Native Americans and First Nations Peoples give each full moon a descriptive name. It is what is supposed to be happening in the natural world during that lunation and the full moon spotlights it. Some call this the Barley Moon since that grain harvest coincides with the August full moon. Sturgeon Moon is appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, but here in my corner of Ireland Sunflower Moon is more appropriate. The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Lion’s Den’, but all the various solar associations came tumbling out. The astrological sign of Leo is ruled by the sun. So the zodiac’s Lion recalls all manner of potential subjects- royality, gold, drama , lion heart and Cowardly Lion. Since the full moon was only yesterday and is still bright, I decided that the Poetry Daily needed to celebrate the Sunflower Moon.
As a side note. this month has had loads of solar flares. Apparently, at least according to astrologer Pam Gregory, these can either knock you out or make you buzzy. I am on the knocked out end of the spectrum. But my dreams are more vivid than usual. So I kept the writing practice short and sweet this morning.
The blackberries aren't ripe yet, the bilberries nearly all gone. This full moon the sunflowers stand erect, even as the rain pounds down. The meteor showers have shot past. The solar flares wear me out. The sunflowers still stand proud, their spiral smiles encourage us to be of stout heart.
Mountain High and River Deep is the theme for Day 15 of the #30DaysOf SummerWritingChallenge, the writing prompts that are helping me get over the 365 day marathon of the Poetry Daily. The finish line is September 14th, 2019. August 15th is also the Catholic feast of Maria Assunta, when Mother Mary is believed to have ascended bodily into heaven. Coincidentally, it is also the third anniversary of our cat Zymina crossing Pet Rainbow Bridge. She is buried under a little cairn in the garden she loved.
The mountain prompt and the pet cairn reminded how we have a rank of mountains (well glorified hills, but they are OUR mountains) that have cairns on top of them. Knockninny in Fermanagh is farthest east. Then there is my local Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the Cavan-Fermanagh border. Travelling west, Benbo in Leitrim has a cairn, too. Then as you reach the Atlantic coast in Sligo, the cairn or all cairns, Queen Maeve’s tomb on Knocknarea.
Cairns, while looking like a just another pile of stones, were the earliest tombs (along with modified glacial erratics that stored cremated remains. In Cavan Burren Forest there is, deep in the woods, a Cairn Dolmen. Layer upon layer of archaelogy and pre-history is literally present. Dolmens, the first of the megalithic tombs, succeeded the cairns and modified glacial erratic as sacred places associated with death rites.
So the Poetry Daily is just concentrating on mountains today. The highest one locally is Cuilcagh, at 666 metres. It has a cairn on top, which can be reached by the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ that helps very sturdy tourists mount to its summitr from the Fermanagh side. But please, leave no trace! Would you leave a plastic bottle at your granny’s grave?
Nipple on the mountain tip offers itself to suckle the moon. Tickled by the wind, it is erect. What secret, ancient queen sleeps beneath your pile of stones that were scraped and shaped by Ice Age freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw? What do the tourist hordes understand as they puff and pant up the Stairway to Heaven? This is the Queen of Heaven's last throne, Her inauguration seat built over her body and bones. Leave each sacred stone in place. There is no earthly blessing She can impart who is the one that intimately knows Sky's heart.
The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is to write about rain. Now the Irish have as many words to express the quality and character of rainfall, just as Inuits are alleged to have about snow. Yet again I am being tossed back into memory of my youth. I experienced one of those batten down the hatches Northeasters when visiting with my aunt at the shore. When we get storms in from the southwest I have a flicker of recognition. And those kinds of storms, dramatic as they are on the outside, can be quite cozy when you are safe indoors by a fire. But it was the one genuine hurricane I can say I experienced that became the subject for the Poetry Daily. Hurricane Agnes was the first storm of the hurricane season in June 1972. It was more savage than usual for that early in the summer. It was even more brutal once it moved inland from the Chesapeake Bay and whirled its way up the path of the the Susquehanna River.
It's not all palm trees bent double. A hurricane can move inland and make for plenty more trouble. All night we slept on the 'Y' floor, waiting to see if the dam would hold. The river rose and rose. Every road, in and out, was closed, bridges washed out. So we waited. I was young enough to sleep through that night. The older ones sat up, drinking coffee, without much talk.
Next day it turns out our town fared better than most, was mostly okay. The rain stopped. The dam held, but it was cut pretty fine. Some cellars filled. The bridge was still pretty sound.
A few days later some of us teens helped scrape up the mud that reeked of rot and sewer in the heat off someone's dining room floor upriver in Shickshinny. The whole town looked condemned. We skipped and leaped over the jagged teeth of the remains of bridge over still angry, churning water from a creek. But then again maybe it was rail ties crossing a street. The Susquehanna stayed high for weeks and weeks.
The prompt today from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Speak the Lingo.’ Now the prompt’s line of thinking was about foreign holidays where you don’t ‘speak the lingo’ in the locale where you vacation, but I went a bit off-piste with the prompt. Being a professional foreigner, so to speak.
Once upon a time when I was young I was foreign in an era of the portable typewriter, the phrasebook, paperback editions of dual language dictionaries. Maps were paper. Street almanacs were called A to Zeds. Even the last letter of my mother tongue had a different pronunciation.
My grandmother translated for her immigrant mother and father. I am the third generation of women to bear the name of stranger.
Home is never quite home. Living in a body, on a planet, is a confusion never quite deciphered.
I am the vanguard of the breathing barbarian horde seething at the gates of your museums and cathedrals, eating your local food, liking its taste in the absence of a common language.
Having just the silence in my head, my mother tongue encrypted in a notebook that travels with me everywhere as I translate.
The theme for today’s #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘We are Sailing.’ Now I have never been on a yacht. I am awkward getting in an out of small crafts. But I adore ferries. Nor do I get seasick (which was one reason why my husband demurred on taking a trip to Orkney with me. One epic bout of seasickness back in the 1970s has forced him to avoid lengthy boat crossings. The shortest is always the best. Even then he keeps his head down while I roam the deck.) So the Poetry Daily is inspired not by my first experience of a ferry; there had been two cross-British Channel trips before the one that I am memorialising in the Poetry Daily today. The route the Poetry Daily poem takes was Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The year was 1980.
Interesting that I am writing this ‘up north’ where we travelled to attend the first of what could be quite a few 70th birthday parties for handsome man that grew up in the Country Armagh.
The crossing was rough., loos filled with sick past Ailsa Crag. Ridiculous I'd been made of tougher stuff. On deck, inhaling cold, salt air, revelling in the swell and roll.
Then, through the mist, the gull's caw. Landfall within sight. For the first, and last, time in my life I felt the Land not just call me but pluck out my heart. "You're mine now!" I wanted to fall on my knees on deck awash, splashed with rain and sick. I was lovestruck by Antrim's outline. The Land shook me, called my name. I answered. From then on our lives intertwined.
The theme tune for today’s #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge promp is ‘Sentimental Journey.’ We were asked to reconsider places of fondest memory or where we feel our best selves dwelt, or places of pilgrimage. But, nope! Maybe it is because I hitched my wagon to a man who likes to explore new stars. We have never been a couple to go back to the same places, unless we are visiting family. Even then you are tracking the changes since the last time. What’s new? Perhaps the haze of golden memory is the only place for sentimental journey. Today’s Poetry Daily reveals just how hard-hearted (or hard-headed) I can be.
There's more wow in now than in nostalgia. The costumes change since when, not to mention that scenery shifts happen. I cannot revisit a shabby London Town where love struck me again. They've gentrified the old neighbourhood. It's gone all hipster beard, flash rail links. Coffee bars replace Turk's Working Men's Clubs. We have all moved on and out. There's no one left. They've even changed the library's name where we first met and you knew that I'd be your wife (as strange as a thought as that). No, it's better to not look back. So concentrate on this precious moment - the rain's soft pattering on the gladioli. There's more wow in the now than in nostalgia.
The theme today in #30DaysofSummerWritingChallenge is ‘fiesta.’ While it could be a literal religious festival cum carnival (childhood’s Maria Assunta celebrations floated through my mind) or weeks spent eco-camping at Earth Song when I could still just about contemplate waking under canvas, the celebration that I finally fixed on was a wedding. Our wedding, which happens to have happened at the end of this month. So an anniversary poem seemed appropriate for two people who first encountered each other in the Hackney Poetry Circle one dark November evening nearly forty years ago.
We Do! (An Anniversary Poem)
Marry under a marque in August is a prime example of hope triumphs common sense. Our only insurance was the Infant of Prague (£2.99) outside our front door. Which, according to local folklore, made sunshine a dead cert.
It was the sunniest day that summer. Tea and home-baked lavender biscuits served on the lawn after the ceremony. Tree planting, singing, patio speeches, laughter ringing out over the acres. Barbecue supper - but slightly gourmet - Waldorf salad and kohl rabi cole slaw. Compostable cutlery, plates and napkins - we tread lightly in love. (Even the cake was organic carrot.) We were toasted and quaffed sparkling elderflower cordial made with blossom from Drumcliff Churchyard. The ghost of W.B. benignly gazed, smiling from his otherworld bean rows while we vowed to companion each the other's greatness. We do. And we did. And we still do day after day the sun sets on our bless'd heads.