Weekly Poem – Pivot

pivot hinge doorway samhain

There is a hard rain pelting on our roof this morning. Outside it felt way too dark to actually be close to 9am. But then again, we are that point of the year when the clocks go back. In Ireland this Sunday the clocks ‘fall back’ and we will be plunged into the darkness of Samhain time. This is one of the main pivot points in the Irish year. Traditionally, Samhain, or Halloween as it is known elsewhere, is the Celtic New Year. We are entering the season of endings and beginnings. Winter is a time where the earth is sleeping and, in our high northern latitudes, the light is too feeble for any growth. But the legends say that this is a time when Mother Earth is gestating. We must be patient, wait, and let the darkness do its own essential work.

Over in my Word Alchemy group we have been working on the theme of Light considering that what we see more of reflected in the outer world of media is deep shadow. This led on to the topic of joy. The prompt for one of our in-Zoom writing sessions was “What Brings You Your Greatest Moments of Joy?” Our further discussion touched on joy as a consciousness…and a conscious decision, one that does not refute the sadness or pain, but can be one where you can lace your fingers around a cup of hot chocolate and sip of something other for a moment.

Here is an excerpt from my own musings.

Sunset on the beach, the light slipping below the horizon, sending a burst of magenta, marigold and blue ink across an oceanic slate… the splash and plash of low tide rolling across sand and pebbles, sweeping up shells, sandblasted glass, cork, seaweed…watching the tideline rise and recede and my ankles sinking deeper and deeper into the sand…seeing fossils etched in ancient rock, the stars and spirals from which we all come from there to remind us of the spiral waltz of stardust that comes down to find a body who can stand at the tideline, ankles lapped by salty seawater that sink lower and lower into the silty sand, making a pearl inside of an oyster shell of a human body…

Moments of Joy, Bee Smith, 2021

Nature, the people and pets in our lives, our five senses, memories from the past, the now of the present, the hopes and plans for the future all weave a tapestry of joyfulness.

So many times over these anxious weeks, I stop myself and breath and pay especial attention to giving gratitude for the everyday…the roof over my head sheltering us from the pounding rain, the neighbours up and down the lane, the technology that helps us reach out and connect with those physically far from us, the cup of hot chocolate that does not deny the trouble and strife, but lifts us in a moment. And I give thanks for the cocao farmer and I hope that their family is well and free from suffering, too, and getting a fair exchange for their skill and labour. Little may they know or imagine what joy they are bringing in higher latitudes as rain pelts down and the year winds down to one of its pivot points.

Pivot

It's just the hinge needs grease
to ease its creak.

Just get at that rusting point.
Anoint the joints.

Just move back and forth,
back and forth. Do it smooth.

It's just metal won't give or grow.
A hinge opens. And it will close.

It's 180 degrees, you know? You're thinking 360.
That kind of swing sheers off everything

To a point that the point can
lose all its meaning.

You've only so much room
for manoevering.

A door remains two-faced. Replace grace for grease.
Then. Pivot.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

I invite you to recount your own moments of joy this week like you might say your prayers on rosary beads. Write it, paint it, crochet it – choose whatever creative activity gives you pleasure and joy. As another student commented in our Zoom Room last Saturday…creativity is an act of self-actualisation. Yet while we are actively shaping ourselves, we are also shaping and becoming the world we live in. We can take a conscious act to shape it and make it one of joy.

As we approach Samhain’s hinge of the year’s seasons, may your own pivot points be joyful.

Featured image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Finding Comfort in Small Joys

I am typing this blog sitting on a hot water bottle. Blessings upon the inventor and patenter of this rubber vessel of comfort to those aches and pains that assail the body. Blessings upon all their descendants, too, for that matter! I have two furry muses close by me – the little dog and Felix, the ex-brawler feral turned lover (most of the time – he’s not completely lost the brawl in his nature, but it is most often incited by a protectiveness toward the smallest critter in the house, the feline princess.)

We are digesting the news that the second wave of Covid19 is well and truly begun in Ireland. Dublin is on Level 3. No ‘wet’ pubs for them, though elsewhere in the Republic they opened. (Madness!) Northern Ireland has also introduced new restrictions. Just don’t visit people at home; well, only one other household allowed to mix with another. Domestic transmission seems to be the one getting the blame this go round. The rationale is that there is more control of potentially infective behaviour in public spaces. Yet the two potential cases I have heard of anecdotally are in schools. Judging by the rugby scrum of teenagers queueing outside a supermarket in Carrick on Shannon during their lunch break last week this is hardly surprising. Young ones crave connection as much as any human; teenagers, however, have much less impulse control. One wonders what the long term behavioural effect of Covid 19 will be on the next generation.

Today is equinox, the equal length of night and day, here in Ireland. It was this day in 2001 that I arrived in Ireland and pitched up in Dowra, the first village on the river Shannon. Which was the sole fact I could glean on Google about the place where we had found a house to rent as our initial disembarkation point in the Republic. Little could I have guessed that this small village – yes, the first one on the River Shannon – would become the place where I have lived the longest in my lifetime.

There was a brief flutter of months in Queens, NYC, when I was born. Then the next longest stay was spent in a small town in Pennsylvania. University took me to Washington, DC for some six years in total. London in England equalled that span before we moved north to Leeds for fifteen years.

During the pandemic I am especially grateful that we took the risk of moving country and also, crucially, moving into the countryside. I cannot imagine not having the ability to get outdoors, to not have a garden to get away from the four walls, or a lonely lane to pace up and down with the dogs during Lockdown. No wonder urban dwellers are so keen to get out and about despite the risks.

No one who knew me in that former life would have ever guessed the deep contentment in living so off the beaten track would give me. But there is the fact of it as we sit outdoors looking at the landscape stretching from Cavan through Leitrim to the heights of Arigna in County Roscommon. “A fine mess you got me into, ” my husband often quotes fondly, since I was the one who lobbied hard to move to Ireland in the first place. The Belfast Treaty and his eldest sister’s death at age 54 dissolved his objections.

Nature has been the great comfort during this trying year. (Also, baking!) In my Zoom Creative Writing workshop this past week we touched on Creative Nonfiction. The ‘homework’ assignment took inspiration from a chapter heading in M.F. K. Fisher’s book How to Cook a Wolf ; write an essay on how to give comfort. The alternative is to write on Ten Essential Things to Do Before You Die.

The year is dying, even if the virus is not yet. I woke at 6am to darkness. I watched the last shaft of sunlight pierce through cloud last night around 7:30pm. We ate our lunch and supper outdoors on Sunday and had a socially distanced cup of tea with a friend outdoors yesterday. This morning felt like autumn had arrived right on schedule. It is time for warm, fuzzy, woolen socks. I walked on the beach in sandals last Friday. That will be their last outing until summer 2021.

I did not plan to have a poem for this post. I thought that it would be strictly prose, which is the focus of the next five weeks for me as we move into Short Story in our Zoom creative writing workshops. But then…Surprise! Like joy, a poem randomly turned up.

Comfort/Joy

This morning
I sense the wind is singing,
catch its joy
as it blows past in the breeze.

Hold it - briefly -
to my breast, swaddled
in the soft wool nest
of my oldest sweater. 

Some images spotted this week that gave me joy.

From a Distance

How are you doing? The Sunday Weekly poetry post will offer you two poems this week. I have been writing virtually daily though not posting here on such a regular basis. If you want a daily dose of haiku poetry, illustrated with photos taken in our garden, then I recommend that you follow me on Instagram. Look for Word Alchemy for some #haikusofinstagram.

Here in Ireland we are now restricted to remaining within two kilometres of home, except for travel for food shopping or pharmacies or medical centres. Leitrim, which is just the other side of the bridge in our village was the last county in the Republic to report infection. We live in a remote location and can go days just waving at the odd passing car. So not a lot has changed for us, except the new distancing drill at our local supermarket. For such a small village, we are blessed to have a well-stocked shop. While the rest of the world is hoarding toilet paper, in Ireland there has been a run on flour. Apparently, Ireland is baking her way through quarantine.

But before the first poem, so eye candy from the garden.

Cowslip
Cowslip
Daffodils
Daffodils

The first poem came about when my friend in England had a text from her neighbour that the NASA Space Station is visible every night for a brief time. There was too much cloud cover the first night, but I did manage it in a five minute window on Thursday. You can sky watch for it until 4th April. Plug in your location and they will direct you from https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/.

Irish Earth to Space Station
26th March 2020
 
It was a streak, like a comet.
It was a blip. There. Then gone.
So my friend reported from her own
viewing platform
in another country.
 
A crescent moon with Venus
flirting over Her shoulder.
Eyes bisected vectors of horizon,
West, south, east, northeast.
Then. There.
 
