the gorse branch
the stone chat
and the high blue sky
distant as the hills
the gorse branch
the stone chat
and the high blue sky
distant as the hills
such a relief
as the daylight
fades and the
hills of Lewes
in a hundred
blackbird wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J Redford – Snow
change wormhole: comfy
hills wormhole: 1966
up in the hills
contemplating the cold guide rail directing-back-to-safety horizon
of mist over the wide wide city –
yes I’m alright
several stepped in-takes through I just don’t know what to do with myself by Dionne Warwick & Burt Bacharach and one languid outbreath, each time …
breathing & life wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – intemperance
Burt Bacharach & Dionne Warwick wormhole: 1967
city wormhole: pen and ruler
death & hills wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J Redford – Snow
horizon wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J Redford – Simon Upon The Downs
mist wormhole: be
'scape, 1967, 5*, Atlantic, birdsong, birth, black, blackbird, blue, branches, brick, countryside, death, echo, elm, eyes, fields, flower, garden, green, Greenwich, grey, hate, hills, ivy, kitchen, leaf, life, love, May, Michael J Redford, morning, pastel, pigs, pink, rain, red, rhythm, school, silence, sky, snow, sound, sparrows, stillness, summer, sun, swifts, talking, the Boats of Vallisneria, trees, valley, vertical, village, walls, white, wind, windows, winter, woodland, world, yellow
There is a great expectancy in waiting for the snow to begin. Sometimes the snow comes with the wind when the trees are flailing and the Ruddock ruffles his breath beneath the trembling ivy. Then, the contours of the land become accentuated, blackened on the leeward side to eye-shocking contrast to the whiteness on each other. Each iron furrow stands in stark relief, a symbol of winter’s Herculean grip. And where the skimming flakes have hurled themselves upon the wooded hills, each twig upon every branch, each branch upon every tree, hugs close a spectral image and hazel coppices become an abstraction of diverging verticals.
Sometimes however, the snow comes upon us unheralded; its approach is silent; no movement is seen among the fields or felt upon the cheek. Somewhere below, the dormouse sleeps, and as the sparrow waits in the hedge I find myself walking with reverent steps as if, when in a house of worship, one feels the presence of the graven saints. Eventually I must pause in my tracks, feeling guilty of the very movement of my limbs when all else is still; and in the greyness of the sky there is but the faintest suggestion of pink. On a woodland bank the adventurous lesser periwinkle displays a solitary blue flower and from the old red-brick garden wall of the big house on the hill, the ivy casts down a leaf that slips rhythmically from side to side like the baton of the music teacher in the village school below. The leaf touches the ground and a snowflake touches the cheek. The eye is directed from the sky to the black background of the woods and a million flakes are seen; a million pieces of perfection yet each one different to the other. In the classroom below thirty pairs of wide eyes turn to the window and the rising undercurrent of excitement is checked by the teacher’s baton. I would indeed be guilty of a grave hypocrisy if I were to say that only young hearts flutter with excitement at this particular moment, for I too have never outgrown my love for the snow and look forward to the white, silent world to come.
Of course, snow brings with it its hardships as do the frosts, the winds and the rains. They bring discomfort and sometimes death to the aged, the sick and to the wildlife about us. But then so do the searing hot summers that parch the earth and lay heavy upon the fevered brow. Always there is something inimical to or destructive of life, yet at the same time and in many cases because of it, life is somehow strengthened. I remember how uneasy I once felt when harrowing a field of oats for the very first time. The teeth of the harrow clawed at the tender green shoots, breaking and bruising them, threatening to tear them bodily from the soil. Had I misunderstood my employer’s instructions? Was this really what he wanted me to do? And yet two months later, despite its apparent destruction, there stood before me a field of rippling, luscious green. If we were to hate all things that displayed an ugly side, there would be nothing left in the world to love.
