Poem: Pencil case Lockdown 17

Another Lockdown Poem to share with you today.  This one is less a grounding in the garden, and more a writing about my pencil case.

I’d been looking for it, ready to go outside in the morning and do my thing, and couldn’t find it.   I went out anyway with my notebook, and there it was, on the bench.  So this is a piece about my pencil – I do prefer pencil – and writing, and the dark.

The next poem will be back to getting lost in noticing the growing things, paying attention to the moment…..

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Pencil case  Lockdown 17

My pencil case has been outside,
on this bench, all night.
As I touch its cold zip,
see its black interior,
I wonder.
Have these pencils known
things I have not?
The meteor shower I missed,
the Milky Way, perhaps,
visible in our now
darkened sky,
The gentle deer,
the owls?

They have known
the chill of night….
I turn over this cold pencil,
soft lead, and dark,
and hold it in my hand,
weighing its qualities.
What might it hold?

Might it be more inclined
to speak of darkness,
things unseen,
unknowable?
Might it brim over
with night?

Yet here I am,
wondering about
hidden stars,
and light that is unseen,
and yet, and yet,
also knowing, also feeling,
its cold, its dark,
as I write, and write.

Poem: Home/Safe – Lockdown 16

A very small poem today, the next in the Lockdown series, but written a few days ago.  It’s another moment captured. Today, on the Friday before a bank holiday, there are more cars about, but I find I am noticing the pattern of quiet in between the sounds, and holding onto that stillness, at least today, in a way I haven’t before.

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The feeling of safety is so important to me, as to us all, and its so good to have a place where you feel safe.  One of the things I have valued at this time is an increased feeling of safety, and peace.  I know this is not everyone’s experience.

I am glad that some action is being taken to support those who are not safe in lockdown, that the police, Boots the Chemist, and others, are opening ways for people to receive help. It’s good to find safe ways of speaking up, and for all of us, it’s so important we listen to subtle clues that someone might need help.

Here are some UK links

Government website
NHS support
Refuge helpline

 

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The bluebells are wilting in the heat now, but this is how they were, growing and flourishing.

May peace and safety grow, and bless our homes.  May we have safe spaces.

 

Home/Safe   Lockdown 16

In this quiet,
so few cars,

Behind this green hedgerow
my feeling of safety,
a feeling of home,
grows, along with these
bluebells.
it is a good place,
a green pasture,
and I am learning here
not to fear,
where all is well,
where there is peace.

 

 

And for when we venture out….

May God make safe to you each steep,
May God make open to you each pass,
May God make clear to you each road,
And may he take you in the clasp of his own two hands.

From Carmina Gadelica – included in my book, Prayers and Verses

Poem: Alpine strawberries – Lockdown 15

Welcome to the next in this series of Lockdown Poems.  Although things are growing busier, and there is far more traffic on the road, many of us are still at home.   Some are islolating.  It is an unsettling, and a frightening time, this time of venturing out a little. And for those who are braving going back to work, maybe a glimpse of green growing things will help too.

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As I was looking at the unfolding of the strawberry flowers, I was thinking of all that was hidden, folded within the bud, waiting.  The beauty of the flower, and the prospect of fruit.  Same with the apple blossom, and, perhaps, same with the moments and days themselves.  I thought of how time changed within the deep moments of prayer, too, when we find we are in an enfolded moment, upheld in love.

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Alpine Strawberries – Lockdown poems 15

The white flowers of the
alpine strawberries are
opening, everywhere,
under the hum of insects,
under their faint perfume,
groundcover where
newts hide,
and slugs, no doubt.

Each day lengthens,
each day seeming
to hold an infinity
folded within itself,
opening out,
nonetheless, endless,
as the patterns
run on –

Wind and sun,
sun and wind,
playing against each other
as the new apple tree shakes,
holding its new blossom.
Life bending before
time – supple, resilient,
turning to sun –
hopeful, relentless.

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Poem: What Matters – Lockdown 14, and being on The Verb

This next Lockdown poem looks up to the sky – but it picks up the theme of bird calls,  a theme that has woven through these poems.  We’ll return to today’s poem later, but first I’d like to share with you a little bit about Friday.

Birdsong was the theme of Friday 15th’s edition of The Verb.  You can listen to it by following that most recent link.  I was enormously excited to have my poem, The Blackbird included.  My contribution is a little after 20 minutes in, but I would start at the beginning if you can.  The section on nightingales is so lovely.  It was strange having something that was part of my spontaneous record of lockdown being shared so wideley, and I felt a little nervous, and vulnerable, as it went out.  But I know that is somehow the point of this series, or sequence –  that it is unpolished, private even.  I hope it connects with people reading and listening because of that.  We don’t know where this is going, or where these poems will take us. It is, like everything else, a work in progress, a step into the unknow.

