It’s a perfect late August sunny morning after rain
I’ve tried to count
your petals but lose
track each time
around and recall
that numbers never
touched my senses
with clarity of cold
or warmth or taste or
touch or sight or
scent or sound and
after rain this late
I note that tall
and elegant you’re
not much of an
and for you too
life is celebrated
sometimes by each of
these but in the main
by radically returning
your searching face to
There’s a small ‘after rain’ photo gallery here
Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons with two of our grandchildren and their parents tonight, followed by supper out (a cracking pizza for me) – summer treat before the little ones are back to school at the end of the week. The girls loved the film well enough. But parents and grandparents thought it absolutely the bees knees – the book having been first read and loved 20+ and 40+ years ago! Wonderful young actors. Beloved and glorious scenery. No further need to recount the well-sailed story here – the book and the film do that better than I could. I just wanted to record satisfaction that a story published in 1930 was tonight roundly enjoyed by three generations. And I rather hope that I may be taken to see a new version twenty years or so from now!
A mellow sort of a day today. Quiet. Neither very hot nor very cold. Neither wholly still nor too windy. Mellow. The garden shimmers in the ripeness of late summer. As does my stilled – even sleepy at times – soul. And it’s at times like these that the ‘communion of poets’ come into sight. Glad remembrances sound within. Poems clasped to the heart long ago come again into late summer’s quiet light.
Love means to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills –
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
An August Midnight
A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands …
Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
—My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.
The insect world is beginning to feel cooler nights as the house martins, in conference on the telephone wires, are considering departure dates for warmer climes. But domestic houses made by human hands are treacherously dangerous to flying birds, long-legs, moth or fly. And I feel an obligation, wherever possible, to upend my nightstand lampshade, to set free the little creatures who, as Hardy has it, are, for all their tininess, party to life experience not known to my eye.
Once upon a time people celebrated an activity called Spring cleaning. So far as I was aware there wasn’t a summer, autumn or winter version. But we’ve got well and truly stuck into Summer cleaning over this bank holiday weekend: dead-heading daisies and a general garden tidy-up, regathering books that had taken walks all over the house, filing papers, tidying the desk, dusting, vacuuming, a bit of reordering here and there. And truth to tell … it has all been deeply satisfying!
There’s the usual debate about the sense or otherwise of bank holidays in the UK press today. Millions hoping to head into the stuff of dreams wind up overheated, frustrated and angry in miles long traffic jams on the motorway. When I have the choice between home or away on a bank holiday weekend I’ll pretty much always opt to stay. But dreams are important. I was enormously touched by one of Ruth Bidgood’s poems this evening:
Train to the Sea
When she was old, contented,
I think, with her inland home,
she said ‘One of these mornings
I’m going to get on a train
by myself, and go to the sea.’
It became just something she would say,
repeated with no urgency,
little conviction. No one felt any need
to help her set out on that small adventure.
No one thought she would do it, or even
that she truly wanted to go.
Yet after she died, I found her list
of trains to the sea, crumpled a bit
and thumbed, as if she had often
peered at it, making her plans.
But always in the end it seemed
a formidable, rash and lonely thing,
that little journey, and she calmed
her heart with small domestic things,
or saw rain coming, or heavy heat, and stayed.
Selected Poems, page 134
There’s life in dreams. They’re of the utmost importance, even, perhaps especially, for stayers.
I buzz with excitement every time I hear news of the discovery of another new planet – whilst being fully aware that there are hundreds of such discoveries every week. Today’s BBC news provided artist’s impression of the newly discovered exoplanet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri.
Roughly earth sized, 4.2 light-years from our own solar system and circling in the ‘habitable zone’ which allows for the possibility of liquid water being present, there is, therefore, the possibility of ‘life on Proxima b’.
What excites me about this discovery is its ‘sound’. In it I hear a call to rise above our tribal perceptions of earth-bound ‘change and decay in all around I see’. That’s not the end of the story. Important as life on Earth undoubtedly is, and clever a creature as humankind has certainly evolved to become, we don’t yet know all that there is to know!
