Weekly Poem – Sunday Morning Meditation

This is the mystery of writing. While you may practice it sitting on your arse staring at the blank page or screen, it happens in other ways, too. The late Dermot Healy once said in a master class I attended that all reading is writing. Even when you are slogging in a very muddy garden performing the autumn clear up tasks, writing is happening on some back burner in the brain. We sleep and dream and wake wanting to write it down and unriddle those images that stir us and make us confront the secret anxieties of our waking life. The longer I am at this writing lark I realise that wielding the written word is a coping mechanism for life. Or perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the creative process is what configures hope, peace, faith and love. It’s just that writing is my preferred creative vehicle driven in this life time. Next one, can I please be a visual artist?

We are living in anxious times. It’s difficult to ignore even if you strictly ration the gloomy news. If you duck the gunk going on the macro, the micro news carried by friends, acquaintances and colleagues cannot be given the blind eye. In my Zoom creative writing class this past weekend I used a quotation from a Leonard Cohen song as the spark for our in-class writing.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Goosebumps! This guy is just so good! Bravo maestro!

So the spark for part of the session was about cracks and where the light can get in or out. That is going to be an ongoing exercise over the next few weeks. Even though 92% of the Irish population over the age of 12 is vaccinated, the HSE is still prepping for a “difficult winter.” Medical staff are exhausted, between Covid and the cyber hack of the HSE computer system. Most everyone is flagging emotionally, mentally or physically. Who does not know someone who is down with the ‘cold that is not Covid?’ Resiliance is feeling a bit threadbare. A friend’s 95 year old mother said she felt this past 18 months had been more difficult in many ways than World War II. People may have been dying left and right then, but you could have a cup of tea with a neighbour if you felt down. Or go dancing, while not dodging bombs.

Sunday morning, even though for the first time in a week it was not raining, I woke early and grabbed my notebook. I had a very leisurely few hours of writing ‘downtime.’ The Weekly Poem is the result. It is an abecedarian. It is similar to the acrostic, with lines beginning with a word in alphabetical order over the course of the poem. It was a new form for me to experiment with.

BTW, I recommend finding one day a week for dedicating a morning to just mooch, or lie abed late, or stare out the window for a full hour. It can help steady the centre of world that is fizzing, fizzling, and sending up frantic distress signals.

Sunday Morning Meditation

A milky mist obscures next door’s field, and out
beyond I hear geese honking, a wailing a long way from home. Can it be
Canada is just their summer 'vacance'? Or is Lough Moneen 
   their winter palace?  What is home? I guess it

depends upon how you look at it. I watch them fly
east towards the mountain most days going
forwards and back from the lough, a noisy
gaggle in tight formation, expostulating.

How can we transliterate their soundings?

I look out as the morning gradually takes shape, mist receding over 
    the murky horizon. 
Jays have not visited the garden of late. Are they seasonal, too? 
    How is it that I do not
know my year round neighbours and which are the blow ins 
    from the Arctic?

Listen. Even in October there is some birdsong playlist, several species
making conversation. Or concert? Con-something or other.  Together,
notes make chilled jazz for a Sunday brunch ambience.

Onyx-eyed magpie stares straight at me as I write behind the window’s glass, bemused 
    or beseeching
perhaps. What can a bird want of me? One  likes to 
quantify symbolisms, let the bird’s shape signify, elevate it to messenger from
realms beyond the mist, but by nine o’clock

sunshine breaches this early autumn cloud. The world comes into sharp definition, the day’s light no longer
totally eclipsed. But do you feel the chill
underlying the light? Take the pulse of the unseen, the unheard, untold
verities, a
world of meaning craving anyone’s ear. Or eye. Or heart, offering itself up to be as revealing as the

X-ray that lights up the shadows, showing everything in photographic negative 
     when really what is needed is a very positive
'Yes!' To life. And yes to mourning. And yes to the lost,  and the already gone missing. 
     They are missed. Why did we never notice that once there
     was an ark, but now a

Zoo is an asylum for very nearly, almost, listed, life extinct.