It was so good to find my recording in such excellent company on the programme, opening up, exploring, a love of birdsong, in particular as a means of deepening our connection with and affection for the rest of the natural world.  It is a feature of this lockdown, in spring, that many of us have been able to hear the birds with greater clarity, and deeper joy, than busy lives usually allow.

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Back to today’s poem, also featuring birds and their calls – a crow this time, a very different experience, and very powerful.  As it was a moment of aerial combat, I didn’t take any photos to share with you, but crows have featured in my poems before.  Here are links to two  – Crows and Crow, on the lawn

In the absence of photos, and continuing the home produced theme, here’s an experiment at linocutting to sit alongside the poem.

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One thing many of us are doing during this lockdown is thinking about what matters.  Our priorities seem sharper, and values clearer.  I thought of that as I watched this crow.

What matters  Lockdown 14

Sudden, sharp, deep –
I know that crow-call
and look up, suddenly,
sharply, to see one solitary
bird, small in the wide blue,
small next to the great buzzard
it harries, and parries.

The buzzard twists away,
and edges, back,
and twist, and edges,
back and back,
weaving a brown thread
through the relentlessly blue sky.

Just one crow, keeping them safe,
keeping the nest and the young
and the tribe safe,
for surely the buzzard must know
it’s too much bother to bother
with these, so well defended.

Does the crow feel fear,
anger, rage?
I do not think he makes
a cool calculation of odds.
The crow knows what matters,
defends what matters,
threading the blue with
its black zigzag,
keeping all safe.

Poem: Peonies – Lockdown Poem 13

Here is the next in the Lockdown Poems series.  Simple fragments, often, and pretty much as they emerge, shared with you here.  I am seeking to pay attention, to be grounded in my place and in the moment, to notice.  It’s one of the outcomes of my continuing attempts at silent prayer.  Things catch my attention, and I do return to them after, and seek to listen.

Tonight, Friday 15th May, one of these poems is having an outing to The Verb on Radio 3, 10 pm BST. You can read more about that here.  It hardly seems real, and I am rather excited!  To get to participate in something so good! I’m intrigued to know what else is on the programme this week, how they are sharing people’s response to the lockdown, and how, indeed, other people are responding to the lockdown.

But that is for later, after dark.  For now, another moment to sit on the bench, and pay attention to the Spring.

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Peonies  Lockdown 13

Today, the tree peony is transformed.
Its strange yellow sputniks of buds
have split, and are unfurling
their hard shells into
yellow cups of light,
turning towards the sun,
filling up, and up,
radiant,
and white sheets blow in the wind,
and everywhere, things are uncurling.

On the lawn, the dandelions welcome
their butterflies,
and the butterflies, in turn,
welcome the sweet yellow of the dandelions.

The taller trees, outside the garden,
shake their open hands in the breeze.
Rest, and motion. Motion, and rest,
all giving, all receiving
– the light, the air,
the earth, the water,
all saying Yes, and Yes.

Poem: Here, a sudden green – Lockdown 12

A very simple moment recorded today – how quickly the spring races ahead now.  Soon, all will be full-leaved, and slow, but now, it seems things grow almost before your eyes.  What is even more disconcerting is how, if you’ve been watching something, and then turn your back, everything changes.

It’s a reminder of the passage of time, like how much taller the children we know will seem when we see them again.  How different things may be after this time.

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These Lockdown Poems  are turning into a record of the spring, sometimes moment by moment.  And tomorrow, Friday 15th May, you’ll be able to hear me read one of this band of poems on Radio 3’s The Verb.  I’m feeling a little excited, and also nervous, but mainly awed by the opportunity to contribute something to our shared experience …..

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Here, a sudden green  Lockdown Poems 12

How did the silver birches grow
so green so quickly?
the stems of the rambling rose
lost now in all those tiny leaves –
those yellow catkins.

Now a tree in leaf,
yesterday, it seems,
a tree in bud,
and here, too,
the acacia, like
a yellow maidenhair fern,
shook out in the breeze,
so suddenly, so suddenly,
after a winter of waiting.

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Poem: Unfurl – Lockdown Poems 11

Welcome back to my Lockdown Poems series.  These are simple reflections, more or less as they come, usually written in the garden during these times when many of us have suspended our normal activities, and are at home.  It’s been going on a while now, as we all know, and some days are better than others.

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I’ve been seeking to practice being in the moment, and here’s a record of a tiny shift, noticing the sensations and the sights around me, noticing the moment.   That helps so much.  I hope that sharing these snatches with you, wherever you are, gives you a glimpse of green that helps you too.

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Unfurl  – Lockdown Poems 11

World-weary, bone weary,
head aching, I list the small
things I should do, and then
turn my face away, towards
the olive green and bright green
leaves of the climbing rose,
fresh opening,
and as I do so, feel the sun
on my cheek, soft,
and as I do so, see how the
hazel leaves have grown
overnight,
grooved saucers of green,
catching the sun,
as my cheek is now,
warm.

