The bank holiday yesterday brought me up short when I suddenly realised that yes, today is Tuesday! Time to post the Weekly Poem. There has been little poetry writing time in recent months, given the attention that the Geopark Poetry Map has needed. Also, the garden suddenly needs an extra pair of hands. I am better at the destruction aspects – weeding, burning my mortal enemies ‘Sticky Willy’ (cleavers) and Bindweed. We don’t use chemical fertilizer or pest pest control. Our garden may not have official certification, but we use organic principles on our acre. So it wildish and has a carpet of buttercups where the daffodils were in March.
With the Summer solstice and the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere rapidly approaching, we are seeing the last of Spring…and also some signs which would normally have appeared over a month ago.
…in which we tackle the short, very tautly structured syllabic forms of either the shadorma or the Fib. We have worked on shadorma in my creative writing Zoom workshops and I cannot say that I am terribly enamoured. The Fib, however, has a basis in natural science, not in alternative facts. Though imagination does enter into it. So I chose the second (optional) prompt for today’s flexing of the poetry writing muscles.
Our second syllabic form is much more forthright about its recent origins. Like the shadorma, the Fib is a six-line form. But now, the syllable count is based off the Fibonacci sequence of 1/1/2/3/5/8. You can link multiple Fibs together into a multi-stanza poem, or even start going backwards after your first six lines, with syllable counts of 8/5/3/2/1/1. Perhaps you remember the Fibonacci sequence from math or science class – or even from nature walks. Lots of things in the natural world hew to the sequence – like pinecones and flower petals. And now your poems can, too.
Napowrimo.net, Day 7, 2021
The Fibonacci (Spring) Sequence in Dowra
that defies hail stone
snow flurry, sleet, overnight frost
Unlike nipped tulips that bend
faces down to the ground
like the sly serpent
out, around, following the sun
Happy poetry writing! Despite a think layer of snow on the ground yesterday at dawn, and hail pellets and sleety rain drops, it all melted away by 10am. But the daffodils and tulips have taken a bit of a battering.
The energy has shifted. Apart from dwarf narcissi blooming, I have sourced and received seed potatoes delivered to my doorstep. Onion bulbs still are hard to find between Brexit and the pandemic. Peas have finally been sourced. Sometimes in the oddest places, like the petrol station in Manorhamilton! This week I sowed garlic and broad beans, which is a profound gesture of hope against potential frosts. Fortunately, they are made of fairly stern stuff and like cold conditions. March arrived sunny and warm after some early morning mist and an overnight ground frost; which may not be a good sign for the rest of the month. I will take my weather auguries with a pinch of salt. As one old neighbour, long past his passing, once said, ” A fair February crushes the rest of the year.” And as another colleague once noted, “The old signs no longer hold…” Which pretty much sums up climate change. Nothing is normal these days, so we may as well take each day at a time as it comes and deal with it accordingly.
I am treating my body like the temple I never before worshipped at these days. Full disclosure: I am from the most unathletic family. The rules of ball games confuse me into brain freeze. As a teenager I fretted that my gym grades would pull my grade point average down to a point that I would not get the scholarships I desperately needed to get me to a college out of state. As the youngest of four whose mother had already been a widow for thirteen years by the time I was due to enter college, it was imperative that I get that financial aid. I was never built to be a jock and I was enough of an in intellectual snob to eschew all things athletic.
Yet, here I am approaching sixty-five taking my first fitness class ever by Zoom. And, truthfully, the only reason I am there is because we can turn off the video. There are no judging eyes there to body shame me. Because my weight has always been a bone of contention and smoking is really not a healthy way of weight control. (Tried that. Loved it. Gave it up after ten years.) But now that I am needing to mind my blood sugar levels (my sister is a a Type 1 diabetic) and my BMI is out of control, I am finally stepping up and putting on a pedometer every day. I loved baking too much in Lockdown 1 and I loved eating the cookies I baked even more. Being both a greedy eater and a good cook is not a helpful combination.
(As a digression intrepid readers… I speak to my bestie in England each evening and we often talk recipes and culinary methodology. Well, I am only going to food shops for the past year after all! And the pandemic has meant a certain inventiveness is required to avoid too much menu repetition. I was complaining about how Yotam Ottolenghi is always lacing his recipes with sumac and what the heck was that anyway?! And where on earth would I find it in rural Ireland? Pen sent some as Christmas present because you can get it in the shop attached to her local post office in England. And…yes it is a useful addition to flavouring soups and stews.)
