Poem: Frogs – uncertainty Lockdown 8

 

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Welcome back to the garden.  Today’s Lockdown Poem is a small piece about our small and rather scruffy pond.  It’s raised, and I’ve built a staircase of broken pots so that creatures can get in and out.  We’ve had frogs, and toads, and a couple of species of newt in the garden, but it takes real patience and dedication to catch them on camera – I haven’t managed it yet.

As I was trying to watch the frogs the other day, I couldn’t help thinking of the observer effect, and the uncertainty principle.    I am sharing lockdown with people interested in physics, so these things do come up from time to time.  Of course, these effects are very different from the difficulty of observing and counting frogs, but they do help shape how we think about looking at the world.  We know that there are things it’s hard for us to know for sure, and that our attempts to know things can disturb the things we wish to study.

And so the number of frogs in the pond remains a mystery, if I wish them to remain in the pond.  Like so many things, we know in part, and see in part.  And that’s good – for the frogs, and much else.

Metaphysical speculation aside, I hope you can take a moment to enjoy the garden, and the frogs.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to take a picture, and add it in here. For now, here’s the familiar bench, to sit awhile, and think of frogs and uncertainty.

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Frogs – uncertainty.  Lockdown 8

There are frogs in this tiny pond
I should have cleared it,
made more room.
I have seen one, two, three maybe,
but to look, to try to count,
is to disturb them,
and I want them to stay.
I lean back, so my shadow
falls elsewhere.

The presence of frogs,
the knowledge of the
presence of frogs,
is joyful, so joyful,
I hang back, and give
them room.
I shall come back tomorrow,
early, and look again.

 

Poem: The Blackbird – Lockdown poems 7

Lockdown Poem News!

I am delighted to be able to share with you that this poem was featured on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb on Friday 15th May at 22:00 BST.    You will be able to find a recording of the poem on the link above, under the date.  The programme is entitled Birdsong.     If you start at the beginning, you’ll hear a marvelous piece on nightingales, but if you are short of time, my contribution is just after 20 minutes in. You can read more about being on the programme here.

It’s so exciting!

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Welcome back to the garden. It’s been a harder week, this week, with much, and much needed, rain. It has felt more confined, being more indoors. I have ended up watching more news, and felt more sucked into our strange, shifting reality, our uncertainty.

As you may have gathered, these Lockdown Poems tend to emerge in bursts, and find their way here a little while later, so this poem was one that came on one of the brighter, sunnier days. Coming back to it now, it helps to connect with a time when it was less hard work to be in the moment, to settle into stillness, and to be open. It reminds me of all that. It reminds me of the connection we can feel to the creatures we share our space with, and what riches we can find in such connection.

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I hope, whatever your week has been like, you can take another moment to listen to the birdsong, as we did together in the last poem, and hear its dark and beautiful strangeness.

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A female blackbird – I can’t find the name of the photographer to credit this.

The Blackbird – lockdown 7

The blackbird lands just
behind my shoulder,
I hear the air in his throat,
I hear the slight preparations
for song,
then song.

I scarcely dare move my pencil,
and yet, my pencil moves.
Oh, for the gift of
interpretation of tongues,
that I might write,
in words, that song,
that meaning, the cares
belonging to this small soft being
with its deep globe eyes
and stabbing beak.

I see you, I hear you,
in all your dark and
beautiful strangeness,
as you shift from
spreading branch
to spreading branch,
open to receive you.

 

Poem: The Wood – Lockdown poems 6

Welcome back to the garden for the next in this series of Lockdown Poems.  These strange lengthening days are bringing us new experiences – some are very unwelcome, but others have something to show us, something that might help us navigate our way to a better world after….
I hope you are finding moments of tranquility.  You are welcome to come and sit on this bench in your imagination, and hear the sounds of spring.

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What has struck me, like so many others, is the birdsong we can hear as our human hubub has quietened.  Although we live very near a small wood, I haven’t heard the birdsong from it before – not from the back of the garden, well past dawn.  Sometimes, in May, you can hear the dawn chorus before the traffic begins, but now there is very little traffic, and the wood’s loudness is astonishing.

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I hope you can hear birdsong where you are.  Here’s a link to a recording of the dawn chorus in the UK if you’d like to listen

So, here’s another poem which emerged from my practice of trying to deepen into contemplative prayer, but being open to the sounds of the natural world as they speak.

The wood – lockdown 6

This April morning,
not even particularly early,
I sat on this bench,
allowing my breath to deepen,
and settling into presence,
and into Presence,

I heard, for the first time,
the sound of the wood –
not too far away,
across the grey snake
of the road.

I heard it like a distant choir,
together and rejoicing,
or an orchestra playing jazz –
wild, improvised,
I heard it as the sound of life,
reaching me even here,
across the silent road,
unquenchable,
green through the blue air,
calling the trees awake,
calling the bluebells – up, up,
and flowing round
the fragile white anemones
as they bow their many heads.

 

Poem: Two Trees – Lockdown poems 5

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The next poem that came from this Lockdown is a little different from the others at first glance.  Once again, it was emerged on the page, and has had minimal tweeks.  I was intrigued to find it there.  Its subject is the trees in the Garden of Eden, and it asks tentative questions about human nature, and the human experience, which they raise for me.  I have wondered before why the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was prohibited, when so many religious systems seem very preoccupied with such knowlege.  I have wondered too how Jesus’ warnings against judging help us understand that, and balanced those warnings with the image of knowing a tree by its fruit, as he advises us to do.

I find it helps to allow the images – of trees, and fruit – to grow in our minds, and see what kind of shoots emerge. This is not a theological exploration, but a poetic instinct. Here,  I have been asking questions of myself, in a kind of uncertain echo of a chatechism, and allowed the questions to be there, partially or inadequately answered.  What if there is a choice, moment by moment – the fruit of the knowlege of good and evil, the fruit of life?  Might that have something to say to us as we seek to choose life, again and again?  Can we say yes to life, moment by moment, even in these moments?

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I don’t have two trees growing in the centre of my garden, but I do have this tree, whose early morning shadow delights me.  I hope you can make it out. The early light was tricky.  I thought I’d offer it to you to see if it might help give another image to add to the trees in this poem – a growing tree and its shadow.

 

 

Two trees – lockdown 5

Two trees grow in the midst of the garden; the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.   paraphrase from Genesis 2:9

What if we stand
in the middle of the garden,
choosing the wrong tree,
moment by moment,
again and again?
There they both grow –
tall, beautiful,
pleasing to the eye,
laden with fruit.

And we are drawn to one,
not the other, at least at first.
Wanting power to say things are
this, or that, the illusion of
control, wanting to judge,
wanting to be right.

Do we need to lay all that
hollow fruit aside in order
to eat from the tree of life?
I think so, yes,
Maybe empty-handed is better.

And what if we had made
a different choice
from the beginning?
Chosen that other tree,
unprohibited,
free.
What indeed!
And yet we did not,
and ever since, we have
hungered for its fruit.

And can we choose differently
now, each day, each moment?
I think so, yes, I think that we can
set down the fruit that
sours and spoils,
and choose life
again, and again,
and again.

Poem: Yes – Lockdown Poems 4. For Earth Day

This is the next lockdown poem to emerge – today, here, is clear blue, but we had some stunning clouds a few days ago, and it was good to take a few moments to watch them.

It’s Earth Day, when we look to our place as part of the wonderful whole that is our home, the Earth, and look also to our responsibility to tend it.  One of the things I am experiencing in this time at home is a greater sense of connection, of love, for all that makes up the place, the ground that I’m part of here. I feel this love and connection are deeply significant.  I wonder if they are the necessary roots of a better way of living, one that acknowledges our dependence on the living Earth, and works to heal our environmental crisis, the crisis the living Earth is facing, including us.  These deep connections, this gratitude and love are, I am coming to think, more important than we know. I touched on these themes in a talk I gave at Girton College Chapel, and if you’d like to, you can read more about that here.

I hope there are ways, however small, that you can find connection with the natural world where you are.  Whether you can or not, you are welcome to join me here in your imagination, and sit in the sun.

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Yes, thank you – lockdown 4

The white clouds are coming now,
sails spread, a fanciful armada
on a soft southerly wind.
My skin feels the heat of the sun,
surprising. And I say thank you, and yes
to the blue and white of the sky,
to these various dark bees
among the comfrey,
heads dusted with pollen –
yes, drink your fill,
yes, thank you

To the peacock butterflies waiting
open-winged on the grass,
until another flies by,
and they rise and dance
as perfect as silent larks.
yes, and thank you

To the bright leaved hazel,
to the dark flowered fritillary lilies,
the yellow dandelions and their
white butterflies,
All, yes, thank you.

Poem: Red Leaves – Lockdown Poems 3

I’ve been spending time with my notebook, while we’ve been in lockdown.  Usually, the words come from what’s going on around me, grounding myself in my ground.  I am aware how fortunate I am to have sight of new leaves, as here, but I hope these small verses give you a place where your imagination can connect with the spring, wherever you are.

They are just moments as they come.

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The subject of this poem springs from the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, which you can read about here.

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A moment in the garden, shared with you.

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Red leaves   lockdown 3
Oh, the sun through those red leaves,
shiny and shining,
And here, too, the smokebush,
just kindling to red flame,
before the leaf-smoke thickens,
as the sun’s light strengthens.
You can almost feel them growing,
as you bask in their cold fire.

It’s all holy.
All this good earth.
As my knees feel the
softness of grass,
and the air smells so of green,
and of the damp warming soil,
and grass, and primroses.

Yes.  This place.
Yes.  This time, even this.

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Sunday Retold: The road to Emmaus

I thought I’d share with you a reading from my book, The Bible Story Retold, and something from Prayers and Verses, as we continue thinking and praying through Easter this year.  As with all the Sunday Retold series, I hope it will be of help for all ages, wherever you find yourself.

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The road to Emmaus by Daniel Bonnell

Things often emerge while walking.  Conversations can be deeper.  These two disciples, possibly husband and wife – Mary, wife of Clopas was at the foot of the cross – were leaving Jerusalem, their world fallen apart, talking over all that had happened.

Maybe, when we are out walking, we can be open to noticing the ways we need to talk through our fears and sadnesses, and then, be open to the possibility of a new perspective, a new vision, a new life.  It’s worth noticing how Jesus gave them time and space to tell them their story from their own perspective, and then, how he invited them into a new way of looking.

On the road

Two of Jesus’ followers left Jerusalem that day, walking to the village of Emmaus.  While they walked, they began to talk about all that had happened.  And as they shared their grief and bewilderment, Jesus joined them and walked with them. But they did not know who he was.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.

They stopped, and stood still on the white, dusty road. “Are you the only one from Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been going on?” said Cleopas.
“Tell me!” said Jesus.
“There was a prophet called Jesus of Nazareth, a true man of God. But the chief priests handed him over to be killed, and he was crucified.” Clopas paused. “We had hoped he was the one God had promised from long ago.  But then…. today, some of the women went to the tomb and came back saying it was empty, and that Jesus was alive!” For a moment, hope glimmered in Cleopas’s eyes, but then he shook his head.

“But don’t you see?” Jesus said.  “Haven’t you read the teachings of the prophets?  Don’t you know that these things had to happen?” And so he began to explain.  It was as if he were unrolling scroll after scroll along the road before them – all the Law, and all the teachings of the prophets – letting them see that the Messiah had to suffer and die and rise again.
“Stay with us, it’s getting dark!” the pair said as they came to Emmaus.  So Jesus stayed at their home.  Then, at the table, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke it to share with them.  In that breaking and sharing of bread, their eyes were suddenly opened and, with a gasp, they recognized it was Jesus who sat before them. But then he slipped from their sight.