Time and again I come back (some might say ‘in prayer’) to what has been called a doctrine of provisionality. Less reliance upon absolutes and inappropriate certainties. I have the strongest sense that it’s often when we’re at our most confidently assertive that we’re most destructive.
Moving inexorably beyond our various incarnations of ‘flat earth’ mentality we can have faith in a better, richer, more and more evolved future. And it begins with quiet contemplation and appreciation for all that we’re in the midst of learning, right here and now, in the very ground of our being. Today.
Change and promise is what the call of Proxima b holds out to me.
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
Sometimes attributed to H G Wells
Whether or not H G Wells actually spoke or wrote those words we know that he was a passionately keen cyclist. And we share his enthusiasm – though we can only speculate about what he’d make of our assisted ‘e-bikes’.
Perhaps he’d be as thrilled with them as we have been in the last three or four years. We experience mile upon mile’s worth of wind in my wheels in our decidedly hilly neighbourhood.
This afternoon we travelled five miles or so encountering no more traffic than a single horse and rider, quietly and slowly sauntering in early evening sunlight and a warm breeze.
And when, from time to time, an out of breath hill-climbing cyclist shouts after us ‘hey! they’re cheating!’ we unfailingly beam, broadly, and shout back ‘we know – and we love it!’
Descending a Lakeland hill at 25mph on a bike, hair waved back by the wind, lungs full to bursting with good clean air, I reckon Wells knew what he was talking or writing (or not!) about.
I’m a member of a large extended family – scattered across the globe – and for those two reasons many of us don’t see each other as often as might be otherwise. But last evening’s predicted excellent supper was happy occasion for much more than just the fine table.
Again and again across the years I have found myself marvelling at the family’s breadth and depth of experience and expertise in the whole gamut of human endeavour, and great goodness in siblings and cousins, uncles, aunts, parents and grandparents. Family trees provide account of many and greatly varied origins. As our experience of earth becomes ever more that of the ‘global village’ we’re never short of both facts and mysteries to ponder, at board or in solitude.
What, I wonder, would we make of the combined experience of all humankind, if and when, from a higher, eternal perspective, in one great ‘communion’, we found ourselves able to experience ‘all is said and done’. What might be fitting nomenclature for such encounter? Would the universe contain the compassion that flowed forth from acknowledgement and deep appreciation?
We’re off to meet up with cousins for supper tonight – about sixty miles away from home. We’ve set off more than an hour before we’d normally expect to because, hot on the heels of Thursday’s UK heatwave, we think it perfectly possible we may need to swim for at least part of the journey down the motorway. Ah, but it will be a good dinner 😉
We’ve loved having one of our oldest and dearest friends with us this week and tonight, only a matter of a few hours after her returning home, we’re missing her already! I keep hearing the gorgeous ‘I’ve grown accustomed to her face’ from My Fair Lady. You know who you are. Thank you just for being you, and for wonderful flowers and mars bar cake and so much else besides. It has been a great week. And we miss you x
The purpose of real authority is therefore always to help people to become more independent and discover what lies within their capabilities: in other words, help them to become free.
Notker Wolf, Enrica Rosanna
The Art of Leadership
We watch and admire our children as they engage with the lovely, tough, task of parenthood. It is a hope-filled experience. They strike me as kind people, possessed of immense patience and perseverance, even when exhausted. They appear to have an innate sense that their chief task is to ‘help [their offspring] to become free’. And that is what Divine occupation is engaged with, it has always seemed to me: liberating creativity that sustains the gift of life as it’s meant to be.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
Where would we be without the joys of the arts?
In the last ten days we’ve walked awhile with William Shakespeare’s best known lovers; and with Carole King who assures ‘You just call out my name’; and with Sophie, the BFG and frobscottle supplies; and with Mrs Malaprop (he is the very pine-apple of politeness; … lead the way and we’ll precede) in Richard Sheridan’s 1775 The Rivals.
Each has shown us, slant, something of human nature in others – and in ourselves.