Tag Archives: new year

A Thousand Years of Peace

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Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

 

 

From ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’, Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Happy New Year!

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Paul Nash, Flight of the Magnolia, 1944

 

New Year’s Day—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

Issa

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A Short Film About Persistence

 

 

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Warm wishes for Winter and a Peaceful 2018

L

x

(You can see these wonderful Allendale horses pull the plough on Instagram @lindafrancebooksandplants…I’m afraid it’s not possible to upload them here…A glory.)

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Your Origami Life

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Last year ended with my travels in Turkey, where one of the many highlights was a hot air balloon ride as the sun rose above the astonishingly beautiful valleys of Cappadocia.

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Back in the North, the new year began as usual for me at Harnham Buddhist Monastery.  Yesterday a group of us gathered there for one of our occasional renga sessions.  In the chilly winter conservatory we saw the light fade as we worked our way through a new schema, with the additional rigour of conforming to the traditional 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllable count throughout.  After five hours of finger-tapping and head-scratching, the odd spat of wrangling, we’d created this seasonal renga catching the year as it turns.

IMG_0195May 2016 be peaceful and fruitful for us all.

*

Your Origami Life

Hungry now, the jaws
of winter are snap-snapping –
the upstart year prey

a row of unruly ash
gesture to the rain-washed sky

jackdaws crowd the field
sodden silent monitors
a message in black

as if the moon were patched silk
shredded honesty, falling

across Bolam Lake
a raft of male goosander
white bodies, hooked beaks

you didn’t need to say it
but what a difference it made

will this be the year
she sorts through those old boxes
clears her path of dust?

we are all responsible
and me more than anyone

pruned raspberry canes
twigs, bits, dry in the greenhouse
ready for burning

so how many paper folds
in your origami life?

telephone cable
insulated conductor
sways to wild weather

bullfinches chase their redness
through my thicket of slow thought

sweet, sharp, dangerous
licking honey off the knife –
well, that’s how it looked

the lilt of a saxophone
curling towards the ceiling

in the quiet morning
we pass windblown oak and pine
part sawn, cleared quickly

Forties, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher
storm force 12 rarely forecast

here in old tough grass
waiting for the miracle
of winter snowdrops

every day the sun climbing
higher above layered cloud.

 

 

A han-kasen renga
at Harnham Buddhist Monastery
on 2nd January 2016.

Participants:
Ajahn Abhinando
John Bower
Holly Clay
Linda France
Geoff Jackson
Linda Kent
Eileen Ridley
Tim Rubidge
Christine Taylor

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DISENCHANTMENT

New Year’s morning –

everything is in blossom!

    I feel about average

From After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

By Robert Hass

IMG_7191The poet I’ve started the year with is Robert Hass, my interest piqued by an essay on him in Tony Hoagland’s fascinating Real Sofistikashun (Graywolf Press, 2006).

…Hass might be described as a speculative describer who has made a tender tentativeness part of his style.  Even moving through his own mind, it seems, he has the delicacy of an ecologist who wants to record an environment without disturbing a leaf.  At the same time that Hass is tonally tentative, he is also resourcefully inquisitive, ever probing into other sources and pockets of consideration.  It is the paradoxical blend of these qualities – gentility combined with a probing persistence – that best describes his poetics.  His ability to register and collate the subtleties of subjective and objective is exceptional.

That overlapping of subjective and objective is a tricky thing to pull off – anchoring the imagination in the real without getting its feet wet – but it lies at the heart of everything we perceive and might write about.

All knowledge rests on the coincidence of an object with a subject.

Coleridge

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I was immediately drawn to one of Hass’s poems called ‘The Problem of Describing Trees’:

The Problem of Describing Trees

The aspen glitters in the wind

And that delights us.

 

The leaf flutters, turning, because that motion in the heat of August

Protects its cells from drying out.  Likewise the leaf

Of the cottonwood.

 

The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem

And the tree danced.  No.

The tree capitalized.

No.  There are limits to saying,

In language, what the tree did.

 

It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

 

Dance with me, dancer.  Oh, I will.

 

Mountains, sky,

The aspen doing something in the wind.

 

I recognize that struggle of saying ‘what is’ without adding or subtracting anything, while still holding true to the I/eye’s response.  I particularly like the line:

It’s good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

I seem to keep coming across talk about the need for ‘re-enchantment’, based on the idea that we have lost our sense of the mystery of things.  While that may be true, it is also possible to look at our current situation another way:  that we are burdened by too much enchantment, bewitched by the media and the material world so utterly we have lost any sense of what’s underneath all the glitter and hunger.  Despite its capacity for truth-telling and clarity, poetry (as an expression of our cluttered, foggy, polluted minds) can also tell it so slant that it tells it wrong.  Just so much more smoke and mirrors.

Coleridge again, in 1796:

Poetry – excites us to artificial feelings – makes us callous to real ones.

IMG_7362We mistake words for the things themselves and hold onto them only inasmuch as they serve our particular view of things.  The words don’t care – they’re only words.  Aren’t language, views, poems all just our own open questions?  On a good day we hear them singing and can dance.

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Iowa, January

In the long winter nights, a farmer’s dreams are narrow.

Over and over, he enters the furrow.

