Here, to candlelight, the poem I scribbled during those 60 minutes.
A Poem for Earth Hour
Let's light candles for Mother Earth, our powerhouse, home under stars; 60 minutes without a bulb plugged to a grid some invented to blind over a billion stars, the many eyes of the divine that look on us through the curtain of stratosphere... 60 minutes to feel humble close to the flame of candlelight - Mother Earth loves acts of kindness, for we are playing with fire; minutes to finish my poem, light-years away from Cassiopeia, Andromeda, as we plug back to defy black. I wish I had eyes of the cat.
Imbolc welcomed Brigid as a maiden, clad in immaculate snowflakes.
Tis beautiful, so beautiful to look at. Who has not ever marvelled at such wondrous land, sky and ice scapes? Till now, February has been generous to us in terms of calm white & blue days. Yes, we just need to leave home a little earlier to de-ice the car… But what a pleasure to breathe in that crisp air and allow the sun to warm our epidermis and our hearts…
And even if our boreal sun strengthens in power through longer daylight and elevation, we, islanders from the great far north, have to make do with these polar conditions. As weird as it might sound, we have yet to learn that waddling technique so natural to penguins to stay up on our feet (!). A recent report from one of our local newspapers recorded a higher incidence of some 40 admissions to A&E linked to ice… Broken limbs, strains & sprains – as well as sledging accidents. Whereas folk still seem to favour the famous wellies (those yellow or khaki rubber boots) to tread on ice, I have adopted snow boots and grippers… And they have proven so lifesaving on many occasions.
And if wellies, waddling or grippers fail, then, our Antarctic flightless birds have also shown us another safer way to move swiftly… The belly sliding technique, as frequently used by, notably, Emperor penguins (!). And what more fun than this? Just look at kids having fun on ice… They use a similar technique. Note: I very much doubt many of us – human bipeds – adopt such a technique except for fun. 🥶
We have been so iced since January the whole Kingdom Animalia (including us, humans) depends on adaptations for survival.
Ice has continued to infiltrate our lives around our island world, and no creature is spared. Our winter survivors have to endure such harsh conditions. They may have developed their own adaptations, yet they still have to bear the brunt of it all.
Whereas ponies have thick winter coats and thick hooves to provide insulation from iced ground, air and wintry showers & storms, birds rely on their respective layers of feathers called down. Some often stand on one leg to maximize insulation from freezing water or ground… All need to shelter to ensure survival. They don’t dwell very long on open ground, unless heavily coated – like ponies or highland cows – or fleeced like sheep.
Birds need all the tall grass, thickets and trees they can find around our valleys, hillsides and human gardens to survive.
Recently, I have not only noticed more visiting starlings, sparrows and blackbirds to the feeders at home, but far less common visitors, such as a young Song Thrush and a Redwing.
The human obligation to work from home (even on a part-time basis) allows for better nature watching from the comfort of our own home, as well as providing food for avian ground feeders on a more regular basis. Our Chief Executive encourages us to reconnect with nature for our own wellness… In my case, she is preaching the lifelong converted (!).
Each sunrise feels a new adventure!
Like you all in the northern hemisphere, I am becoming a little eager to welcome Ostara, the Vernal Equinox. It will come in due time, however, I am also savouring the magic of snowflakes, as well as Mother Earth’s slow re-awakening and the gradual return of some of our summer migrating visitors… Our avian friends!
Hay Writers’ Circle are excited to announce that the wonderful Melanie Prince of The Poetry Bookshop has agreed to judge our 2021 Poetry Competition. Chris and Melanie Prince, The Poetry Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye. Photo credit: Developmentbank.wales Melanie was a 2015 Costa Book Award Judge and we are thrilled to have her as our Poetry Judge this year. […]
Days, hours from Imbolc, and the island (as well as the rest of the archipelago for that respect) firmly in prey to ice and icicles.
In such sub-arctic conditions, everything feels dormant. Our boreal sun has graced winter’s whiteness in an attempt to warm our hearts and souls. Even foreshore rocks and boulders turn blue… And yet it has brought us joy through the classic winter light. Tis so healing.
A daily walk at around noon when our star reaches its zenith might feel best, and yet the eye favours the Golden Hour, a sheer moment when the wild world looks more industrious in its quest for survival. Tis the critical moment when life could flirt with death so scarce food is scarce, hidden under ice.
