Hearth of red and gold

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Reflections by a Fire

On moving into an old house in New Hampshire

Fire is a good companion for the mind;
Here in this room, mellowed by sunlight, kind
After yesterday’s thrall of rain and dark,
I watch the fire and feel some warm thoughts spark …

May Sarton
Collected Poems

A good walk on a cool grey afternoon, coupled with thoughts of some more baked apples for supper, have resulted in the lighting of my wood stove and plans for that most lovely of autumnal occupations: hot coffee, buttered scones and books beside the fire. Sometime yesterday I was speaking with a friend about the power of evocation. Oh so very much is evoked and re-membered by a warm ash-burning hearth of red and gold. And ‘warm thoughts spark …’

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Baked apples

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I remembered the joy of baked apples tonight and I’m so glad I did – they’re wonderfully easy. Wash, remove core (my apple core remover is a favourite kitchen tool), replace said core with sultanas, currants or honey and pop in the oven for twenty-five minutes. With or without custard or other sauce, fluffy baked apples are warming and delicious – and somehow all the more so if they’re from one’s own garden.

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¿Tú tienes preguntas?

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I’m told that our human eyes see ‘only’ a limited spectrum of colour. I can’t count the ever-changing colours and shades present to me in one small rural garden though.

I sometimes think I’ll spend the rest of my days pondering the miracle of what it is to be a human person, to be sentient. So many extraordinary ‘happenings’ need to take place within the confines of my brain to bring about every experience I have.

So, too, for the golden labrador next door. What moves her to bark? And how does an apple tree know how to consistently make apples every year? Or Michaelmas daisies know it’s Michaelmas?

Ah, colours. And questions. My Spanish teacher asks, ‘¿tú tienes preguntas?

Sí, yo tengo muchas preguntas,’ I reply, ‘siempre preguntas!

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Beyond default

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Here’s a question for a bathroom mirror or the door of a kitchen cupboard. Along with a great deal more of Brianna Wiest’s writing, this stops me in my tracks. On so many occasions recently I’ve come back to the thought that everything we encounter is governed by our perspective – always deeply affected by our default mechanisms – at the time. What other options exist? On anything I can call to mind there are always other options, other perspectives. I’m reminded to slow down a little – to hold space to contemplate a host of possibilities, in and for everything, everywhere.

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The other

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There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake, listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

R S Thomas (link)
From Destinations, 1985
Collected Poems

Sometimes, in the ‘timeless moments’ of life, particular poets re-enter my heart and mind as counsel and comfort within a season. The late and deeply present R S Thomas has long told of the rising and falling of life’s great ocean, but also of the ‘nights that are so still’ – of an eternal calm. Images of such a calm have been beamed around the globe in recent days, and ears bend to hear the reassuring sound of kind wind – as the Scottish love song* has it – ‘like a bird on the wing’ across water.

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* The Skye Boat Song, Sir Harold Edwin Boulton

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