In the newly darkened sky a steady
blinking, an elliptical swirling,
a lumbering quasar moving inexorably
in Enniskillen’s direction, an elephant
patrolling earth, crossing borders
 
in air space. No. Make that
outer space, the final frontier.
Wave to those pioneers.
We salute you, space sailors.
Imagine up there if you can
 
all those waves to you from
a distance, before you disappear
behind the cloud cover.
We are waving to you in your
isolation from our own.
 
Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Another bit of eye candy before the next poem…

Quaker Bonnet Primrose
The mauve primrose on the left is called Quaker Bonnet


Pocket
 
A river pebble. A small cowrie shell.
A lock of baby hair tied up with silk ribbon.
An acorn found, picked with foraged morel,
in among crumbs of broken chocolate bourbons.
A shiny penny piece of change to spare,
a bit of luck to give up when the hat’s passed round.
All this collection could be anywhere,
but they are soundlessly secure in their clothbound
world. A pocket. Talismans. Amulets
more valuable than a leather wallet.
 
Don’t let anyone pickpocket your joy.
Jingle your happiness like a carefree schoolboy.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Look out for haiku during the week with Word Alchemy on Instagram. Check in here, too. You never know what might turn up…

Advent Joy Sunday

Next Sunday is Winter Solstice and the fourth Sunday of Advent. The theme for the third Sunday, when you light the single pink candle, is joy. Yet I am aware of many souls who are feeling less than joyful just now. There are those on the edge of tears for reasons they cannot even fathom. There are the harried and harassed. There are the children imprisoned whom Santa Claus will forget.

The first Advent candle is for hope. The second candle is for love. These are two of the three principle virtues. (And isn’t it interesting that faith doesn’t get a look in?) Then comes joy and peace. The final, central, candle is lit on Christmas Eve. It made me ponder and it seems that joy is almost a sacred duty. It is an especial reminder at the darkest time of year that joy must always be found. It paves the way for peace.

Take joy in simple things. Sunrises and sunsets. A cat’s purring. The words on a page that comfort or lift and convey you into a new day or new life. Give presents. Be present. Feed loved ones. Make art.

We are not enjoined to be happy. We are enjoined to find joy even in the darkest of places and times. To do that takes courage.

Our Lives Are Speaking

Our lives are always speaking,
so much so, that every atom of me,
my story, becomes part of you,
your story. Speak to me.

You live, a husband and wife,
in a place where courage
smells of stew and hand-made bread,
where the local water tastes
of iron from the hills all around.
They echo with thunder rolls
and then the rain comes pattering down
like a heart’s steady beat.
The kiss hello is the same
as the one for farewell.   And few
will ever be able to tell

the differance between my life
and yours, how they belong
to each other and speak
of our small joys and great peace.

 Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Some Sunday Joy

It has been a fruitful week. The Sunday Weekly Poem reflects a moment in a week that is known for Thanksgiving, even if you don’t live in a country where it is a national holiday. It is also the first Sunday of Advent even if you are not Christian. Last year I wrote a sequence of Advent poems for each Sunday for those who perform this mindful ritual, whether they are Christians who light the Advent wreath candles or pagans observing the Sunwheel each Sunday before Winter Solstice. This is what my 2018 Advent wreath looked like https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/01/advent/.

The first Sunday of Advent’s candle is for hope. But I was so startled by a quiet flush of joy this week that it is my theme for the weekly poem. Gratitude, hope, joy…we need to celebrate these in the dark days of winter. Even if they only appear as glimpses.

The Morning After Thanksgiving

Staring out my window I am stabbed by
a joy in the smallest of things:
how the stars wink in those minutes before dawn
begins to pink the horizon,
how when winter's brilliant sun breaks
and shines it outlines the intricate delicacy
of the hoar frost mantilla yarrow and hogweed wear,
how light stretches itself lazily in a slow promenade
in soft soled slippers across the field, melting
the frost very, very slowly and, also,
how it persists all day on the lane's edges
all crisp and starched as an altar boy's surplice.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

Poetry Daily Joy

Another very late edition of the Poetry Daily. This week my writing routine has been severely taxed. And inside I am not so much Mrs. Cranky as Mrs. Discombulated. I love have early morning writing time. With the expected Second Coming of the Septic Tank Man I set my alarm. But apparently not early enough! I had some very desultory writing practice done when his truck roared up in front of the house. From then on there was no peace until I met my lift into the new Weaving/Textile Art class run by my creative colleague Morag in Dowra Courthouse this morning. Two hours of getting to grips with warp, weft, hard and handy chased all thoughts literary out of my head. (Which I do reckon to Be A Good Thing for me. Get out of my head. Do something that does not come easily so I really focus. Which is effected with much muttering to self. Sorry, fellow weavers!)