I shall rest here awhile,
list on my lap,
and let the sun unfurl something
strange and new in me,
not knowing what.

Lockdown Poem on the radio!

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I am delighted and astonished to announce that one of my Lockdown Poems is going to be included in this week’s episode of BBC Radio 3’s wonderful  The Verb.

That’s Friday, 15th May at 22:00 BST. If you follow the link to the programme above, you’ll be able to find it on that date.  The programme is entitled birdsong.  I’m just after 20 minutes in, but if you start at the beginning, you’ll hear the nightingales…..

It’s a fascinating programme, and very beautiful.  It explores our relationship with birdsong, which has become much more intense during the lockdown, and how people have been inspired by it, and how we connect to the natural world through it.  The producer invited me to say a little bit about myself and the process, as well as reading the poem.  So I’ve been learning how to record myself on my phone, which is one of many new tech experiences of this time.  The poem is The Blackbird – Lockdown 7.

I sat on my bench quite early in the morning, and did manage to capture some birdsong in the background, which was just perfect.  The blackbird was joining in, as is only right.  It’s his poem as much as mine.

Thank you for your virtual company through these poems – there are more in the notebook, wainting to emerge.

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News from the Little Free Pantry.

 

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The pantry at its Harvest Festival launch

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you  may remember posts about the Little Free Pantry at St Andrew’s Church, Melton.  It’s a simple thing –  a place where anyone can leave some tins or other food, and anyone can take what they need.

 

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Today at lunchtime

It was so sad that at the beginning of the lockdown we had to close the pantry for a while, but gradually, and in stages, and with much thinking, work and adjustment, it’s now up and running again!

It’s back in the church porch, 10 am to 5 pm, seven days a week.   There’s an extra table, with more space for fresh produce.
The ususal rules of keeping two metres apart apply.
It’s open for both giving and taking, no need to talk to anyone, just give what you can, take what you need.

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I do believe it is a particularly important neighbourhood resource at the moment.  Shopping can be difficult for so many reasons – you or a family member may be vulnerable, money or time or transport may be hard to come by, the shopping experience may be anxious for all the kindness of the shopworkers.  The pantry is here, a sign of love, and of the hand of friendship we wish we could extend.

We have been so encouraged that people are making donations, and withdrawals, are joining in with this simple way of neighbours helping neighbours.

There are two other little free pantries in church porches nearby that we’ve heard of – in Grundisburg and Hasketon.  Do tell us if there are more.  It’s such a simple idea, and it works well with social isolation, maybe more places would like to set one up.

 

So, thank you to everyone who is using the pantry in any way.  May it bless you.

 

Poem: Alarm – Pause Lockdown Poems 10

Welcome to my series of Lockdown Poems, where I’m posting fairly free and unpolished jottings, writing of a life limited to my own patch.  Here is the tenth so far, and this one did not come from a time of quiet and contemplation, but from wandering around in a chilly breeze, checking all was well with the veggie patch.

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Blackcurrant bush – a gift from a dear friend.  I do miss her. I hope the blackberries ripen.

So there’s more of that kind of unstructured thinking in it….
but what I wanted to record was how startling it was to hear a sound like a phone ringing, how much it felt like something from a different world, intruding on my calm.

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Yes, the lettuices are doing well.  I’ll get some more started.

So with these pictures, we’re checking the progress of the future harvest, as we take a look around the garden.

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Beans! good, at last.  I wonder how high they’ll grow this year?

We can take a seat in the shelter of these trees, and read the next poem.

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Alarm – Pause  Lockdown Poems 10

The wind is cold,
blowing from the north
and I pull down my sleeves,
sheltering behind the trees.

I walk to the place where
the veggies and the soft fruit grows –
yes, they too are sheltered.
The wind does not reach them.

Gooseberries might do well here,
I think, and more blackcurrants,
wondering – can I order them?
Essential? Food?
Yes.  No. Perhaps. Don’t know.
But I do know this – it is good
to see growing things,
even these tiny growing things.

And a bird breaks in
as if from another world –
the bird who has learned
to alarm like a telephone.
Startled, I jump up,
but only for a moment,
and then other birds join
the song, weaving music
from that stark call,
softening its insistence.

The north wind blows still,
the loud world retreats again,
as the bluebells open,
as the pigeons strut
on the roof ridge,
and the whole green
glorious song pauses
a moment, steadying
its startled breath.

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After a conversation with a friend, I thought I’d better point out that I did, in fact, order some fruit bushes from Chris Bowers.

My usual plant suppliers weren’t taking orders at the time, and it’s all quite variable, but nurseries could do with the business, and gardens could do with the plants.  I’m very much looking forward to them arriving, and growing, and fruiting!