Whereas local crofters, our small holding farmers, feed their sheep at the manger, and storms uprooted kelp from the nearby bays, the bounty of summer feels a mirage.
Ice is everywhere.
In every book & crannies of our world where it can sneak, ice has petrified grass, water, heather … For the first time, the birds’ water holes, pots and lochs have reached a point of polar scapes…
….As if giants and gods from Jotunheim descended straight on us!
And yet the island holds fast. We feast from the sun’s kindness; walk through the land in search of signs of more green-ness. With the gradual return of the light, we may feel clawed inside winter, yet Mother Earth has already begun to wake…
Like you, I am looking forward to the rebirth and the promise of spring, da voar, as it is known here locally.
Meantime, I am counting the hours to Imbolc, the very first murmuration of our waking home world, as a prelude to our very own chant du monde.
Twenty years ago, I heard the call from 60N and answered. I believed in the stars that showed the way.
Stars. A good trillion of them can’t be wrong. 27 is an odd number… I was gifted one at Yule, which made me feel like le petit prince… Another bears my name in the constellation of Auriga…
Here is a short piece I wrote at dawn this morning to welcome 2021. Like the rest of my community and humanity, filled with hopes.
She ran to the edge of the land, where birds gather before each dive.
Her eyes searched for the faintest sight of stars. Winter has clawed her every breath, wrapped in that wind straight from the pole, she felt at one with her own world.
Circular beams from the lighthouse are reassuring in winter. She turned her heart to the ocean where tides collide and kiss at will. The taste of salt left on her lips reminds her of her sense of home. Home, where sea pinks thrive in early June; where each skylark sings in deep blue… Home, where time wanders inside rollers.
Home. The twigs she planted in the ground have grown to trees. She learnt the clicks of each starling, as she replenished hooked feeders on the tip of strongest branches.
Hame. her heart listened for brand new words she harnessed as her midder tongue. Her sense of belonging in her community nestled for the first time when she discovered wicks, holms and her taing of land, heartfelt welcome fae folk., peat fire in their hearth.
On the strange primal night, she looked up to the stars. She looked at them as her angels. The constellations of her heart, Orion and Andromeda, Aquila, Auriga and Taurus…. She finds solace, there in Lyra or just the Plough. She knows clouds don’t stay forever.
On the tip of her loved headland, she listened to wrath from The Roost. Each wave heaves kelpies and njuggles – awakes spirits from the water. Two footsteps back, she loved the safety of the stones an islander used for a wall like a jigsaw to guard against the Roost’s anger.
She remembered her own journey in between skerries at high tides, treacherous straits, hell from hailstorms… Yet she believed in her dear stars to find her archipelago.
This archipelago, her own world. She knows the lighthouse is safety.
Yuletide is a magic, signalling a new life cycle start – a slow return to light, the sun, currently at 6.6 degree elevation at its zenith… And in those times of darkness, the faintest spark feels a treasure.
The island, engulfed in some 5 and something hours of light on 21 Dec., is already scraping seconds away. Snowflakes dusted every inch of sand, heather and grass this polar felt 24 Dec. 2020.
Yule, Yöl Eve, julhaften, or réveillon, here comes two poems – one in Shetland dialect from Vagaland; the other, from my own pen.
Fae Mr Robertson, aka Vagaland,
Da Göd Man hings da starns
Laek peerie lamps sae bricht,
Sae Santie Klaas can fin his wye,
Whin he comes here da nicht.
Dis nicht he yoks his reindeer up,
An drives dem trowe da sky;
Dan he taks on his muckle bag
An leaves his slaidge ootbye.
An, Maamie, whin you mylk da coo
You’ll geng an tak a
O hey, or maybe twartree
An laeve dem lyin furt.
Da reindeer haes sae far ta geng;
Dey’re maybe hed nae maet,
An he’ll be blyde if he can fin
A grain fir dem ta aet.
A’ll hing my sock apo da
Jöst in below da brace,
An whin he’s trivveled trowe da
He’ll aesy fin da place.
He’ll never come till A’m asleep,
Sae A’ll pit on my goon
An up da stairs ita da
A’ll geng an lay me doon.
You’ll pit da claes aboot me noo,
Becaase he’s gittin late;
An, Maamie, whin you mylk da coo
You’ll mind da reindeer’s maet.