This morning the window panes were covered with acanthus and the sun was a flat yellow disc that could be viewed without hurt to the eye. The mist seemed to smooth the scene into a two dimensional pasteboard picture which gave the impression that I could reach out and touch the pastel blue hills across the valley. I donned an additional thick-knitted woollen jersey, pulled on my gumboots and gloves and stepped from the warm steamy kitchen into the sparkling garden. The brilliance and frostiness of the air sent the blood racing to my cheeks and my ears began to tingle. In the piggery at the bottom of the garden, a mother sow with her nine three week old piglets were taking the air. The little ‘piggles’ as they were sometimes called in this area, were racing around with their snouts down, like little pink snow ploughs forging furrows in the frost encrusted snow. As I approached, their heads jerked up and, like tiny pink statues, they eyed me for a brief second before turning on their heels and hurtling across the piggery barking (or were they laughing) at the morning sun. The impression of nudity that young piglets must give must be seen to be believed, and the sight of these nude little bodies coursing through the snow set me shivering. I once heard of a sow who, in preference to the warm, dry sty supplied by her human master, built her nest in the corner of a field, and nothing on earth would induce her to return to the comfort of the ‘maternity’ ward. Early the following, bitterly cold, morning, she was found burrowed deeply within her nest with an army of piglets lined up at the milk bar with the most ridiculous expressions of contentment upon their faces. Not ten feet distant, a robin alighted on the solid water of the cattle trough and proclaimed the good news to the world.
However, it was too cold to stand watching the antics of these endearing little creatures (I dare not think of the hours wasted in this way during the warmer days) so I entered the lane that led to the fields. The dull klunk klunk of axe striking wood came to my ears and I saw through a gap in the snow-bound hedge the rhythmic rise and fall of my neighbour’s arm as he stooped over a pile of logs. The sound bounced across the fields to the woods and back again with such clarity, that I half expected the echo to continue as he laid his axe aside. He saw me, nodded at me and said, “Morning”. I nodded at him. “Morning”.
The countryman has an almost psycho-analytic method of extracting information from the unwary traveller. By a few pointed remarks or statements he finds out all he wants to know without having asked a single question. Having lived in the countryside for half my life, I have developed to a lesser degree the same technique. I did verbal battle with him for five minutes but my defences began to crumble when he said, “Better watch that plank over the stream, bound to be slippery with all that frost on it.”
“I expect it is,” I said, “Still, the tread of these boots is almost new.”
Now he knew where I was going, for the plank in question bridged the stream that ran along the north side of the woods.
“Surprising how much longer it takes to get across country when there’s frost and snow about.” He peered at me from the corners of his eyes. “Best get a move on or else you’ll be late.”
I gave in.
“That’s true, but then I’m only out for a stroll.”
Questioning my sanity, he returned to his chopping and I to my walk.
It has often been said by the townsman (although having spent most of my childhood in the grimy streets of Greenwich I no longer regard myself as a townsman) that the countryside is ‘all very well’ in summer, but ‘muddy, dismal and uninteresting’ in winter. Muddy it may well be, but it is clean mud, untainted by diesel oil, slime and soot. As for being dismal, are they so blind they cannot see the beauty in a curtain of falling rain brushing the distant hills, or hear the music of a million drops of water among the shining leaves or smell the fragrance of freshly dampened earth? Can they not see the beauty that I see now, of glistening white lacework of the frosted elms against a crystal clear sky, and undulating fields of virgin snow, pure and smooth, a countenance of innocence that has yet to bear the mark of man’s impropriety?
In the days of winter when the hedgerows are empty and the ditches and river banks laid bare, one can discover more easily the badger’s sett or the otter’s holt. One is able to make a mental note of where the blackbird is likely to build his nest; perhaps the disused nest of a song thrush now exposed by the skeletal hedge will eventually house the spotted white eggs of the blue tit in the warm days of May to come. Close scrutiny of tree and bush will reveal a host of living green buds wrapped tightly in their protective coats; life is expanding beneath the frozen ground, straining to burst forth, and even as the blackbird sings, the lambs are falling. The countryside in winter is not dead; there is life, vibrant and pulsing as the blood in one’s veins. It is all around, above one’s head and below one’s feet. It is not winter that dispels life, but life that dispels winter. The immigrant swift brings with it the warm southern winds and life throughout the land erupts, forcing the icy blasts, the snows and the frosts into the North Atlantic. And after all, without winter, there would be no spring.
read the collected work as it is published: here
black & talking wormhole: returning home handsome
blackbird & echo & fields wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J Redford – A Sign of the Times
blue & rain & sky wormhole: the too big moon
branches & wind wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – … as the new town marches in
death & white wormhole: the 19th century
eyes & morning & sun wormhole: traffic lights and broad avenue
garden wormhole: what life went on
green & grey & life & red & silence & walls & windows wormhole: did I get old?
hills wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – A Precious Moment
kitchen & school wormhole: hello, luvvey, do you want a cup of tea?
