Fledglings

We are all fledglings these days. We can learn a great deal from nature. Certainly with cocooning we have more time now to carefully observe nature in our New Normal.

Just eleven days ago, as Ireland began Phase 1 of our Roadmap to Returning, my husband discovered a nest of baby blue tits in the cavity of some concrete blocks that had lain fallow during lockdown when some hard landscaping work had ceased. Tony, being a Franciscan at heart, immediately began to create a fortress to make sure Mama Bird could get in and out while our cats were not going to be allowed to indulge in any serial killer instincts. This Sunday, we can announce that they have flown the nest. Also, there is only one starling that is still rooming in the eaves over my writing space. The fledglings have begun to go out in the world, though Tony reports that one of the baby birds has been visiting him and watches him while he works in the garden. Perhaps the bird feels comforted by Tony’s protective presence.

We are all fledglings now. Cautiously, for essential tasks, we admit strangers to our homes. And then, if you are me, you spray every surface they could potentially have touched in the process of putting in copper gas pipes so I could make dinners. All delivery people and installers are masked, but it can be hard to stay with them in a heat wave. Well, for us, anything over 21C (70F) is a heatwave. We are languishing in afternoon temperatures rising to 24C this weekend.

Which is why I am posting the Sunday Weekly poem a bit later than usual. I am a shade plant. Though I am not really a morning lark by nature, in hot weather if I am going to be anything other than a slug, I have to perform essential tasks like the long(ish) dog walk, as well as some housework and garden weeding and watering before I reach melting point at 11am. We have a breeze today, so I made it to 11:30.

Ireland tends to feel shorted on summertime, but this year of lockdown has seen long, long periods without rain, lots of sunshine and now, temperatures that are warmer than we are used to experience at this time of year. The hawthorn blossom is spent and the elder is flowering early. A friend also noticed that the orchids we have around here seem to be out earlier, too. The springtime palette of purples and yellows is now yielding to the pinks of celine, lupin, foxglove and snapdragon. The rose Galway Bay has bloomed. The mallow, which had self-seeded all over the place in the poorest of conditions, is flowering early, too. Summer is looking very magenta pink this year!

Because it has been a busy week, with bursts of social interation with trades people, as well as unaccustomed heat, I have cut myself some slack on the Sunday Weekly Poem front. I have written a tanka again this week. Summer has come in. We have lots of work to do and have to pace ourselves through it.

Smell the roses if you can while you still can…

Rose Galway Bay

The New Weekend Normal

How do you keep track of which day of the week it is if you are not working a regular job, at home or otherwise? What routine is part of your Covid 19 New Weekend Normal? One friend confessed that she ordered out for takeaway food each Saturday. Partly it was to take a break from cooking. Mostly, to have some kind of marker in the week that was regular. Although getting a takeaway these days means collection is by appointment and a masked and gloved person slides your order to you on a tray. It feels faintly illicit. For me, now that NaPoWriMo is done, it is getting back to my Sunday Weekly post. That is my New Weekend Normal.

Ireland began Phase 1 of its Roadmap to Reopening last Monday. Although there was an initial rash of more people stopping and having a shouted chat from the lane to us in the garden, things have slumped back to the quieter rhythm. It is as if now that we have had a little ration of other faces different from the ones we have been looking at for the last two months and more, that we have crept back to our old cocooning ways. That Ireland’s two month drought, which coincided with the Call to Cocoon, broke this week, does not mean there is a rush for tiny outdoor tea parties. At writing, there is a storm, heavy rain for sure, but also really blustery wind over 40 km an hour. So this weekend the weather has us indoors.

The New Normal also means that every diary date that has been noted in January is cancelled. This Saturday I was scheduled to give a Mindfulness Walk in the Cavan Burren. On Sunday we should have been fine dining at the MacNean Restaurant, celebrating our niece’s 28th birthday. At this point, I am looking forward to FaceTiming with her and thinking that, all being well, we might get to see her August 11th! As for the Sunday lunch, I shall have to hope we can get a 2021 slot.

Though I have to say that the Phase 1 of reopening seemed to unlock my ability to tackle re-writes, to edit individual poems for the manuscript that has languished between adjusting to our Covid19 New Normal and the diversion of daily poem writing for NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo. Anecdotally, I learned that many people had difficulty concentrating in the early days of Stay in Place. Although in many respects our lives did not change radically, it is often the subtle readjustments that throw us. Like when your cooker goes kaput and you are cocooning. For the first time ever I have invested in White Goods by looking at a photo of shopfloor model and paid by credit card over the phone. The delivery on Monday should be interesting. Nonetheless, things are shifting. The energy is subtly different.

Here in Ireland
 
This week, we opened the windows a crack.
So suddenly things felt a whole lot more people-y.  
Though news travels tractor pace
up and down our lane, more cars passed
Monday, May 18th, and people didn’t just wave,
but pulled up, hand braked, to shout out catch ups.
 
Surprise that our neighbour next door went back to hospital
was it two weeks ago now. Shock that the cocoon funeral
actually had shoulder-to-shoulder pall bearers!
But the craic is the director has six family members on call.
There were pickups of garden cuttings set out on our wall
with shouted debates on how to avoid cultivation errors.
 
Just when we could have invited a friend round
for an outdoor cup of tea sitting two metres away,
the two month drought broke.  The great wind
that might wind up being called Ellen blusters.
The willows are bending over at their waists
performing hourly ritual prostrations.
 
We remain in.

Cocooning prior to Covid-19 meant a time to go within, to regroup and recharge. It is especially sacred time for introverts to take time out when things just get too people-y. Here’s a poem I wrote before our current context. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/10/24/cocoon/.

Given the re-writes, the jigs and reels of submission guidelines, the brief fever of flash fiction writing this week, I am going to offer a tanka as the Sunday Weekly poem today. In terms of reopening from cocooning, I feel as if we may have cracked the pupa, but I feel like a very dozy caterpillar. The weather turned heavy this week as the low pressure system approached and a number of us (myself included) have felt zonked some days.

A tanka is a haiku followed by two seven syllable lines portraying a complete picture or mood




Sunday Weekly, Poetry Edition

Contemplating the function of poetry in these strange times, it seems to me that the themes of impermanence and small joys speak to our current global condition. Elegies exercise grief over loss. Odes, too, can eulogise. Haiku, senryu, and tanka offer a snapshot image and feeling that is already gone except for the paper it is written on. Perhaps nature and love poems are the compensating joys, even if that, too, proves evanescent. The Celtish culture defined poetry as being ‘all memory.’ Memory can be a tricky thing. Holes can appear; we mend and make do to create meaning in the face of the great imponderables. In the face of our inchoate, post-Covid 19 future, philosophy may help us navigate day to day reality, but poetry may actually be what helps us navigate grief and uncertainty.

I know that some of my readers will be in the belly of a polar vortex this weekend. One Ohio based Facebook friend posted a photo of snowflakes on dandelion clocks. Here in Ireland today is chillier, after several days that were 20C (or 68 Farhrenheit in old money.) The sunshine made it feel warmer and I anointed myself with sunscreen for the first time this year, as one step beyond the floppy hat protection. We had the full Flower Moon, the last supermoon of 2020, this past week and astronomical Bealtaine (or Beltane outside of Ireland). As if waiting for its cue, the hawthorn began to unbutton its tight white buds and began to flower. I wrote a long Beataine poem this week that has been sent to a friend who posted me some life enhancing Lockdown light literature – crime fiction by Antonia Fraser, Raymond Chandler and J. M. Cain. I asked what I could send as a thank you and all she wanted was a Bealtaine poem! Classy lady, as another friend commented.

In the USA it is Mother’s Day. On this side of the pond we celebrate that on a Sunday that is close to the vernal equinox; it also is close to Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation of Mary. Either date, the celebration of Mother’s Day has strong Marian overtones. Bealtaine, the month of May, is also a great fertility celebration as the growing season gets into full swing.

So for the Sunday Weekly I have written some tanka, although I have played a bit fast and lose with the rules in the latter. One is a salute to American Mother’s Day, which must feel rather odd this year for families that don’t share one roof. Lilacs are strong in my childhood memories of the month of May. Partially because there was a bush by the kitchen side door. Also partially because of hay fever memories from the bouquets brought to school for Marian celebration processions.

And this other tanka-ish poem is a nod to my near neighbours. I shouldn’t really say they are noisy, but… Their nest in the roof’s eaves is just above my writing space. So I cannot help but notice them.

Have a peaceful, restful Sunday with many small joys.

Featured image is a Photo by Nellia Kurme on Unsplash

Outside

I am away on a field trip later this morning that will feed the imagination of students participating in a Creative Ireland project. It is a collaboration between a ceramacist and me,my role being heritage background on place and natural heritage(trees and rocks), as well as some creative writing on both subjects. Museums fill the creative well. When it came to poetry practice this morning I turned to photos taken on my Scotland trip the first week in May. One artist, Ross Hamilton Frew, in an exhibit in Glasgow’s Lighthouse, accompanied his visual art with haiku. The opening line was “Outside My Room.” So I write a series of haiku and a tanka, using that as the opening line. 

Outside my room

The world is a play of light

Chiarascuro

 

Outside my room

Is a still and green jungle

Burgeoning summer

Outside my room

Bees sup on mallow’s nectar

The world continues

Outside my room

Is much like inside my room

Alive, untidy

We each have certain passions

That breach the boundary walls

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
The original artwork that sparked this morning’s poetry practice.
The featured image today is a snap I took in the library of Skail Home Farm at Skara Brae, Scotland.

Tanka

At some point during my sleep I briefly woke with the day’s poem all neatly configured. But I didn’t sit up and write it down then and there. So the poem was a dream. The dream was a poem…or poetry writing. It drifted back into morpheus.

I have a demanding ten days ahead. So today is my day of rest. I need reading. I am being fed by friends. But I crave a deluxe Sunday breakfast first. So I am keeping poetry practice short and sweet. Also, I am saluting the latest accessory to help me move through the next ten days. You know how there are shoe women or handbag women? Well, now you know which one I am.

