust the unexpected.
I want to pay the price of all with my all.

If you need a little light in the season of darkness I am going to be conducting some Sunday Zoom reflective writing sessions from the first night of the Festival of Light, Hanukah, until Winter Solstice on 21st December. Because this is a spendy time of year I am only requesting a donation, pay what you are able. Sometimes you just need to have a lighthouse in your living/dining room and beam it out so others don’t run aground. Message me if you are interested in joining.