love & sound wormhole: new-found love – poewieview #36
pink wormhole: languidly close the portal
snow wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Contents
sparrows wormhole: tired
stillness wormhole: the sounds of 1969 // [would have] seemed that way – poewieview #13
trees wormhole: was there a moon / on the alleyway wall / confused in front of / the city skyline?
valley wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – moment
winter wormhole: The Boats of Vallesneria by Michael J. Redford – Autumn Thoughts
world wormhole: let it all go
yellow wormhole: magnificent salad
1967, 3*, air, answers, beauty, being, bells, black, breath, breeze, brown, bull, cause and effect, childhood, clarity, clouds, cows, curtains, dancing, dawn, dew, doing, dusk, earth, east, Einstein, elm, energy, evening, field, freedom, grass, green, grey, heat, hedge, hills, horizon, identity, Jupiter, leaves, life, light, logic, meadow, mind, moment, months, moon, morning, mother, mouse, nature, night, nightjar, noise, openness, order, owl, questions, quiet, rabbit, rebirth, scarlet, September, silence, silhouette, silver, sky, slow, space, stars, summer, the Boats of Vallisneria, thought, time, truth, ultimate reality, uncle, universe, valley, velvet, white, wind, wings, woodland, words
A Precious Moment
As after the heat of a summer’s day the face glows in the mildness of evening, so the face of the countryside glows in the mildness of early autumn. The summer months have infused the merest suggestion of brown in the deepening green of the foliage and the face of the earth gives up its warmth to the stars above to see them dance. It was into this calm that I walked one late September’s eve. The evening star cast her unblinking eye across the heavenly dome to Jupiter in the darkening east and the nightjar echoed its song above the empty fields. I stood at the end of the stack-yard and returned the disinterested gaze of a cow in the field beyond.
It is during these slow hours when the pace of the day has declined, that the smaller noises of the land become apparent. The bull, who was tethered a full two hundred yards away in the next field could be heard to rattle his chain and blow down his nose at a particularly juicy clump of grass he has found. Behind me in the ‘maternity’ box, a freshly calved heifer mooed huskily yet very softly as its offspring raised its head suddenly at a strange sound. Perhaps it was the sound of ancient timbers creaking under the weight of centuries, or that of the leaves above whispering to the bowed stems in the hay meadow below. Or maybe it was the very silence that enshrouded these small sounds that attracted its attention, for silence is so startling in its rarity and its beauty. Dusk gave way to night and I became aware of the immense depths of space, the dizzy height of the mackerel sky, and although it was the clouds that moved, it seemed they were stationary against the clear black silhouettes of the elms and that it was the motion of the gibbous moon behind the clouds that alternately blackened and silver-plated the night. Even at the tender and romantic age of sixteen I was aware of this quietude, and in one enlightened moment jotted down these few words on an old envelope:
Soft, soft, the bell that tolls the evensong
Across full summer’s empty fields serene.
And slowly draws the scarlet cloak, the hem’s
Black velvet, diamond specked, communes me with
The white barn owl, who with his noiseless wings
Doth glide and swoop upon the luckless mouse.
Selene set within the lap of dusk
Transmutes the living green to silver plate,
Enshrouds my world with immobility.
And with a quietude that frees the mind
Of bondage from the peering eyes of day,
I fain become the earth, the sky, the all.
But it wasn’t until my late teens that I realised there are two times during the twenty four hour cycle when such a quietude exists. One is just before the dusk and the other just before dawn. Although both seem to be divisions between day and night, the prelude to dawn seems to me to be the more startling and more satisfying to experience. In the evening the mind is released into a reverie bound by personal conscious thought, but during the morning pause one experiences a freedom and profundity of thought that is rarely to be found in any other part of time.
It is barely half past five in the morning when I start milking, but often I arrive at the cowshed half an hour before in order to experience this precious moment. Although at this hour the ‘Stone that puts the stars to flight’ has yet to be flung, I can sense the great spaciousness of the valley before me. Again the trees move softly and the long grass in the hay meadow sifts the breath of night, and I wait. I wait for that incorporeal beauty that is the union of soul and nature. It begins where the breezes end and the rustling leaves are stilled. A serene stillness envelopes the woods and meadows and even I am not conscious of breathing. I am drawn into the quietude and become part of it; become part of the very earth on which I stand; part of the universe through which I move. I have become part of each blade of grass in the valley before me, part of every hill. I feel myself part of the earth, feel its very movement through space. Unfortunately mere words can no longer be the conveyance of the emotions involved (and I use the word ‘emotions’ for want of a better noun) for they become so expansive and so personal. No longer can mere words impress the reader’s soul with such profundity of emotion that this experience releases within me. Each must go his own way, search alone and experience it first hand and with an open mind.