Featured image Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

The Magical Light

be the light

Tomorrow will be the shortest day in our northern hemisphere – the winter solstice. It will also be the day when shortly after sunset, if we do not have heavy cloud cover, we should see the Grand Jupiter Saturn Conjunction. Although I have to say that cloud cover can be a fairly constant feature of an Irish December. So we shall see. On Christmas Eve, it is forecast to be dry and clear, so maybe we will glimpse the Bethlehem Star on that night.

Counterintuitively, I tend to wake early, before dawn in the winter months. (And lie abed in summer; go figure!) And when I do wake early, I write in the darkness, though I draw open the curtains to see the slow curling of twilight dissolve into a pinking sunrise around 9am.

I woke early this morning and did not turn over to drowse on. I took out my pen and notebook after reading a quotation of Audre Lorde in a Brain Pickings blog post. It spurred a fairly formal effort, though I know of no name for it – a regular rhyme scheme with a capping couplet. Perhaps it is a longtail sonnet?! It is what it is, I guess. Here is the quotation:

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realised.

Audre Lorde

She goes on to speak of poetry, but I stopped there and decided to take up writing a poem.

We Pursue Our Magic

We pursue our magic and make it so -
shake, rattle the kaleidoscopic light-
marvelling at patterns and the colours.
Sometimes incantations make the world glow
on days of this perpetual twilight,
which plunge us, forcing us to discover
the content of our character on show
(only to our most private self). Less bright,
perhaps, than we might like. Even dimmer
than this midnight of the heart and soul.

Delicate beauty may come to light,
nuanced, that peripherally hovers,
that uncovers truth by way of shadow,
overcoming the blinded, dazzled bright
of favoured, mythic, eternal summer.
We pursue our magic by our own light.
And make it so with all the words we write.
 
 Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved. 

This will be a holiday season like none we have known in our lifetime. Collectively, we are pausing in the dark of the year. Stay well, my friends. It may be a lonely time for many, but pause. Read some poetry. Poetry is our magical connection.

There may be another poem on Tuesday. Or, depending on how my baking and other preparations are going, I may post closer to Christmas.

Stay well. Stay connected. Good Yule. The light is returning.

Enter Winter

It has been a week where rain has been turning into sleet. We have had hoar frost for a couple mornings this week and a distinctly unbalmy -1C at dawn today. Which is blooming cold for Ireland! The Light in the Window: 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days e-course started winging into email inboxes last Tuesday. We have our first Zoom fireside chat in a couple hours.

And yet, what I want to report on is the amazing play of light and cloud at both dawn and sunset this week. Also, fog banks hovering on the horizon. As I tap out this blog outdoors is a white mist. We have an orange alert fog warning tonight. But it is also very beautiful. I am wont to say we live in Tir na nÓg, and weeks like this tend to prove my supposition.

Most days I have been running around with a camera to capture some of the gorgeousness on display. I like winter since moving to Ireland. Or maybe it comes from living out in the country. Either way I have been seriously excited about it many days this week.

At dawn I was looking out at the frost and fog and felt some tanka coming on. So you get a bonus weekly poem.

8:30 AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Each twig is outlined
Trace tree's bare bones with the frost
Backlit by pale sun
Fog freezeframes this whitened world
The blackbird looks in at me.
10AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Gold light glimmering
Frost crystals shiver teardrops
Eyewatering cold
A good day to be alive
If you have a place inside

Which leads into a segue regarding this Christmas. Spare some cash for whatever local charities who are supporting the homeless. This is what one organisation is doing to provide support with Virtual Santa Boxes during this time of Covid19. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2770392549878979. The pandemic has done one good thing. It has really made people think creatively and laterally to achieve what is needed. I hope we keep it up once the virus is under control by spring.

