2500 Steps: My Daily Walk

The prompt from NaPoWriMo2020 this morning is “asks you to write a poem about a specific place — a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there. Little details like this can really help the reader imagine not only the place, but its mood – and can take your poem to weird and wild places.” I know that those who do not live in remote places cannot get out for much walking at the moment, so I thought I would share my daily walk with you. Or at least have a bash at it.

My walk takes me up our lane to the townland of Tubber, which is the Anglicisation of the Irish tóbar, meaning well. The holy well remains, even though the village was destroyed in a flood and avalanche in 1863.

2,500 Steps: A Breath
Two thousand five hundred steps
there, and back home again,
a daily pilgrimage, up and down
a hedge fringed lane,
moss, lichen limbed ash trees.
Alder that's up to its knees
soaks up the run off
from the lane side shuck.
Step, step, step – breathe.
A baby oak is growing up
through eon’s old rock.
There is primrose and buttercup.
Soon horsetail will spring its
bog brush bristles up.
Step, step, step – breathe.
There is bird song,
far off rumble of tractor engine,
anxious mehs from mothers of frisky twin lambs,
the lowing basso profundo
from brown cows in the old Pound.
Step, step, step – breathe.
The lane smells of new life
and silage liberated from black plastic bales.
There is the whispered suggestion
of precipitation, a mist on the cheek
that never soaks the skin.
Step, step, step – breathe.
The fields unfold their green and reach upland,
undulating towards the sky.
The Playbank ranges to the right, lorded by cloud…
sometimes the grey edged half-mourning kind
doing their best not to cry.
Step, step, step –breathe.
Pass the lost village’s old Pound.
Pass the modern barn where cows
soulfully munch their silage lunch,
patiently waiting to be put out to pasture.
Pass the remnant of what once was a house.
Step, step, step – breathe.
First, pause to let the fox cross the lane,
coming from its devotions at the holy well’s shrine.
What litany of  heart-felt murmurings
has weighed down the gnarled hawthorn’s limbs
with ribbons, scapulars, rosary beads, and mittens?
Listen to the burn’s rush and bustle.
The holy well’s sacred water rises and falls
in drought and flood. The alabaster plaster Mary
presides, stands open-armed for petitions
from those who have no other recourse than She.

Copyright ©Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.
Tubber Holy Well Clooties – rosary beads, ribons, and bits of cloth
Tubber Holy Well May 2017

Haiku Walking

An early start for the second of my Creative Ireland mindfulness haiku walks on the Cavan Burren. This particular group came from the Education Centre at the local low security prison.  I love working with these guys and it is always a privilege. The Cavan Burren offers megaliths, upland landscape and woodland where rock art and remains of neolithic living can be seen. It has a very special presence. And while it is a specially earned opportunity, it also challenges guys who are used to a foreshortened viewpoint. Up by the Tullygubban Wedge Tomb they could look out and count six counties. They could look down on their own residence over looking Lough MacNean where ancient people left remains of shellfish feasts. Some city dwellers have only ever experienced concrete. This was wilderness to some Dubs amongst us.

And then how do you handle presence and silence when you have been living in a perpetually noisy environment? That, too, is a challenge. For then the chatter in the mind gets louder sometimes. Which is where mindfulness meditation can come in handy.

Haiku can help focus on a moment – a pause, a revelation – and then share that connection. So many offenders in prison have some element of addiction that contributed to their landing there. Studies in Portugal have posited that the opposite of addiction is connection. Connection is the business of poetry. Which is why I am in there pitching poetry writing  for the past four years. I hope the lads have got as much out of it as I have received.

Two haiku from today’s foray:

In the woods – the wind

Ruffling spruce needles whoosh.

And. What’s that? Silence

Coming down Mollie’s Brae

A rainbow: my wish

A way to be free