Notes from #StayingHome

The reason why I participate in NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo every year is that the prompts really challenge me out of my poetry comfort zone. It’s important to become assured in your voice, but sometimes you really just have to get the bit between your teeth, bite and…push! Today’s prompt was like that for me. It started out with an exercise that was simple enough. Find ten words and write down ten random rhymes for them using a rhyming website’s generator. I used a combination of random dips into headlines from the Guardian Review 21st March issue and some objects that were close by. Not all got into the poem. And there were several false starts before I laboured out what emerged.

This was the brief today from

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) asks you to make use of our resource for the day. First, make a list of ten words. You can generate this list however you’d like – pull a book  off the shelf and find ten words you like, name ten things you can see from where you’re sitting, etc. Now, for each word, use Rhymezone to identify two to four similar-sounding or rhyming words. For example, if my word is “salt,” my similar words might be “belt,” “silt,” “sailed,” and “sell-out.”

Once you’ve assembled your complete list, work on writing a poem using your new “word bank.” You don’t have to use every word, of course, but try to play as much with sound as possible, repeating  sounds and echoing back to others using your rhyming and similar words.

Notes from #Staying Home
The electricity went out last night,
plunging us in candlelit mystery.
It came back again, cause for pondering
on how we define some felicity.
Our screens flicker pictures of misery
from New York City, Rome. We’re wondering
when it will come closer to home, history
landing on the doorstep. Our fear. No flight.
When will we again be able to wander?
Contemplate a life in the wild yonder?
How much longer can the end be in sight?
Will discarding erroneous beliefs
about Monsters make us any stronger?
Will we be overthrown by trickery?
When the Barrier Reef died, who felt grief?
What meaning arises from Emergency?
Meanwhile, we swap anecdotes on the phone.
Gratitude is a landline’s live ring tone,
where we each reach out from our comfort zones.
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Yes, we have lost service of our landline for a couple days two weeks ago. We do live in an area where the mobile (cell) signal is at the whim of the fairies. Yes, the power went for a few hours last night. Which also means we lose internet. But I am so grateful for the engineers and technicians who are negotiating the scary outside world so those of us staying home can have creature comforts. We also have a young neighbour who is doing our grocery ‘gap’ filling runs for us. I am a really not a gifted sewer. I don’t have a sewing machine. But I hand sewed a slightly wonky face mask for him yesterday from scraps of craft fabric I have around the house. Better safer, than fashionista.

Today’s featured image is a Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash.


Travelling Prep

“Traveling is a brutality.

It forces you to trust strangers

and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home & friends.

You are constantly off balance.

Nothing is yours except the essential things:

Air – Sleep – Dreams – Sea – Sky…..

all things tending towards the eternal

or what we imagine of it.”

-Cesare Pavese –

Natural Cathedral

Certainly travelling forces you out of your comfort zone.  Between choosing what to pack for all British weather eventualities (snow is forecast for one day at Lumb Bank),  preparing what to take for a fortnight’s travelling for a combination of both rugged country and inner city locations, my logistical muscles are getting a workout for this fortnight’s sojourn. With my laptop and all other writing utensils going as my single carry on I have to squeeze two weeks worth of travel clothing and comfort into a single bag no more than 20 kilos in weight. I keep lifting the suitcase (which has had three versions of travelling logistical schemes so far) and telling myself it’s not as heavy as a Cozyglow bag of coal. So it must be alright!

Yes, I will be leaving home and friends but I’ve modelled some of my essentials on a friend’s wisdom.  When she left Ireland as a child she amused family by piling rocks into her suitcase.  She counted that literal ‘touchstone’ as essential baggage to help her remember her homeplace.  Last week she gave me both a Tibetan shawl from some of her own travels and a Hag Stone pebble. It’s small and has three holes through it.  Hag stones are sacred to the Irish goddess the Cailleach; with the three holes it also resonates to the Triple Goddess.  So I have a  spiritual touchstone to keep me grounded and the shawl to keep me warm in what may be a chilly stone house at Lumb Bank.   So  much for renouncing comfort!

(As an aside I have become fussy about pillows in middle age. I once slept in nine beds in 14 days and forbore the discomfort by dreaming at each stopover that I would meet the Platonic ideal of the perfectly comfortable pillow.  My nephew has good sources and won the challenge. There is no room to pack a pillow, which constitutes a great sacrifice of comfort and may compromise the essential of sleep.)

I digress.  I have my symbolic travelling comforts of Hag Stone pebble and shawl.  Hot water bottle. And herbal teabags. (One must cherish one’s digestion on the road.)  Travel insurance. That’s about the height of it comfort zone-wise. There will certainly be strangers as I will travel with ten people only one of whom I’ve ever been introduced to before. But even nodding acquaintance still makes you essentially astrangers.

Whenever I prepare for a trip I think of my mother.  She was the one who meticulously taught me the art of packing a suitcase. Of course, she did most of her travelling in Depression and wartime America when suitcases were  things of utility, beauty and heft.   I can hear Mom’s voice in my head, a memory of being taught the proper way to fold blouses, trousers,rolling socks.  Like much of her advice, I deviate from the template. Yet every time I haul the suitcase out and prepare for another trip she turns up, telling me what matches or clashes, honing the perfect capsule wardrobe.  My mother liked travelling, going places. She used to look up at passing planes while she hung out the laundry and feel her feet begin to itch.  She did travel later in life and got to Italy, the Holy Land and England. While I pack I remember the excitement and yes, anxiety, too, of ‘going places.’ Anticipation is often a mixed emotion.  Yet we volunteer for travelling, to be a bit off-kilter as we seek those things that are eternal.

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts Office.