A thought is born and from that thought comes two more. The two are made four and the four made eight, a self-multiplying chain reaction of thoughts has been set in motion that flows with great haste through the mind; in fact a torrent of thoughts in one brief second, and yet each one is startlingly clear and leads the mind one step nearer the truth. The heavenly dome is vast above the valley and the stars, thrown into their mythological patterns by the great cosmic hand, impress their presence on the mind with unusual brilliance and time is no more. Now the mental hosts are converging, and step by step I am racing towards that vertex which is the ultimate truth. The questions are being answered at an ever increasing rate, the startling, brutal logic disclosing the result of a preceding reaction which itself, reveals a cause. So through to the highest plane the mind soars upon an ever accelerating reversal of the law of causation. But the pace is too much. The mind flags and begins to flounder. At this juncture the mind can be likened to a water skier who, while the pace is kept up skims along the surface in the sun, but immediately he slows down he begins to sink, until at length he finds himself floundering with no forward movement. Now the mind has become weak and cannot comprehend the unfathomable thought. But I have brushed the grey curtain; I have seen a light faint though it may be and both my physical and spiritual selves have been revitalised and my cup runneth over.
For most of our lives we are lost beings out of tune with life around us. Only during such precious moments as these do we fit into the great harmonious chord; all things round and above have their special place in it, from the fat brown rabbit throbbing in the cornfields to the fleecy pieces of golden cloud that sail upon the pale green skies of dusk. Worries, anxieties, tensions, all are reduced to their proper size in relation to life, and as the imperceptible ‘Left hand of dawn’ lifts the veil on the eastern horizon, we are cleansed and reborn with the stripling day.
It is only during such periods that nature can be reduced to anything approaching order, and that there is an order I am in no doubt. Einstein’s inquiring mind was working on the universal equation when the workings of that very same equation stilled his physical being; perhaps now he has solved it, we in this life never shall. The perpetual motion of nature is the perfect machine and we are part of that machine. It is complete within itself, recreating its own new parts from the debris of the old. No energy is wasted or lost, just charged in form. Nature permits us a marginal tolerance within which we may make one or two adjustments to suit our needs and requirements, but beyond this we dare not go for we merely create more problems than we solve.
So does she pass, the gentle night,
Slow seeps the dawn upon the scene.
Dew sparkling in the first light of
The new day shows where she has been.
The eyes of day now open on
The dewy sward and gossamer
Bows low beneath its pearly load,
And hedgerows faintly scent the air
With green along the unused road.
And I am born once more and see
The day as I once first beheld –
A child within his mother’s arms,
Another, within its mother’s arms.
read the collected work as it is published: here
air & field & morning wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – autumn
beauty wormhole: the policies came to nothing
being wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Introduction
black & wind wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – A Bowl of Gourds
breath wormhole: inbreath
breeze wormhole: and that’s where I are
brown wormhole: Michael Redford: triptych
childhood wormhole: 1964
clouds wormhole: reaching branch
evening & silhouette wormhole: tired
green & space & uncle wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – the soft canticle of the gourds:
grey & horizon wormhole: being in love – poewieview #26
hedge & hills & life & light wormhole: tag cloud poem IX – haiku is awkward / the more that is left in / like uncombed hair
identity wormhole: with endless love
leaves & mother wormhole: The Boats of Vallesneria by Michael J. Redford – Autumn Thoughts
moon wormhole: don’t look / at her eyes – poewieview #18
night & silence & sky wormhole: a crack of lightning / in the dark of night
openness wormhole: ‘on second thought …’ – poewieview #27
silver wormhole: Jon
thought & time wormhole: inbreath
white wormhole: mauve
words wormhole: bloogying
2015, bay window, Crowborough, economics, emptiness, eyes, haiku, hair, hands, Have, hedge, Herbert Road, hills, Hillside, history, horizon, hotel, house, humanity, life, London, rooftops, Shooters Hill, sight, society, tag cloud poem, terrace, Thames, time
my sights folded inwards at
‘aitches’ touch on quite a few boat-ties to my past: ‘Herbert Road’ was the local shopping high street where I lived in London until I was 19; it is in Plumstead which spreads south over the crest of ‘Shooters Hill’ and merges into Woolwich down to the river Thames; ‘Hillside’ is one of a little cluster of houses where I settled to raise a family and grow a career in Crowborough in the late 1980s – that same 80s that, mean-and-all-the-while, Thatcher was creaking open that casket (‘can’t read the label – “–ora’s Box”?’) which left me alien to my own background and lost in my own riverbank mist, save for the miraculous peek of haiku and the deadened gaze of bay window …
`haven’t published a tag cloud poem in a while: they’re made up of the larger tags of my work built up over the years – this one emerged into a series of haiku[esque] pieces of work – almost inevitably; this one was particularly difficult to form, the tag-words didn’t run off each other smoothly – I must admit I left a few words out; the green links are to those respective tags, the different sized fonts determined by the number of ‘topics’ that pertain to that tab … nerk!