I used the tanka for a writing exercise on trees with the school group on Friday. It has been awhile since I turned my pen to writing one. So for this restful Sunday the Poetry Daily gives you a tanka on a handbag. My new one is the colour of Colman’s English mustard. I was calling to me like a siren from high up a shelf in the shop. It has mock tortoiseshell handles. I am completely infatuated.

It’s my day of rest. I am feeling a bit frivolous.

The tanka is essentially a haiku or senryu followed by a couplet of seven syllables each. Like haiku there is no rhyme.

Handbag

I carry sunshine
zipped up inside my handbag
along with these things -
hairbrush, hankies, compass, pen,
pebble stones. Forget lipstick.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Debora Cardenas on UnsplashFeatured image

Deep Time

Poetry practice today is informed by some wildlife – a moth- found on our front door yesterday. Also the walking workshop I delivered to 50+ school kids yesterday up on the Cavan Burren. In a landscape with million year old furniture I was trying to explain when their first ancestors -these were local kids- turned up in Ireland mere thousands of years ago, when sea levels were lower before the last of the big Ice Age melt off. This is background information before these kids make pottery with local ceramic artist Jim Fee.  Humans have been making pots for tens of thousands of years. Writing is a bit of an afterthought – after farming, domestication of animals, megalith making. It was a Bronze Age development. Although perhaps poetry existed in oral form or in singing before that. But the writing down – into stone, onto bark or papyrus- that came fairly late in the day as an art form. The first poetry was recorded by a woman – a princess and priestess- in 3,500BCE in Babylon. Art making was the hand work  that filled the glove of the spiritual and sacred in the ancient world. It was deeper in our DNA even then the urge for food security. As was our human capacity for awe at the workings and movement in nature. We were still part of nature then.

It is one of the great pleasures and privileges of living within Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark that this sense of deep time and survival. Much will pass away, but the art will remain, and the rocks. 

 

So, to the daily poem. I am keeping it short to allow contemplation to be long. A tanka today. A haiku capped with a seven syllable couplet. Which brings me back to that moth. Which my Collins’ “Complete Irish Wildlife” suggests is called the Angle Shade

Angle Shade

Before you are lost

Let me know, name, record you

Survive in deep time

It is just a slip between

A different angle shade

Haiku to a Quieter Mind

I am prepping for a workshop later this week which combines a walk in a Geopark forest with mindfulness and haiku writing. Synchronously, a friend pointed me to a website that is  running online haiku courses to override negative thinking. While I am not sure that haiku writing can achieve that, what I do know is that because it is grounded in the present moment it is similar to mindfulness meditation. While it may not completely quiet a mind, I do think a regular practice of writing haiku or senryu may help the mental chatter and static recede. Nor am I persuaded that it is constructive to label any of our thoughts as ‘bad.’ It is what we do with our thoughts – whether they harm ourselves or others – when put into action that is more to the point. Mindfulness meditation helps us enter into a space where we witness our thoughts and let them go. Or,alternatively, they can be put to paper.

Haiku is traditionally nature based and is no more than seventeen syllables long. Senryu is also seventeen syllables long, but takes human behaviour, often human foibles, as its inspiration. Either, being grounded in a moment of perception and realisation, ground our witness consciousness using this abbreviated format. It may not calm you, but I do believe it helps centre even the most restless and anxious mind.

Today’s poetry practice is neither haiku or senryu, but a tanka. A tanka is a five line poem made up of a haiku with a capping two liner made up of fourteen syllables. Traditionally, the Japanese use a format of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. I have kept the syllabic count, but arranged it to make sense as an English language speaker.

Leaf frost

Golden sun crowning Paddy’s hill

The day is in right order

Light spreads over our townland

The world is in right order

Of Mushrooms and Mycellium

Change perspective. Have pen, have paper, can travel – even if it is not far. For today’s poetry practice I broke routine. I wrote in late afternoon instead of morning. I sat in a different position. I wrote outdoors, wrapped up well in fleece jacket and a hand knitted wool snood pulled over my head. The snood smelled a bit musty from nine months in a drawer. Fortunately, it got a good airing. There was a stiff breeze and low cloud. The outer weather may still be mirroring wider cultural climate. But today was a day to get out and change perspective.

I had an early start to get to a mushroom identification walk led by my friend, Tina Pommer, for Seatrails, a Sligo based tour guiding company. I have long been charmed by fungi’s beauty and diversity in form – the sheer goofiness of puffballs, the aquatic simulacrum of coral, leakiness of milk caps, the frowziness of an elderly shaggy inkcap, the deep purple of an amethyst deceiver, blushes, vermilions and scarlets of the showier models. It tickles me that what we tend to categorise as ‘fruits of the forest’ are actually closer to the animal end of the living being spectrum.

And another thing that completely blows me a way is how they propagate. A tanka is the form for today’s poetry practice.

Mycelium

The body buried
Branching, stretching out below
Earth creates new meat

Mother spores migrate inward
Proffering autumn offsping

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith