Last week, outside the local pub spent rockets and sparklers are strewn on the tarmac and the sharpest frost of the year has finally shrivelled the Bizzy Lizzies in my garden. The annual bonfires were still smouldering and my dogs were relieved that their explosive ordeal was over. Gabriel, my 12 year old Border Collie lay with his head buried under my arm shivering at what sounded like a recreation of the Somme barrage went on outside. Now we are almost in the cold jaws of winter. The clocks have gone back, the sun has lowered its traverse across the horizon and creates the beautiful angled shafts of light through the trees. Sadly, though, the days are shortening and before I have time to appreciate that the day is up and running it is over. I need my head torch to walk the dogs in the afternoon.
We had our monthly SacREd Space on Bonfire night, a monthly interlude of silence and reflection at a local church. My friend, Iain, the Vicar and I try to devise services that we would come out on a cold November night for. These are meant to be a few moments of silence and reflection to counter the relentless barrage of information and noise that we are surrounded by. We were reflecting on how to find beauty in the ordinary. The photo above was taken on the morning after. As can be seen it was a wonderfully crisp and smokey day and I grabbed my phone to capture it and appreciate the beauty of an ordinary Monday morning. I often fight with the onset of winter but, this year I am trying to make a real effort to appreciate the long dark. I remember working on a poem during a sabbatical and getting down to the serious business of writing in all my pretentious glory. I think, though, I did myself a favour by learning how to sit still and watch the world around me rather than rush into it with my own agenda for what it ought to be like. Here is the poem.
May winter bring its own deep form of reflection and hibernatory fire kindling to us all.
A Secret Salvation
Monday morning wet in the window-framed garden,
a new pup asleep on my shoulder,
her nose on my thoughts,
as I tap away on a laptop,
iPod playing, the would be poet.
Debussy hovers over the keyboard
as I try to craft honest lines.
I open the window
and my thoughts fly up to the dark peak
and the snake’s pass,
where Kinder Scout receives the clouds’ grace
with limestone joy.
Watering the valley where my house perches
as a heron rises,
spreading his wings over
the ruined works where men ground iron.
The pup stirs, the track changes,
the swan’s lake trembles,
violins then a single oboe
sweeps a curved neck’s slender whiteness
towards the city,
where horns blare at the commuters.
Meanwhile, in my writer’s basement
the music ends, leaving silence
brushed with the edges of birdsong.
Now audible, the clock marks time and motion,
the grafter’s mockery of the slow writer.
Poets – what use are they when
so many grapple with the hard world?
But poetry is a pension fund against
the stealthy shadow,
waking you in the dark demanding,
‘What are you here for?’
So in that same darkness I pull myself apart
and in this morning attempt
to give form to things unspeakable,
to record the speckles of birdsong,
with a poet’s faith that this Monday morning
has a secret salvation – if only I could write it.