But it did make me realise how wedded I have become to this routine. It has not always panned out that I could post early, but a good solid chunk of time first thing in the morning was devoted to becoming awake (always a very tender time for me) and then writing. I need a very gentle entry time to the day to remain centred. Or so it has become abundantly apparent. And what will happen in a little over a week’s time when I will have completed the 365 days of the Poetry Daily? I experienced…not quite panic. But certainly a wobble. Which then became more real when a friend messaged with a query as to how I plan to celebrate the completion of the 365 days of Poem a Day? Not a clue…Which is denial of the real winds of change.

Not the least of which is that my husband has been on a concerted campaign of clean up, sort out and get rid of. He has been orbitting the Flat Pack universe these past two weeks constructing new wardrobes, chest of drawers and storage schemes. Like many old Irish homes there are no closets. Storage is always an issue. Our home was constructed in times when people had a lot less stuff. And that was probably a really good thing. A faithful reader, Sherri, has a very good Four Point Plan for ‘stuff.’ Can I eat it? Can I wear it? Can I read it? Can I make art from it? If not, please do not give it to me!

And even with those categories we can have too much of a good thing. These are rather narrow wardrobes to fit the dimensions of the bedrooms. The extra tall bookcase has filled up fast despite two big bags of give aways to the charity shop. So I reverted to Marie Kendo’s ‘does it spark joy?’ query for should anything stay. Has to be done to make room for more book joy and art joy. We have already had one trip to the recycling centre and charity shop. It will probably be the first of many as we methodically tidy up our act.

And as another friend observed today, when they chopped down the second half of the spruce plantation in front of our house last winter, a lot more light flooded into our living space. That certainly inspired Tony to do major reconfiguring in the garden in the spring and summer. Now with the autumn and winter he has unleashed that focus onto the house interior.

And I have not been idle either as Her Indoors has re-read the poems written over the past twelve months and more. I have put together a longlist of poems in a document for second reading and some tweaking, spell checking (blush!) and editting. There is a working title for a solo collection. The next step is to hand it over to a mentor and editor for their housekeeping on the project to pull it together for submitting to publishers.

So after lunch I had another bash at the poetry practice with results that were a bit more satisfying. (I have had enough caffeine by now. I realise that writers have a reputation – mostly fostered by Hemingway and Co. – of being hard drinkers, but the truth of the matter is that we are more probably caffeine junkies.)

Poetry Sparks Joy

Sweeping debris that is overburdensome
we slimline house and home and our routines.
We have too much stuff and too little space
to live our out lives with some simple grace.
The letting go is never easy doing,
nor the establishment of a New Regime
when burrowing up and out from beneath
my heaps and piles. Never very Zen.
What routines to keep? What ones to renew?
What sparks joy? Writing poetry. That's true.
Better go give Marie Kendo her due.
Let go with thanks. Time to feng shui it, too.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

What Gives You Joy?

Hello Darkness, my morning friend. I’m up with you again…listening to the rain and the wind and contemplating the blank page. My poetry creative colleague and collaborator, Helen Shay, sent me a meme in an email yesterday. It was jolly and very funny and was a riff on Netflix’ feng-shui evangelist Marie Kondo. Her tagline, for those who have dodged that pop culture meme, is Does it spark joy? Well, my plastic lemon squeezer does the job, but would a wood or glass one spark more joy? I ask you? I like lemon, so I guess it does spark joy…kind of. Although a wood or glass one would be more aesthetically pleasing.

But my contemplations became more existential as I listened to the rain. I can live with my heaps and piles. And her edict about only owning thirty (30!) books still has me reeling back with disbelief and distaste with such a noisome notion. I’d rather be untidy.

Nearly thirty years ago I was listening to Irish poet Eavan Boland on a BBC Radio 4 programme. She had been ranging around Ireland teaching women poetry writing in the community. She asked one group if they would now go back home to their villages and townlands and proclaim themselves poets. And one woman piped up, “Sure, they would think I was the kind of woman who didn’t wash her curtains!”

Dear Reader, I have aspired to and now achieved that status. I cannot remember when I last washed my curtains!

But back to the more existential concerns for the Poetry Daily.

What Gives You Joy?

Let's not pretend
that this isn't the hot button
question of the day.

How all our stuff,
this accumulated junk
is no more than
unwelcome toys
of mass distraction,
barricading us off from more
existential annoyances.

