It’s The Way She Curves

There’s a walk that I’ve found, only about ten minutes drive from here.

It’s one of those handy walks that you can make longer if you want to but works just as well as a short one, ideal for those times when you haven’t got long but just need to get outside at the end of the day, to connect back to the seasons, to breath in sky, fields, hedgerows, birdsong.

The first part of the walk runs along the road. I try and avoid roads normally but this one is as minor as can be, you might only see one car in half an hour or so, and there’s something about this quiet country road, running through the landscape, that adds to the effect.

I love the totality of the landscape here: the gates and ditches, field patterns, fence posts, the cows leaning over the hedges, the swallows darting overhead, the starlings looming on the darker nights, I love the field patterns and the signs of the crops, of work, of farming, of life.

I love the way everything bends, and curves.

I know that this landscape reminds me of the road I used to walk in Galloway, outside my previous house. And I know for that reason that this landscape reminds me of home.

Yet I also remember when I first went to Galloway, a place previously unknown to me, having the strangest, strongest feeling, the sense that this landscape, another lush and curving landscape, this landscape was reminding me, evoking memories of another place, although it wasn’t a place I (consciously) knew.

Rather it was the memory of a landscape that I’d dreamt about, or imagined, or read in the pages of a story, or found in the words of a poem.

Getting Intimate With a Landscape

I learned about the idea of intimate landscape photography a little while back, (from photographer, essence of place teacher and friend Bo Mackison).

I am most definitely intrigued by the concept of this style of photography, which in very shorthand form (from Bo) =

photographs that typically do not include a horizon line, or when the horizon is present, conveys only a hint of where the image is photographed. The grandeur of nature is captured in a smaller space. Less is more.

But what also intrigues me is the notion of getting intimate with a landscape.

Although I hadn’t really thought it about it as such before, I can see that this is something I’ve been learning to do for some time now – in fact, probably for as long as I can remember.

I guess the elements of my practice would include:

  • walking – the pace lends itself to familiarity, to intimacy
  • repetition – walking in the same place, over and over, to get to know it really well
  • eating picnics – sitting on the earth to eat is surely one of the simplest and best ways to get close! I try and practice this in all seasons
  • photography – learning to notice and appreciate different colours, textures, patterns, lights, from a whole range of angles. I guess this depends on how you practice photography, but I love to get down on the earth to watch water, or wildflowers, or the light on a path, and again, this is a simple but powerful way to feel – literally – earth connected
  • living in Scotland – I am so lucky with this, there are wild and beautiful places aplenty where I can walk, and often meet no-one, except occasionally one man and his dog

I’m sharing some photographs below of a recent walk in one such quiet place.

As I like this way of expressing the mood and feel of a walk, a place, a day or even a picnic in many photos rather than one… you might be seeing more of this style 😉

First: the classic landscape view looking up the path to the hills – a scattering of snow on top

wald path

The path is dominated by the dyke and fencing that run alongside it. First, looking up:

dry stane dyke

and here, back down again

path down the hill

Shifting perspective lets you see the landscape in a different way – like looking at the hills reflected in a puddle

puddle hills

Or bending down and noticing the path itself, as well as the hills beyond.

the path

I hope you like the photographs – feedback and thoughts about preferences are always welcome!

~~~~

The photographs are from the Wald Path, that cuts through the Lowther hills in South West Scotland.

I wrote about a summer version of the walk, including wildflowers in bloom and a sunny picnic! here: Plugging Into the Source.

For more on Bo’s explanation and illustration of the photography concept, please do check out her work on intimate landscape photography here.

Blowing Your Heart Open

Poems are strange things.

Like most people I find there’s a lot of poetry that leaves me cold, or baffled.

There are poems you can read and think ‘that’s good’, but they don’t stick, or move you.

Then there are poems that speak to you, that grab you, that connect to something inside that you didn’t know you had, but recognise instantly on reading.

Postscript‘, by the late Seamus Heaney, was one such poem for me.  I can’t remember where and when I found it (or rather, it found me), only that I was browsing the internet one day, and stumbled upon the words.

I loved the poem, and knew instantly that I had to go and see for myself this place of which he talked: the north west corner of County Clare.

The Flaggy Shore.

Oh, even just typing the words makes my heart skip a beat!

It’s the edge of the limestone pavement of the Burren, the place where the limestone meets the sea.

The Flaggy Shore.

The poem took me there last early summer, and again in November.

I walked the loop of the Flaggy Shore, up to the loch of the swans, over and over, and over and over. I could walk it now in my head, in my heart, every inch familiar.

I’ve written so many times about this limestone pavement and what it means to me, and yet I’m nowhere near being close to explain it. Perhaps it’s one of those things best left to the great poets to find the words to tell.

Anyway, the death of Seamus Heaney the other week reminded me of Postscript, and the Flaggy Shore, and how it was the poem that took me there, and how grateful that makes me.

It reminded me of how many times poetry can play this part in your life: give you a nudge, wake you up, remind you of what matters, dissolve you in tears as it blows your heart open.

And it reminded me that there’s not as much written about this thing that poems can do as there could be, and I’d like to see more of it. I’d like to write more of it myself, to share some of the ways that poetry has changed things for me, and highlight some of the poems that are part of my story, my landscapes.

So, this is the opening to sharing some poems (over time, and not too much, as I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) and talking about why they’re important to me.

Last but not least, here’s the poem, for those of you who don’t know it, and a photograph from one of the dark-light days of last November, walking the limestone at the Flaggy Shore.

Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Seamus Heaney

From THE SPIRIT LEVEL (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996)

the flaggy shore

Homeward Bound

My eyes fill with

the rolling fields of January,

bare, leafless,

colourless almost,

old fort hills and soft muddy farmland

falling,

breathing,

gently unexceptional.

hilltop trees mark

the place you know is home:

tears of recognition,

dotted all over the horizon.

~~~

Carved out of one of my favourite poem making techniques: writing a piece of prose (in this case, about the journey home) and then cutting the lines up (literally) and moving them around, with further chopping if necessary, to form the shape, feel and sound of a poem.

The Flirtatious Landscape

I was writing the other day about the way the universe seems to invite our appreciation, and respond, like a cat arching its back, to that appreciation being shown.

It reminded me of something I read a month or so ago about landscapes flirting with us – sending out signals that demand and invite an appreciative, admiring response.

I can’t now remember where I read this – I’ll need to track back through my recent books borrowed from the library to find it. Unless of course any of you are familiar with this idea, and who might be writing about it? Continue reading “The Flirtatious Landscape”

The Fire of All Connection

Connected to spirit through landscape

Irresistible invitation to say yes

The soft wind of blessed love and melancholy sweetness

The fire of all connection

Irresistible invitation to say yes

Back to the source in the earth

The fire of all connection

This is my rich seam

Back to the source in the earth

The soft wind of blessed love and melancholy sweetness

This is my rich seam

Connected to spirit through landscape.