Point of Contact

In the Republic of Ireland we have been released from our 5km exercise zone after six weeks of Lockdown 2. Now this household won’t be racing out to the shops, having carefully curated our personal safety zone over the past eight months – local Dowra Spar and post office, Manorhamilton Supervalu, Belcoo pharmacy and Spar, and Clancy’s of Glenfarne for post office and takeaways. We are basically staying within a self-imposed twenty mile radius from home for essentials. But we took the lifting of restrictions as an opportunity to go and ‘stare at lakes’ over a cup of tea and biscuit and take the dog for a walk in the Glenfarne Demesne. There is a Sculpture trail through the woods. And it is good to get an eyeful of some varied scenery. Of which we have in abundance in the West Cavan and North Leitrim border area.

Today’s blog takes its title from one of the sculptures, one funded in some of the original EU funded Peace and Reconciliation projects back in 2000 (known locally as Peace 1; we are on Peace 5 now. USA, please note that it takes 30 years to undo 30 years trauma.)

Glenfarne, Leitrim Sculpture Trail. This sculpture created by Derek Whitecasein, August 2000.

The sun was bathing country Fermanagh on the opposite shore of Lough MacNean in sunshine. And we were also getting a splendid light and shadow on our shores, too.

It’s 1st December and we are heading towards the shortest of days in our hemisphere, but the light playing with the shade and shadow was extraordinary today. And, thinking of last Thursday’s blog title on resilience, I spotted two spruce trees growing out of a rock surrounded by water. These two baby Christmas trees may never be papermill fodder, but they do speak of what can grow in even the most inhospitable conditions. Even nature is wanting to get the Christmas decor out early in 2020.

They are kind of like Charlie Brown Christmas Trees but even rocks will grow you one.

Today is the beginning of my email e-course 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days. Nature certainly showed us how we can have the most astonishing shots of light at this dark time of year. I kept asking my husband to stop the car so I could snap some photos of the rose gold light playing with the mountain and the light. And then, much to my joy, I spotted that hardy upland flowering shrub, gorse. It smells like a mixture of vanilla and coconut to me and it brightens our winter landscape here in Ireland.

At some point I probably will write a poem called “Point of Contact”, but for this week’s poem I have an attempt at a sonnet. My Zoom group was toiling at these this past weekend. And Ruth Padel is right. “Good pattern is hard work.” Maybe once I have written fifty of them I will finally have the hang of it.

The Earth's Heart

Listen...the earth is pulsing every
twenty-six seconds, a slow signal's beat.
A pause. A patient moment. Then. Breathe.
Less hurried than Morse code's dash dot repeats.
Desperation's staccato urgency
is counterpoint to the earth's slow
pulse. And pause. And pause on silent repeat...
its heartbeat a tap through air waves, radio
silence for a further twenty-six beats,
the space between...Can that silence echo?
Is that what I hear in my eardrum's beat,
the thrumming as I speed toward contingency?
Earth is slow. And patient. A lung and drum.
It needs just a tone, content to just hum.

May your dark December days be shot full of astonishing light.

September Light Falls

Ireland is a country of many seasons. Many, as the joke goes, all in a single day. But there are two months out of each year that are hard to beat whether the rain falls or it is dry. May is a close runner up, but for me, September is the month you cannot beat. It may partly be that I took up residence in Ireland in 2001 just at the autumn equinox. While Spring is fun, it can also feel a bit frantic. Autumn has a much more ‘Hey, man!’ vibe to it. The sunflowers still nod, but they don’t have to put any more energy into growth. They are tall enough. While it may not be relaxing for people herding children back to school, or workers returning from a late summer vacance, the earth energy is mellow. I saw my first puffball a few days ago. The only growth now is fungi. They are incredibly discreet about it. But what slays me most is the slant of light at this time of year. So that is what the Poetry Daily offers you on Day 361 of the 365 poem a day.

The Way the Light Falls

Like no other time of year...
This.
When dark clouds joust
with javellins of light
searing September sky.

Happy tears fall in sunshine
before brooding, petrol clouds.
See!
It's Cathy calling Heathcliff
or Tristan to Isolde.

Then
the meeting on the bridge.
Rainbows grow double
Come quick and look!
What's your dearest wish?

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved