Poem: Yoga under the sycamore – Lockdown 21

The pigeons who come to our garden, and stay, and raise their young, are slightly comical characters.  At least, I usually find them so.  Sometimes, though, I feel a deeper connection with them – like the time I accidentally exposed a nest, which you can read about here.

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I’m afraid I don’t know who took this picture of a pair of pigeons.

Once again, in this next lockdown poem, I am recording the moment, what arises as I seek to receive the gift of the moment before me. This moment came from my morning yoga practice.  I often find movement helps move me to a place of stillness and prayer more than sitting still.  I often find it settles my mind, and helps me come to a place of deep connection. Although I seek to return to prayer, I notice  when things catch my attention, and wonder if they have significance.

Once again, I begin writing in my notebook, not knowing why something has caught my attention, until it emerges from my pencil.  This poem explores the growing feeling of mutuality I have with my place – that I am sharing it with other creatures, and that we take care of each other.

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Yoga under the sycamore   Lockdown 21

We have come to an
accommodation,
that pigeon and I.
I know it waits on these
branches above my head
on its way to the nest –
just there, in the hedge,

and so I lay down my yoga mat
carefully, further back,
not directly underneath,
but still where the morning sun
can reach me.

I do not wish to disturb
the brooding and feeding
in the nest, so I move
with as much
slowness, and control,
and something like flow,
as I can.

I rise up, on a deep inhale,
and as I look up to the tree,
with opening leaves,
I see the pigeon’s soft underside –
pale grey, and pink, downy,
ready to warm eggs,
ready to nurture young,
and somehow,
I feel nurtured too,
to be here, included
in its care,
in the softness of
pigeon down.

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Poem: Gift – Lockdown 20

I have been finding venturing to the shops hard.  It seems to uncover anxiety.  Firstly, there was the strageness of the distance, the rules, the queueing, the empty shelves, the rules you weren’t quite sure about.

Now, it’s changing.  The distance becomes more permanant.  I am wearing a mask – a lovely one, made by a local person, for Bev’s Eco Products, who donates one for every one she makes.  I have hand sanitiser, I roughly know what to do, and yet…. the strangeness continues.  It is so lovely to see friends out and about, but very hard to be sure you are staying far enough away at all times.  We worry we may take the virus with us where we go – into shops, back home to our households. The sense of threat has, for me, increased as I feel less confident in decisions being made by government.  There are, as always, other things behind our fears, but that is enough to be getting along with.

I go to my lovely local shops, where I know people.  I vary which ones, and when, to avoid patterns, and, on return, after cleaning hands yet again and disinfecting cupboard handles, I sit outside, and allow myself to be consoled.  Sometimes, that consolation takes a tangible form, as it did here….

So this is partly a Lockdown Poem, and partly an account of how my place is helping me venture out. Perhaps we will need some unlockdown poems, too.

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Gift  Lockdown poems 20

As I sat gently in the sun,
holding in my hands
a weird sea of sadness
a trip to my shops
had stirred,
I asked, gently,
why,
why this distress?
And listened.
Then, I took instead
a sip of tea,
and breathed, gently.
This rose petal fell
on my page
before I wrote a word.

I look up.
The rosebuds are tight
shut above me,
and yet, it fell.

Poem: Shadow Tree – Lockdown 19

I’ve been intrigued by the early morning light through a tree in my garden.  The way the shadow that falls on the lawn seems so substantial compared to the dazzling, light-backed living original.  I found myself drawn to sitting within the scope of the shadow tree as I watched the sun rise.

 

This photo was taken a few weeks ago now, the tree is in much fuller leaf these mornings, so the sensation of being caught in the net of shadow less acute. I have loved watching the leaves unfold day by day.  I have even tried to develop a practice of sketching the tree and the shadow, but I am not being very rigourous in keeping that up.  I shall try again, though.

I am keeping up my tradition of the Lockdown Poems, though, so I sat on the ground with my notebook, and wrote what follows.

 

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Shadow Tree  Lockdown Poems 19

I sit on morning damp grass
in the criss-cross light
at the top of the shadow tree –
part of its dark, elegant structure.

The living tree before me
has the sun caught in its branches,
as I am caught in the net
of shadow twigs –
the sun rising,
while lime green
leaves are unfolding
before and above me.

The shadow-trunk curves
towards the base,
to join the living green sap
of the roots, so I see
the tree exists in two planes –
one light, one dark,
one light, one dark.

For a while, despite the
discomfort of sitting cross
legged in my gardening boots,
I shall stay here within
the shadow tree,
seeking its wisdom,
watching its dark leaves grow.

 

Poem: Yellow-leaved Maple – Lockdown 18

The mood of the Lockdown is changing considerably.  It seems fraying and fractured, with grief and anger rising and being held alongside our deep care for each other, our families and communities.

Many are returning, or facing the prospect of returning, to something not normal, but strange and different.  Some are relieved, some are afraid, most are, I suspect, both.

The words of Wendell Berry’s wonderful and sustaining poem, The peace of wild things, keep coming into my mind.  They sum up for me what I am seeking to do in these Lockdown poems, and what I am doing in my life.  Keeping grounded in the beauty and grace I am experiencing in the spring, and finding in them a deeper beauty and grace than the surface, than the expected.  It speaks to something more, within and beyond, as if, by considering the lilies of the field, we may find a deeper truth and insight.

So here is a poem about trees, and also about the shadows that can fall across life, and the possibility of growth, even so.

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I decided to include this one, even though it is imperfect.

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Yellow-leaved Maple   Lockdown Poems 18

I am watching these strange pink
and buttery leaves unfold on the maple,
its long green flowers
covered with bees.

All its life till now
the tree’s canopy leaned back,
partial, growing around the
darkness of that old cedar,
now gone,
as it sought the light.

So now, new leaves are opening
on those thin bare branches
to the south,
exploring that new clear space,
leaves growing where
they did not, before.

Its shape is becoming an
open dome, it will be complete,
and even now is gilded, shining,
and mosaiced with lapis blue light.
Under it feels a holy place.

Patience.  Patience.
When the shadow has passed,
the growth will begin,
and be seen.

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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