However…that kind of radical self-care takes a lot of energy when you are unfit and over sixty. But I am gradually creating a new life balance. I am teaching poetry to a small group, which fits perfectly in terms of creating conditions of creative colleaguality. I am also facilitating a short class in spiritual autobiography, again to a small group. I have shifted the time to suit me and my energy levels rather than consider participants’ needs over mine. So, no weekday evening class this season, while I build myself up after the New Year injury.
Putting my own needs first was a huge challenge. Probably because women of my generation were conditioned to think that is selfish. Even those identifying as feminist are not immune to those subtle socially pervasive messages.
And so to the weekly poem, which has emerged out from under the gardening, the household maintenance, the supply chain fulfillment, and exercise regimes. It was a comfort to read in the Guardian Review the weekend before last that many writers have experienced writer’s block during this pandemic. All this time and yet so little output!
I know from friends or the news that many are knee deep in snow and ice. Or dealing with burst pipes or swelling rivers. Many were without heat, light or power. Or…well, fill in your own personal catastrophe. But to begin this Weekly Poem’s blog I offer you some thoughts of the resurgence of spring. Because our own snow fall melted away and now we see the first flowers. I took my daily exercise down a lane known locally as the Relic Road and marvelled at how the moss and ferns have taken on that psychedelic green that is the sure harbinger of spring. Even though we had a big wind storm blow through last night, there was just a breeze. And I listened to all the birds. I wish I could identify species from their vocalisations. One was doing a cheet-cheet-cheet-cheet-cheet on repeat with a milliseconds pause for breath before starting again!
Here is a little resurgence of green for your week in the event that your Spring lags behind Ireland’s by several weeks.
As to the weekly poem for this Tuesday. the inspiration is twofold. Last week saw the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, which brought to mind “Ashes to ashes. Dust to Dust.” Also, pandemic life in lockdown means that being constantly at home that we are constantly cleaning something. If it isn’t doing a 60 degree laundry load, then it is some surface or other crying out for attention because our world has shrunk down to our dwelling place
…at my last post,which implied Spring was a coming in here in Ireland. And it was, pretty much, until the last few days. Then on Thursday we had the most astonishing sunrise. More astonishing still, I was up and at the digital memorialising of it even though the temperatures were sub-zero. Because you know it’s cold when you have to put a hot water bottle on the (outdoor) calor gas drum to coax it to flow so you can have your breakfast porridge!
Red sky in morning, shepherd’s warning and all that… We woke up to a very different dawn, with a barely there light and snow coming down. Only around two inches like, but that is enough for orange snow and ice warnings for the area from MetEireann. My husband fed the birds and I walked the dog before 9:30 am during a lull in the snowfall. The mountain in the sunrise photo was obliterated between heavy cloud and snowfall. The wind, on a yellow warning, did some damage; between the weight of the snow and the wind, a long tear seared the polytunnel’s skin. (Not to worry, since it was scheduled for a re-skinning this spring.) So it has felt as if the Cailleach Beara, or Mother Winter, really was having a laugh at my precipitous statement.
However, it livens up what I am now terming Pandemic Groundhog Day. For those of us who have really stuck to minimising our essential trips (most to the village that is 3km from home) and taking exercise within 5km, it amounted as a major change of scenery to take the general waste to the tip 20 km away. We also needed the nearest health food store 32 km away, last visited the first week in December after Lockdown 2 lifted, for items unobtainable in the village. It felt like visiting Babylon.
The sheer grind of keeping the household tidy, supplied, hygienic, fed and watered, as well as taking our prescribed thirty minutes of daily outdoor exercise has been energy sapping. It may, in part, be the toll the January injury took, but I am now coming round to the conclusion that there is a chink in my pandemic stoicism. There has been a death from Covid in the next village over from us, according to the local undertaker’s wife. (The things you learn while doing the weekly shop!) And I posted off two Recuperation CARE parcels in the past ten days. This variant is picking off the younger generations and hitting them hard.
Yes, the Cailleach laughed. Winter is not over yet. Even so, I did a panic online shopping spree last Sunday when I saw a report that Brexit has slowed plant and seed supplies into Northern Ireland, where our nearest garden centre is located. A quick online snoop had me ordering willy nilly from various Republic of Ireland sources, alarmed at all the ‘Out of Stock’ labels. Still need to source spuds and yellow onions.
