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.


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



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
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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.





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,
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.


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 …..



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.


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.


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.





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
grooved saucers of green,
catching the sun,
as my cheek is now,

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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

Poem: Frogs – uncertainty Lockdown 8



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.



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!


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.


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.


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.