A cloud of interests


more @gardenstudiogram | click to enlarge

There wasn’t
time enough for all the wonderful things
I could think of to do

in a single day. Patience
comes to the bones
before it takes root in the heart

as another good idea.
I say this
as I stand in the woods

and study the patterns
of the moon shadows,
or stroll down into the waters

that now, late summer, have also
caught the fever, and hardly move
from one eternity to another.

Mary Oliver
From ‘Patience’
New and Selected Poems
Volume Two

Happy September! I’m having a quiet evening and feeling peaceful and mellow.

I’ve been thinking, too, about my automatically generated ‘tag cloud’ here, and of how it gives a pretty good account of some of my chief interests … inner life, contemplation, Edinburgh, poetry …

Autumn and winter will be warmed by an array of interests and occupations like these.


archive – a list of all earlier posts


photo at pixabay


It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any, time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.

Far to the north, or indeed in any direction,
strange mountains and creatures have always lurked –
elves, goblins, trolls, and spiders: – we
encounter them in dread and wonder,

But once we have tasted far streams, touched the gold,
found some limit beyond the waterfall,
a season changes, and we come back, changed
but safe, quiet, grateful.

Suppose an insane wind holds all the hills
while strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, sturdy for common things.

William Stafford
The Way It Is – New & Selected Poems

A few key dates in William Stafford’s life: born in Kansas in 1914. A conscientious objector in World War II. A man whose habit was to write something daily, who would rise at 4.30am to ‘sit and wait’ for what he knew lay within to be written. His volume West of Your City published by Talisman Press in 1960; Allegiances published by Harper in New York in 1970; the author of over fifty books, he died at his home in Oregon in 1993.

William Stafford thoroughly understood that once we have tasted far streams … / found some limit beyond the waterfall, / a season changes, and we come back, changed …

And therein lies our hope for this old world in our own time and season.

Dreadful elves, goblins, trolls and spiders have always existed. Some of them, some of us too, have sought to be ‘heroes’ – fenced around by their and our own ignorance. It is time for all the heroes to go home.

How then may I and we locate ourselves by the real things / we live by – ?

Perhaps – having tasted – it has always to start with me, with what I now clearly see: that instead of kidding myself it’s my job to change the entire world (whoever I am, whatever my place of birth, gender, skin colour, creed or lack thereof, and wherever on earth I think myself called to be the hero, the unsolicited ‘saviour of the world’) my best contribution to that same world will be to allow seasons and experience to change me.

While strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, sturdy for common things.

Note sturdy. Not wimps without cogniscence of – or willingness sometimes to act upon – right or wrong. Not people who turn blind eyes to goblins and trolls. Not people who do not grieve, or hope, or offer healing or hospitality, or pray, or live and die. But sturdy. Believing in the possibility of being positively changed. Experienced in the quiet and slow methods and the poetry of seasons.








Pppp pick up a pen


Writing can be such a joy, on so many levels. A regular highpoint for me involves getting together with my local writing group, comprised of an inspirational tutor and a number of very different people who write about anything and everything.

There’s always something new to learn and, as ever, inspiration is drawn from listening deeply to, and / or reading others’ work. Often we celebrate this among ourselves and some of us occasionally reflect upon the truth that among the best gifts we humans can give one another is the sharing of our real selves – and allowing others to share themselves, in intentional and purposeful space.

How often I surprise myself when I read what has flowed from my own pen!


hans christian andersen.png

Hans Christian Andersen by Anne Grahame Johnstone – see art.co.uk

for MWG

Green velvet smoking jacket
svelte and warm and treasured
since Cambridge
the pool of light that quickened
the grain in his oak desk was
as much a portal for him
into other worlds as was the
oak door through which he entered
his library at every

Sometimes the desk supported
the console of a racing carriage and
at others the cockpit of
a spaceship from the pen of
Leonardo da Vinci and
at others still the pool of light
upon the desk resembled that upon
the spectacles of a tiny Rumpelstiltskin
or the chestnut hair of Lydia
the one and only he’d ever
truly adored

And his pen added a carrot-nose
to a snowman fashioned
by his father and the slowing
pace of his seventy-five year
old legs was rejuvenated as
his pen pointed brighter than
candle flame into the
archives of an always fertile mind

His eyes could appear as blank
black discs in a handsome patrician visage
when observed at the desk from
eventide street window but
only because there they gazed
inward, remembering, rejoicing
resurrecting realities borne of
fairy tales of wingéd truth


Light with purpose

Photo at Pixabay

Light with glad purpose shone from an
echo in the firmament. This
one’s for you as you wait here to
do homage to eternal word
within, and rest awhile to hear
the writer’s modest voice and art’s
vocation take honoured seat that
pen sets and honestly repeats
for community here above
Rydal’s poetry. The bowl heals
as it calls and the tone is home
within the heights of a reborn


Light behind letters

Photo at Pixabay

Here is light behind letters that turn into words and sentences and paragraphs and chapters and stories. Expressions of my life – or of yours.