Crowborough wormhole: portrait: / two pigeons
economics wormhole: 1959
emptiness wormhole: need
eyes wormhole: bavardage
haiku[esque] wormhole: ‘green plum jam on rye …’
hair wormhole: impressionism
hands & humanity wormhole: Doctor Strange I – the trashcan tilted the better to see now the street
Have wormhole: Nostalgia for Samsara – poewieview #16
hedge wormhole: where the goblins leered – poewieview #14
Herbert Road wormhole: bottom of Herbert Road to the / foot of Eglinton Hill dream
hills wormhole: life [‘n’ death] / legerdemain – poewieview #15
Hillside wormhole: Charlotte
history & horizon wormhole: a theremin note – poewieview #21
hotel wormhole: Hotel Room, 1931
house wormhole: first Spring storm
life & society wormhole: no one – poewieview #24
London & rooftops & Thames wormhole: up on the hill
tag cloud poem wormhole: tag cloud poem VIII – growth
time wormhole: 1968
oh, but she had no boundaries
the distant hills came straight for me [vague planets in the heavens], I had
I had to demur
to keep herself sane
to keep myself from speaking what
I [did not] know, both
life [‘n’ death]
Read the collected movements in David Bowie: Movements in Suite Major
pillows and empty poplars
is all can be said now of the
tangerine red that hedged
through the rows and mud
ruts were nascent to the
ploy of reaching brows
where the same grey-blues
that ever seeped through
the cold sash window and
echoed about the high white
covings, were seen again
where the goblins leered
Read the collected movements in David Bowie: Movements in Suite Major
bedroom wormhole: 1963
blue & white wormhole: ‘the hour before dinner – / the empire of dusk’ – poewieview #6
Bowie & echo & love wormhole: the sounds of 1969 // [would have] seemed that way – poewieview #13
glass & hedge & windows wormhole: keep the light off
grey wormhole: thick thick fog
hills wormhole: walking through Lewes
red wormhole: Saturday – poewieview #3
seeing wormhole: teached / in the ass
time wormhole: strange / tarnish
walking through Lewes
I emerge from darkness
between thick stone walls
holding hills and houses
and overhanging trees
grown and replaced
for a hundred years
ever on a grey day full
of possibility and time
emergence wormhole: the practice
grey & walking wormhole: “walking …”
hills wormhole: Soir Bleu, 1914
identity & walls wormhole: Office at Night, 1940
time wormhole: David Bowie – Iris
trees wormhole: Seven A.M, 1948
Soir Bleu, 1914
what does that clown
sat at the table with
to blood-wounded eyes?
my goodness, I hadn’t
noticed, sat here with
only a towel to wear,
no wonder I cannot drink
am a Chinese lantern made
flesh immaculate borne of the
minds of my un-talking parents
sat before a clown with empty carafe
me, I could paint a picture of this all
but the hills are dark behind my mind
and roll downstream continuously
out of frame
blue & eyes wormhole: com- / mute
Edward Hopper & river & years wormhole: Compartment C, Car 193, 1938
evening wormhole: zok! and pow!
hills wormhole: dream 260815
mind wormhole: Evening Wind, 1921
silhouette wormhole: now, the verticals go down as well as they go up
table wormhole: the art of sit and follow
thinking wormhole: let the dreams / become the ghosts they / always were
I'm Dominic Wells, an ex-Time Out Editor. I used to write about films. Now I write them.
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