“Did you feel it too, as we walked along? That buning – that deep, rising joy – that sudden understanding?” they asked each other as they grabbed their cloaks.  And they set off back to their friends in Jerusalem through the thickening darkness, laughing with joy, and leaving their supper on the table.

You can read the story in Luke’s gospel

 

From Prayers and Verses

When we are sad, help us to speak of our sorrow, and hear words of hope.  Help us know you walk with us, as you walked with the two on the Emmaus road.  Help us to recognise you in the breaking and sharing of bread, as you warm our hearts with your joy.

 

Please feel free to share my work, saying where it is from.

Poem: Owls – Lockdown Poems 2

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Welcome back, thank you for joining me again.    I hope we can take a few minutes to rest here.

I’m sharing another of my lockdown poems – simple, largely as they appear from my pencil – in the hope you’ll find some companionship, something that helps.  This one begins not in the garden, with light and green, but in the middle of the night.

Waking at night, or disturbed by dreams, thoughts race away.  If I remember to catch myself, I try to pause, to breathe, to notice.  Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to hear something wonderful, which breaks through the patterns of thoughts.
It’s been owls for me, lately. The night has its consolations.

 

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Owls – lockdown poems 2

Three nights now,
I have heard a pair of owls
in the garden.

 
Startled awake, suddenly,
by a fragment of
remembered news,
of fear,
and then, suddenly,
there they are –
the owls, calling
to each other, and,
it seems, to me.

Now, morning, and I look
up at the solemn black windows
of the barn, great eyes,
one shiny with a film of sky,
one matt and sightless.
I am glad we did not fix that glass.

There is room for an owl’s drawn in wings,
room to fly into that attic darkness,
where the peacock butterflies blink
their wings awake after the winter,
room to fill that desolate space
with life. May it be so. May it be so.

Poem: Today, sound. Lockdown Poems1

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am writing during this lockdown – as a way of expressing something, as a way of grounding myself in the physical experience of where I am, of keeping some kind of a record of what this time feels like, which is very different from what watching the news feels like, at least for me.  What emerges from this practice is simple, free, unpolished.

My notebook comes with me into the garden, and so it’s to the garden that I invite you now, especially if you are in a place where you have no view of green growing things, and hear no birdsong. I am aware how fortunate I am to have such a place, and how much harder it is to navigate this time without sight of spring.  So I hope that, as I share these poems with you, you can come outside in your imagination, and sit on the bench, and rest awile in the sun.

 

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Today – sound.  
Lockdown poems 1

Today, it is quiet.
Cars, if they pass at all,
come one by one, strung out,
separate,
dark beads running along
a dark thread.
The old sound comes, and goes,
comes, and goes.

Here, today, in this green space,
we hear, instead, the buzz of
long-tongued bees, feasting
and drunk among the primroses.
Primroses, spilling yellow,
everywhere, in the lawn
on which a faint dark
line threads – the path
of a soft deer
who comes by night.
And above, now,
buzzards and hawks
have the high sky to themselves,
flying in their wide circles.

I hear now, as if for the first time,
full birdsong, triumphant, liberated.
Suddenly an audience has turned
from its spent tables
towards this wide green stage,
and listened, amazed,
as loud song rises louder,
louder, knowing it will be heard.

 

 

Today, sound.  
Lockdown Poems 1
Today, it is quiet.
Cars, if they pass at all,
come one by one, strung out,
separate,
dark beads grating along
a dark thread.
The old sound comes, and goes,
comes, and goes.

Here, today, in this green space,
under a sky clear
of straight-lined-trails,
we hear, instead, the buzz of
long-tongued bees,
feasting and drunk among the
primroses. Primroses, spilling yellow,
everywhere, in the lawn
on which a faint glass-green
line threads.
This, the path of a soft brown deer,
while above, buzzards and hawks
have sky to themselves.

I hear now, as if for the first time,
full birdsong, triumphant, liberated.
Suddenly its audience has turned
from their spent tables
towards the wide green stage,
and listened, amazed,
as this loud song rises louder,
louder, knowing it will be heard.