That’s why I write. That’s what brings writers back to blank pages every day. The pursuit of illumination beneath letters.

The light behind letters speaks to me of Creation herself. Darkness and light. Something of light inscribed upon dark. Something dark frames light. One does not exist without the other.

As music needs silence to sound its aliveness, so writers paint dark upon light or light upon dark and know that there is a knowing.

Life behind the letters.

Words and community

We begin life in community from the time of our earliest awareness of family members and our chosen friends. It’s a special joy to watch grandchildren begin to sense wider belonging, and celebrate it.

For my part, continuing contact with innumerable people I’ve encountered across a lifetime, some of whom I actually meet only rarely, is one of life’s richest gifts. Handwritten letters are treasures. I can still ‘see’ some such letters that passed into history years ago, and often something as simple as a distinctive hand restores huge swathes of detail and story to my mind one might have thought long forgotten.

Always something of a daydreamer in my schooldays (and since!) I wasn’t overly keen on learning penmanship and writing exercises. How glad I am today for those who persevered in teaching me the joys of the written word. I cannot imagine life, or story, without them.

A citizen of the world

I was delighted this evening to encounter the writings of a thoughtful fellow blogger who describes herself as ‘a citizen of the world’. My local (somewhat smaller!) writing group is a forum that seems to me similarly keen to do away with unnecessary walls.

Perhaps my lifelong attraction to care-full writing – the act of writing, and reading that of others – has to do with deep-seated desire to be a ‘citizen of the world’ whilst, at the same time being naturally cautious of imposed noise and hot-house opinions and rhetoric. Many years ago I asked a then-church-attending gentleman how he stayed calm beneath the vigorous protestations of a particular preacher he used to tell me about. ‘I always take a book’, came his peaceable reply.

The wonderful thing about writing is that we’re able to choose, either to ignore, or to come to it quietly, and return to it later, perhaps many times. In unencumbered quietness the writer has tools to hand with which to express depth, and in reading to approach respectfully and openly the expressed inner lives of others.

Infinitely patient

We’re just back from a whirlwind tour of old friends – North to South down one side of the country, and South to North up the other side again. And by way of the miracle of the iPad I was in touch with another treasured friend in the US via our car’s front passenger seat, whilst in a traffic queue on the M1!

Old friends have the patience of Job. One recently gave me a beautiful greeting card with the message

The best mirror is an old friend …

And I’m immeasurably grateful to friends old and new, and often wonder whether they know what a life sustaining presence they have been and are in my life. The travelling to meet with friends becomes mirrored by the travelling through shared history. And writing, for me, is an old friend too. Reflecting this evening upon a happy couple of days away I turned again to another journal …

Talking to paper is talking to the divine. Paper is infinitely patient. Each time you scratch on it, you trace part of yourself, and thus part of the world, and thus part of the grammar of the universe. It is a huge language, but each of us tracks his or her particular understanding of it.

Burghild Nina Holzer
A Walk Between Heaven and Earth

That’s absolutely it! Whether talking or listening to persons or to paper (and I do both) – we’re engaged in dialogue with the divine – and enriched again and again by another’s “particular understanding of it”.


It’s the little things …

Porridge with sultanas and good coffee; watching our neighbour dismantle Christmas lights; signwriters at the gym adorning the white walls with “stay focussed, adjust, adapt”; half a dozen inspirational blogs; greetings from writing friends in the USA; encouragement from a fellow sketchbook artist in Australia who also feels “like a kid in a sweet shop” whenever she encounters art supplies – and is fab at her craft; wonderful salad of red onions, couscous, strawberries, capers, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado pear, sultanas, tomatoes – with cheese on toast; logs delivered – with an eating-out recommendation; being entranced by thirty or more small birds at and around the garden feeders – in a pause to watch of just five minutes; mince pies; a visit from our friendly electrician; knitting needles; lightly dusted haddock and tartare sauce; phone call with Mum; photo-collage of family gingerbread houses “competition”; books and music; meditation; reminiscing; prayer; evening fireside; poetry; thanksgiving.

Yep: it’s the little things that are really the big things.

A budding writer

Our latest grandchild was born in October 2014 so was a tiny babe in arms last Christmas. Now, at fourteen months, she’s crawling around her home as though it were a racetrack, shouts out for Mum, Dad, or anyone else on hand to stagger behind her – supporting – so that she can stay upright on tiny – though fast-moving feet. She’s a wonder and a delight in every way, of course, but what I’m surprised about most of all is her early fascination with – and frequent calling out for – a notebook and a pen! Already.

Perhaps she’ll follow in her agronomist / journalist daddy’s footsteps? My memory is doubtless that of a grandfather – not as sharp as it was, if it ever was, but I’m as certain as can be that, at the same age, I didn’t bypass other toys in pursuit of a pad of paper and a pen. What might have happened, how might life have turned out differently, had I done so, then?