National Poetry Day – Seeing the light

Uist dawnHelios rises
Animating the landscape
A haiku is born


Lions on the beach

Ardivachar beach

Ardivachar beach, South Uist

Reeling into the wind, staggering along the beach
like ancient mariners tossed onto a distant shore,
our progress erratic as storm tossed debris.
As dark squalls spin across the horizon
heads withdraw, sheltering in gore-tex carapaces.
Eyes narrowed by reflected diamond light
salt stinging tears funnell down furrowed cheeks.
Cries of wonder are carried beyond the wind,
Lions on the beach!
Maroon manes tangled on the sand,
great tawny heads glistening in the sun,
these fallen giants will roar no more.
Humbled by fallen colossi,
captivated on sand encrusted knees,
the insistent tide breaks our revery.
Waves lapping salt rimed boots,
chilled by a cruel sea, 
we turn homewards
weaving through ribbons of amber kelp.

Lion's Mane Jellyfish Cyanea capillata

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Cyanea capillata

Tuesday 30 September: National Poetry Day.


Time Travelling

Moving through the night
Running from the grand ennui
(Cole Porter 1934, Michael Nesmith 1971)

Reading Girl Théodore Roussel

Reading Girl, Théodore Roussel, 1886-7,
Photo: © Tate, London (2014)

The himalaya of ironing is behind closed doors, the spice jars are vibrating and chuntering with neglect, the soup pan is slumbering and the computer is consigned to the darkness for daring to suggest that I have writers’ block. Another wet and windy afternoon and I’m supine on the sofa surrounded by books. Fighting the grand ennui, overcome by melancholia? No, I am time traveling.
The children of time travelers begin their training at an early age, a gentle conditioning of songs, rhymes and stories. Slowly they are introduced to the symbols of the code so that they can interpret the manuals which will guide their future travels. At the tender age of 5, led by my guide and mentor, I was taken to one of the stations where the manuals are kept and the guardian gave me  a small piece of stiff green cardboard – the key to my time machine. There was no health and safety briefing, no words of warning, no boundaries, I was free to explore and travel.
As an rebellious teenager I experimented briefly with extra-terrestrial journeys, but I soon outgrew this phase and preferred to stay at earthbound. I explored Africa first with Little Black Sambo and later in the more risqué company of Richard Burton and Henry Morton Stanley. Noggin the Nog introduced me to the Norse Sagas and I moved on through the land of myths into the Celtic Twilight with Yeates. I learned to sail with Swallows and Amazons and then I was ready to hunt whales with Captain Ahab, get stuck in arctic ice on the Fram with Nansen, and to explore the Pacific with Captain Cook to search for terra incognita.  If Puck could put a girdle around the Earth in 40 minutes, rounding the Horn in an afternoon was nothing for even a young time traveler:
The gallant frigate, Amphitrite, she lay in Plymouth Sound,
Blue Peter at the foremast head for she was outward bound;
We were waiting there for orders to send us far from home;
Our orders came for Rio, and thence around Cape Horn.

At first the adrenalin rush of pure adventure was enough, but soon I wanted more and the time came when I was ready to travel in search of knowledge. Surveying with Darwin and Fitzroy on the Beagle soon became plant hunting with Douglas in the Americas. For relaxation I might pop into the Royal Society to see the latest experiments by Robert Boyle, drop into a coffee house to eavesdrop on the latest gossip about the nabobs and traders of Honourable East India Company or see who was taking the waters at the Pump Room in Beau Brummel’s Bath.
After half a century the excitement of time travel has not paled and I still enjoy taking tea with Gilbert White as much as looking forward to the promised excursion with a new companion.
As a child I was given a great gift, an insignificant little cardboard key which opened the door to new worlds and allowed me to travel though time. My father taught me to read, introduced me to the public library and gave a little girl with insatiable curiosity and imagination permission to daydream. Sadly my father, guide and mentor died last year. My inheritance is a gift that will last me all my days and I while I can time travel I will never experience the grand ennui.

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

National Poetry Day, Outer Hebrides

Waiting for the Tide of Inspiration Ardivachar Beach Winter

syllables dancing in the spray
words rolling in grains of sand
antonyms hiding in fronds of kelp
synonyms twisted in shining alginates

will the wind release the rhymes
sonnets to soar above the waves
or leave them tangled in flotsam
poetic debris, drowned doggerel

Be what you would seem to be

Alice in WonderlandNever imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise. – Lewis Carroll

I have been musing about writing the anniversary blog for a while but eventually decided that it would be churlish not to say thank you to everyone who accepted my invitation to open the garden gate. You have been charming guests and I have enjoyed your company, your advice and sparkling wit. Many of you have made me smile, convulse with laughter and inspired me. So the garden will be open for another year and you are welcome.

I am sure that some of you must have thought that perhaps you had been invited to the Mad Hatter’s tea party or at least speculated on the nature of the herbs that I use in my cooking. Beltane fires, libations for the wee folk, forests under the sea, stealth birds, breakfast by moonlight, swan roads, seaweed hunting, islands in the mist and sky dancing!  These are the tales that come from the loom of the weaver of dreams. I seek no more than to amuse and divert you with my garden of delights in the outer isles

To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge. – Socrates