Meanwhile, my friend Morag’s blog post seems to be pointing me in the right direction for digging myself out of my creative funk. My zoom classes and students probably kept the creative flame kindled in 2020. I need to acknowledge that I receive so much from that contact and be grateful for them. It might be time to make contact with those creative colleagues again to keep inspiration’s flame alive. I am thinking that it might be time to recommence the poetry workshops, starting with a two month dive into a handful of poetry forms.
I do have a poem in the works, but it is not fully ‘cooked.’ In the meantime, I am pointing you towards a video show I participated in last Sunday, hosted by my friend John Wilmott of Carrocrory Cottage and Labyrinths. I read four poems at roughly thirty minutes into the show. One poem is in the archive, but the others are probably new to blog followers. (https://youtu.be/sfIofvscCyY).
The poem that is in the works was ‘sparked’ by the theme of that day’s show. Hope you get some inspiration. Meanwhile, renewal is on its way. The snowdrops are blooming and the daffodil shoots are braving it through the snow. I just need to be more like them.
Belated greetings for the feast of Brigid, goddess and matron saint of Ireland. Her feast runs from the eve (31st January) to 2nd February. Celtic festivals generally run three days. But feasts are flexible things – if you go by the lunar calculations it was just past 10pm last night in my time zone. Spring comes slowly. Just as healing often does. Brigid, both as a goddess and saint, is associated with healing. Which I have – impatiently – been doing.
Keyboard typing still tires and feels sore if I overuse it. But I did not want to miss out on sending out harbingings of renewal. I picked green rushes on Monday in the rain and wove a few St. Brigid’s crosses to give to friends and family. I also hung out my Brat Bríde on Sunday night to collect St. Brigid’s blessings and healing energy. It has been suggested on Brigid’s Way’s website that we should hang out our face masks. Good idea. Last year I used mine as the inner layer of my first handsewn face masks during Lockdown 1. This year I sent some to people I know recovering from Covid19.
Brigid’s Day is ideal for a celebration in isolation. It was, until recent years, a home made celebration of hearth and farmyard. Its myths tell of the Winter Hag, the cailleach, who tries to hang on to her season. Yet, the maiden, the new life, will have its season. She is coming, inexorably, inevitably. Even the frosted snowdrops know this. They can feel the earth beneath us warming. The hibernating animals known their drowsy days are numbered.
I spent Monday writing poems, too. Because Brigid is the matron of poetry, too. She also is the Skill Woman, the smithy at the forge, creating by changing. She encompasses all the elements – water of the holy healing wells, the forge’s fire, the whisper of balmy air some days, the earth that is silently greening even under the frost or snow.
Imbolc is considered a threshold time of year. St. Brigid is said to have been born on a threshold. The folklore is that her dairy maid mother was taken in labour while she was milking. The legend says that she grasped the doorframe to support her as her daugher slid to earth just as dawn broke. Sort of a double liminality – dawn and doorway.
St. Brigid's Day
The hinge creaks, stiff with winter's ice and cold,
wind battered, rain rusted. The door's swollen.
It needs elbow grease to give. Go Heave-ho!
The door's wood's expanded, shut tight, chosen
to block out winter's worst. But now it's time
to open the door, welcome this season.
There's still snow on the mountain if you climb
but down low the pasture is beginning to green.
The birds have changed their polyphany, too.
This morning the blackbird turned, stared me down,
daring winter to stay. We have got through.
Light after darkness. The wheel circles round.
The door opens. So it creaks. May it sing!
The blackbird knows that it is time for spring.
Just this...that all we have is each other.
This earth I stand upon and walk
is my spine and skeleton bone.
Water that runs through us, underneath.
surrounding, was amniotic ocean,
arterial flow, a body glowing,
sap in each limb rising, reaching
to sun and air. Oh breathe, Tree! Inhale!
Exhale your sweet self so I may inhale.
Lightening was fire's first spark, electrified.
Thunder rolled off the mountain,then came rain,
wind swept and angled, falling fast and hard.
Huddled in caves with each other we yearned
until flint on flint sparked, lighting dry twig.
May you feel the blessings of increasing light and warmth this Imbolc season.
Spring arrived in the early morning hours. I awoke to the most sparkling of mornings. The light was golden. There was frost on our field. It is the perfect day for gardening. My 70 year old birthday boy husband has been out since he finished his breakfast. A sunny day in the garden is the best of birthday presents as far as he is concerned. It is the perfect day, as far as I am concerned, to be writing some haiku and sharing them with the world, especially for those who do not have nature within eyeshot.
I have been writing each morning. Here are some spring time haiku for you. I hope you have some garden space, or a window box, some compost, so you, too, can grub around in some dirt.