And if Vagaland leaves food for the reindeers, I will gladly leave some for a Norwegian character…
November, month of hellery – this fine Shetland dialect word that encapsulates the worse from the sky in the form of storms of any kind – enshrouded in darkness since daylight feels more and more elusive.
Hel, hell, hellery, as 2020 has never matched our expectations; held us hostage within our walls, and loved ones disappear…
Spaekalation – another fine Shetland dialect word that translates as gossip – is a raw piece written at night, as an attempt to deal with both the savagery of the sky and a sudden and an unexpected bereavement. This poem was first written in the dialect and then translated in English
Is yun a gooster or a ghoul?
Twa goggly eens i'da tree,
is yun an owl o some kind?
Ta da dare-say o'da mirken, da vaelensi is juist
dey say dat ghosts ir among wis,
waanderin, lone, aroond wir laand - dy an
da tattie crö, barn an byre -
dey say dey travel wi da flan an da snitter,
skid juist laek bairns apö
da snaa an glerl o ice,
hide i'da white o'da moorie ta
mind da reek o chimney stacks.
Dey say dey sit by da fire atween
da caird an da wirsit -
da Slockit Licht,
crabbit embers ta keep
da memory alive.
glide alaang da waa,
listen ta da saang o'da nicht.
Is that a messy gust of wind or just a ghoul?
Two goggly eyes inside a tree,
is it an owl of some kind?
To the hear-say of dusk,
That brisk downpour has just begun;
They say that ghosts are among us,
wandering, lone, around
the land, my and
the spud corner, barn and cowshed -
they say they travel with wind gusts or biting cold air,
Saoirse the Cat, tended and out, released from her nocturnal curfew, remains oblivious to any weekday or clock change… To her, daybreak demands my care and attention, as a new day calls from the sky .
November, month of shorter days, storms and shine. Sunrise reddens hillsides and refracts on window panes… Tis the time to break your fast with starlings that came to raid the bird feeders and forage frantic through rot and golden leaves roses littered to feed the ground.
Days, precious days, where time whirl inside oceanic rollers… And light vanishes for long nights. Every minute counts, as life depends on it.
To watch a sundown and wonder at it, listening to the Atlantic, incessant music from our Earth, and feel at one with the divine.
Tis a time where the island welcomes dwellers for winter, from the planet or colder climes. Mother Nature is amazing. In between episodes of hel, hell, hellery, they come to grace our shores and lives.
So much beauty we share and tend to forget as we lock ourselves in this man-made artificial world. This world regulated by clocks and figures of all kinds…. Compartmented in social scales meant to keep us on some frontline. Calendars and even clock change that still belong to another century tainted with wars…
November remembers months of madness, when guns turned life into nightmares, harm and darkness; where eyes opened for a last time, feet inside mud, lice, ice and rats.
That war that never ended all others, as we don’t seem to learn lessons from our own past. Most of our kind regard history to the property of scholars locked in libraries inside books. And even though suffering still tarnish our own lives, we fall for the same one… We invent organisations to temperate bombs and emergency crises. And when leaders spit at freedom, we say amen and stay quiet behind small screens.
November the great month of changes and miracles…
Today, we cry our relief to the world, celebrate light and a new world that reconciled with wisdom instead of darkness, as the world’s first democracy dared to elect a tandem that may relieve a whole planet…
A first woman in the land of the forefathers. A new milestone seeding new possibilities.
I can only pray wisdom prevails over dollars; pray to walk the shore and marvel at life in all its forms, as I depend on it all to survive. Every daybreak feels a miracle in itself – every sundown, the path to reconvene with stars… Trillions of eyes from a creator of light and life. How can a species wreck it all?
Tis time to repair whilst we can.
I wish to enjoy the garden, breakfast with starlings at sunrise, and feel at one with the island, sky and ocean.
Starlings are like vikings - when they descend on trees, they will raid without shame treasure troves to the last! Starlings are gregarious - They're no robin or wren... glitter, shiny armoured, billed to loot the suet - they argue without end on branches or dead leaves, pitiless in their squads... If they could hold an axe, they would kill merciless, to the final fat crumb... They've got the floor, forage through the gold of rose leaves, leave so little to the sparrows; they might tolerate a blackbird, they're dressed to hammer with their bills, squabble and survive November, the savage price named survival.
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