Late Summer Misty Morning

It is probably hot most everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Even in Ireland it was 22C yesterday and with the general humidity of an island climate, it felt pretty steamy to the likes of me who is heat averse. I was awake at dawn, unusually for me now that I no longer write a poem a day. It was a pleasant reunion with the amrit vela, the darkness before first light. I watched the sun rise over the wind turbines on Arigna and then a mist roll down until it stopped right at our property line. The willow trees that soak up the sogginess and bogginess of our acre were completely gilded with dawn light. The global axis turns down into autumn; it is, to me at least, the most breathtaking time of year anywhere in the world here in Ireland.

The Sunday Weekly will be brief this week. There is garden produce to process. There is a funeral in the neighbourhood and we are negotiating the new rituals of Covid19 that have altered centuries old mourning traditions. Masked, I handed a cake into my neighbour’s home yesterday for their visitors. The door stood open since it was a fine day. One person stood across the length of the small sitting room, while the other sat masked by the door. It is a tight fit for social distancing in these old cottages and houses. I asked the local funeral director what the drill is to be: 50 in the church, the rest out in the car park for both the removal and funeral. Masks mandatory from Monday and Monday is the funeral. Hand gel is at the church door – the new holy water, I guess.

But I return to nature and the seasons, the immutably mutable of life. I turned my hand to a tanka for this week’s poem.

Mist's incoming tide
Dawn's sun gilds the blackbird's beak
Crowns his willow home
Heat haze recedes -the tide's out
Leaves just bathed in topaz light

Have a good week. Get yourself some time out to bathe in nature. I have produce to process and put in the freezer. I fancy some peach cobbler for supper. The warm weather is set for this week, which may mean more opportunities for me to meet the amrit vela of the day and watch the light pad across our acre from the east.

The featured image is a Photo by Helena Gunnare on Unsplash

Between Seasons

There is definitely a nip. The air has gone crisp. I needed to put on a pair of socks for my walk. I am shaking out sweaters and greet them as old friends. Yes! Autumn in on its way. September is one of my favourite months – along with May. They are Goldilocks months. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. Cool enough for porridge for breakfast. Warm enough that the rain doesn’t chill your marrow when you get drenched during a walk. It’s a season of rainbows and intense shots of light and then a lowering dark. It is a season to believe in miracles. The Poetry Daily began in this wonderful month and it will conclude the cycle of 365 days of a poem a day in September.

The nights are drawing in.There is a greater chance that I may wake in the amrit vela, the ambrosial hour, when the day is not yet born. It is a very special time, when you can feel the pulse of the earth. And while I was up, our internet had been knocked out, but was swiftly restored by our great local, rural internet provider Groupnet.


Between Seasons

It’s not full on
like midsummer's bright
clap at the crack of dawn.
No. It’s much more mellow.
The new day yawns.
It stretches. There is a chill
 
in the air. Time to pull on
a wooly or a fleece
to drink tea. To just sit
facing the blank day,
to see if my mind
can be empty
 
of the world’s cares,
its need for prayers.
It’s not half-light nor full dark.
Soon the days
and the nights, too
will know the perfect poise
 
the betwixt, the between,
have the equilibrium
and grace of ambling spider
pirouetting capers in its nets -
this time out of time,
the bliss of not yet.
 
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

In Those Hours of Amrit Vela

My writing routine is all topsy turvy today. The Poetry Daily is delayed because I went out to a pub music session and sang along with many more into the wee hours of the morning. The bar lights went out; the beer stopped flowing from the taps. But we kept on singing and my husband (yer man from Dowra) and the three travelling minstrels from Dublin played on. And the locals kept up with the recitations, the jokes, the songs, and pastiches of songs. We sang Happy Birthday twice. And we crept down our lane and put the kettle on for the nightcap cuppa tea at 2:30.

But first, the little dog needed a rest stop outdoors. We live without light polution. It was the most amazing clear night. These are the hours of the amrit vela, those magical hours of darkness before dawn, and I figured I better use them while I was awake anyway. The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge was posted already – Moon Landing. I have done a number of moon poems recently. The historic event was one that I tried to ignore, as I sat reading in a corner of the family living room, while the rest of the household was rapt watching the television.

The moon poem inspired by the moon landing anniversary

No, the starry night sky was pleading for some attention. So I went at this slant.

The Sky This Night

No cloud this night. Above, the sparkling vault,
so vast and a shimmer, that one single
glimmer beckons to draw me into its
infinity. I am lost. I am found.
No Perseids shower will wash or gloss
me more completely than this convex dome
that flying buttresses me into belief
in divinity - though at a distance.
And I am at peace with my unknowing,
my unscholared wonder at its power.
Also, gracious imperviousness.
That poise in its own glory beyond myth
or even story. It just is. Sparkles.
That shot the darkness like some fantastic
fabric created for Scheherazade.
Yet are just winks and blinks of atmosphere.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Mindaugas Vitkus on Unsplash

Solstice Sun Up Meditation

Shortly after the moon entered the sign of Aquarius at 3am this morning I found myself awake. Then wakeful. As much as I would have loved to get back to sleep I have experienced the amrit vela hours of summer solstice. It’s not exactly dark then. But you do need a little extra illumination to do any writing. But mostly I was thinking. Yesterday was the penultimate event in what has been a hectic workshop season for me starting on St. Brigit’s Day, 1st February. I have worked intensively with children. Yesterday the Arts Officer from County Cavan asked my creative colleague and sometime workshop collaborator, Morag Donald, and I what we had learned from the workshops we delivered. 

What I have learned is that we are rearing a generation of children who are not passionately engaged with words. With each group of kids I work with I begin by asking them to describe themselves as being a ‘words’ person or a ‘picture’ person. Overwhelmingly, they identify as pictures people. Of the thirty-five in the audience at Trivia House yesterday , about five put hands up as Words people, with about two describing themselves as both verbal and visual. 

A good deal of my work with school age children touches on ‘The Lost Words’ – those words naming the natural world that were expunged from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in the 2015 edition. Words like birch, wren, nectar, acorn and dandelion. Words that with climate change may become extinct in an actual sense. It is as if we are extinguishing not just the natural world, but our language to describe our experience of it.  As someone living in a country where the indigenous language was erased as policy for generations, I am sensitive to the fact that when you lose language – the words to express your reality- then you also erode and destroy a culture. We may want to be environmentally aware and climate change smart, but you need the language to connect with the natural world that is at stake.

Ben Okri has noted in his book of essays A Way of Being Free that toxic stories make toxic societies. Many of the stories we offer our children are of war, crime and consumerism. Plot needs conflict, of course, but how do we resolve it? Most often with violence, force, sex or shopping. How can we change this narrative? Fairy stories were dark tales, too. In those medieval folk tales it may have felt like the world was ending; this generation actually faces the prospect of the decimation of home planet earth. We need to create garden arks for the planet. But we also need to create language arks to be able to adequately express out feelings of connection to others and the wider world. For if we cannot name our feelings, describe our inner reality, how can we hope to form a bridge and comprehend those who are not exactly like ourselves? With the language to express that reality we might  have less bullying, less reason to punch and physically harm others, and more peaceful resolutions of conflict. We need to be able to express the shades and degrees of our feelings with a wider range than an emoticon. That is shorthand. What we are losing is the longhand skill metaphorically speaking. (As well as the actual skill of cursive handwriting which is no longer on the curriculum in many places.)

How can we build a vocabulary of resilience in our children? Because it feels to me this morning that we are losing our mother tongue as much as a connection with text.  I was reared by a mother who read aloud for 365 days a year for fourteen consecutive years. Being read to teaches listening skills, not just vocabulary with visual aids of picture books. It is a sensual experience – the snuggling in, the rise and fall of the reader’s voice, the taste or smell of the drink or snack you might be having as you listen. For me, words are the ultimate comfort, books my suckie blanket.

Ironically, to incite people to read the words in this blog I am tapping out on my iPad, I will need to add a visual teaser.  I am not anti-technology. I yipped with glee over word processing and spell checker. I am delighted to capture the birdsong and ghostly moon at 5am for your delectation. But what legacy is there without the language to give context?

The daily poem…eventually.

My Mother’s Jewellery Box 

It’s mine now, but

it used to belong to my mother.

She had few gems or other

priceless items made of gold –

some clip-on earrings, folded

news clippings, old prayer cards –

a display of her regard,

the printed word beside a broach,

a badge of honour, a vote

for what has equal value.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

The Chaste Moon

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the March Full Moon, which arrived at 1:42 am this morning my local time, is known by many names. Indigenous people have called it Storm Moon, but it is also known as the Worm moon and the Chaste Moon. This was also the last of a triiumverate of Supermoons, where the full moon is seen as super close to the earth. Where I live in Ireland each of those nights has been shrouded in cloud cover.

But this,in itself was very beautiful. The Old Dog had a restless night, which meant my sleep has been broken. I gave up all pretense of getting back to sleep before dawn. I also realised that this was the first time in a long while that I was writing the Poetry Daily in darkness, the holy hours before dawn known as the amrit vela. I checked back last year and found that the full moon seems to disrupt my sleep pattern and make it more likely for me to writing in those ambrosial hours. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/11/21/ambrosial-hours/.

But less historical rumination and down to the daily poem, inspired by the ghostly twilight that fell over the landscape at full moon.

The Chaste Moon

When moonlight lies like a mist
upon a wetland drenched
in ghostly twilight,
there is a restless pulse
beyond the clouded veil.
It casts a milky caul.

This chaste moon delivers
the gift of sight
as it gently beams through
a scrim of bridal tuille,
chiffon and voile that's laced
across the night skyline.

Is that why they call this
the Chaste Moon?
A virgin is called.
An angel is announced.
She's made a mother
by Lady Day.

The full moon is making
Her Magnificat.
The egg is laid.
The seed is sown.
What all could hope
is now set to be born.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.