None of it
we'll be able to keep.
It's just leftovers of life
that executors will have to unheap.
A coffin can only hold
so many grave goods.

Pack me off with
a conch shell I have hauled around
three countries
along with
a lump of Marcellus rock.

I kept them with me
this long lifetime.
I know where I come from.
I know where I'll go to.

As for joy...

it is the plinking of rain on a tin roof,
the sea sighing as the tide recedes,
the chuffing of wind as it meets
the resistance of trees.

Joy is nothing
one can ever keep.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

Advent Wreath Weekly Poem

advent wreath

Two weeks ago I began lighting a Sunwheel wreath, which is a pagan version of the Advent Wreath where we light the final candle on Winter Solstice (this year 21st/22nd depending on your location on the planet) instead of Christmas Day. Beth Owl Daughter popularised this custom. This is the season of darkness no matter what your spiritual persuasion or religious affiliation. Jews will be coming to the end of the eight day celebration of Hanukkah, lighting the final candle on the menorah tomorrow, 10th December. It is a human impulse to light a match to a candle wick or an oil lamp in the dark time of year.

Christians will light the second candle  for Love this week. You can find that poem in last week’s post (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/01/advent/) Meanwhile, pagans will be lighting the solitary pink candle for joy at sundown tonight. When these Sunwheel/Advent wreath poems came to me I heard them with a wee tune in my ‘inner ear.’ Last week I posted a video just in case you feel like singing the poem as you light your wreath. You can find the video and tune  at this link. on my YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/Df3J08djsYg.

So here’s to you…some Joy.

Joy

I light a candle for joy
to celebrate with glee.
I light a candle for joy
for all the states of ecstasy.

I light a candle for joy
praying that all shall be happy.
I light a candle for joy
so elation may shine brightly.

I light a candle for joy
though the world can make you weary.
I light a candle for joy
that we may be less proud and haughty.

Light a candle for joy!
Light a candle for joy!
Light a candle for joy
to bless the dark.
Light a candle for joy
to bless its spark.
Light a candle for joy
so we all may hark.

Let the candle flames blaze with our good intentions this sundown.



Joy

I am minded today of the Arundrati Roy quote to seek joy in the saddest places. We need to be reminded of joy and a prison qualifies as a sad place, but my husband and I and about fifty souls witnessed it yesterday in our local low security prison. I feel it warrants memorialising in my poetry journal. As backstory for you to understand the context of how it came about, I need to explain that they run a coffee shop that is open to the public, as well as having a car wash and polytunnels where you can buy plants. This is a bank holiday weekend in Ireland so there were a lot of visitors about the campus on a Sunday. The barristas in the coffee shop had been chatting to some of the regulars who work with a group of disabled young adults locally.  They cooked up the idea of throwing a bit of a Halloween party for them, got the chief’s blessing and threw themselves into having a wee kareoke yesterday afternoon.

Since I am both an adult and and American born, they had no problem in getting me to dust off my witch’s costume (complete with cauldron as purse and besom – oops, forgot the flying ointment!). My husband has a wizard’s cape and another member of the public dressed up as Queen of the Night to add to the atmosphere. One of the guys bought decorations while out on temporary release. Paid from his own pocket I may add, from his €2.20 an hour wages as barrista.

We need to spread the joy. No photographs since that is an Irish Prison Service no-no. The jackolantern has to speak for us all.

Joy

 

You wouldn’t have believed it

to know that years ago

Steven had seized and seized and seized,

a ceaseless neurological event

that nearly extinguished him,

that left him in hospital a full year.

But here he is growling out Breakfast Roll,

stamping his feet, knowing all the words,

giving it as much soul

as any Motown microphone ever heard.

He didn’t bring the prison down – quite.

He raised its roof though. I saw so many doors

swing wide open and so many smiles that

went right straight to the eyes for the first time

in too long. We all grinned so much our jaws ached.

And then Steven switched it up,

crooning a song. Megan and Mary mimed to the words.

Heart for love, empty arms as language for lonely.

Fifty pairs of eyes beheld them mistily.

And clapped and applauded. And still everyone smiled.

No matter they sang a bit off key. So don’t all of we.

But heart and soul and being inside the song.

You don’t see that so very often.

Later, when the bus had taken them all home,

the barristas mopped the counter, did  the washing up.

One of the guys, a lifer, gave out a little sigh,

said, Today was a good day, smiling again at the memory.

Steven and Megan and Mary and Michael,

naked of your medical labels

are the joy givers.

We bow to you,

those who show us all how to.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018