RH

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Oxygen

IMG_7320Today this article by one of my heroines, Joanna Macy, environmentalist and systems theory analyst, popped into my inbox and as the old year comes to an end – amid storms, flood warnings and power cuts – and we start thinking about our intentions for the 365 or so days ahead (all being well), it seems a good place to start.  The oxygen of truth-telling.

How do we live with the fact that we are destroying our world? Because of social taboos, despair at the state of our world and fear for our future are rarely acknowledged or expressed directly. The suppression of despair, like that of any deep recurring response, contributes to the numbing of the psyche. Expressions of anguish or outrage are muted, deadened as if a nerve had been cut. This refusal to feel impoverishes our emotional and sensory life. We create diversions for ourselves as individuals and as nations in the fights we pick, the aims we pursue, and the stuff we buy.

Of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to permanent war, none is so great as this deadening of our response. For psychic numbing impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more crucial uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.

The Zen teacher and poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked, “What do we most need to do to save our world?” His answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.”

IMG_7342How to confront what we scarcely dare to think? How to face our grief and fear and rage without going to pieces? 

It is good to realize that falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is essential to transformation. Anxieties and doubts can be healthy and creative, not only for the person but for the society, because they permit new and original approaches to reality. 

What disintegrates in periods of rapid transformation is not the self, but its defenses and assumptions. Self-protection restricts vision and movement like a suit of armor, making it harder to adapt.

Going to pieces, however uncomfortable, can open us up to new perceptions, new data, and new responses. 

In our culture, despair is feared and resisted because it represents a loss of control. We’re ashamed of it and dodge it by demanding instant solutions to problems. We seek the quick fix. This cultural habit obscures our perceptions and fosters a dangerous innocence of the real world. 

Acknowledging despair, on the other hand, involves nothing more mysterious than telling the truth about what we see and know and feel is happening to our world.

When corporate-controlled media keep the public in the dark, and power holders manipulate events to create a climate of fear and obedience, truthtelling is like oxygen. It enlivens and returns us to health and vigor.

IMG_7308Sharing what is in our heartmind brings a welcome shift in identity, as we recognize that the anger, grief, and fear we feel for our world are not reducible to concerns for our individual welfare or even survival. Our concerns are far larger than our own private needs and wants. Pain for the world—the outrage and the sorrow— breaks us open to a larger sense of who we are. It is a doorway to the realization of our mutual belonging in the web of life. 

Many of us fear that confrontation with despair will bring loneliness and isolation. On the contrary, in letting go of old defenses we find truer community. And in community, we learn to trust our inner responses to our world—and find our power.

Let’s drop the notion that we can manage our planet for our own comfort and profit—or even that we can now be its ultimate redeemers. It is a delusion. Let’s accept, in its place, the radical uncertainty of our time, even the uncertainty of survival.

Uncertainty, when accepted, sheds a bright light on the power of intention. That is what you can count on: not the outcome, but the motivation you bring, the vision you hold, the compass setting you choose to follow.

IMG_7349When we open our eyes to what is happening, even when it breaks our hearts, we discover our true dimensions, for our heart, when it breaks open, can hold the whole universe. We discover how speaking the truth of our anguish for the world brings down the walls between us, drawing us into deep solidarity. And that solidarity with our neighbors and all that lives is all the more real for the uncertainty we face.

When we stop distracting ourselves, trying to figure the chances of ultimate success or failure, our minds and hearts are liberated into the present moment. And this moment together is alive and charged with possibilities.

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An edited version of an article first published as part of Stop Global Warming Cold, the Spring 2008 issue of Yes! Magazine and then reproduced in Tricycle.

The photos are from Hadrian’s Wall at Housesteads on Christmas Day.

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A Hinge for the New Year…

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Flower Renga

New year’s day
lilies flush
with unspent pollen

risking themselves, the first
snowdrops, a hellebore

how to describe
the scent of hyacinths
sweet, intense, alive

an infusion of rosebuds
in a glass pot

picking out the stars
by name like flowers
in a night garden

rhododendrons bud
like birthday candles

along Oystershell Lane
brown buddleia rise
above fences painted green

all buckle and tilt
the empty garden

each bud on my magnolia
wrapped
in a pair of miniature wings

iris reticulata
the familiar strange

blue sky and sunlight
birch tree glittering
a fog in my head

poems about my mother
the first flowers

as if I’ve swallowed the city
concrete and metal
cherry, forsythia

so many flowers
furred, miaowing

I sow self-heal
Prunella vulgaris
heart-weed

puffs of smoke
are cypress pollen

her clever way
with daisies
pressed in clay

the room’s a garden
my thousand-petalled heart

six hours of gardening
my winter-stiff body
learning to bend

amaranthus in the hothouse
its crimson dreadlocks

above the birches
a buzzard’s wings
filtered sunlight

planting out mimulus
‘fear of unknown things’

buds plumping
on leafless branches
the foxglove tree

five red freckles
inside the yellow cup (Cowslip)

the garden gathers us in
like children
wanting their mother

too many words
nothing to do with gardens

we walk across
to Dunstanburgh
sea pinks and kittiwakes

a garden transformed
with words and work and weather

‘Derrick Cook’
unpromising name
for such a delicate geranium

ash trees’ pinnate leaves
ripple in the sky

a bumblebee
rings the bells
of the foxglove

in the Tropical House
a lesson in adaptation

all evening
the smell of lilies
before I find them

collecting elderflowers
a gap in the rain

ivy-leaved toadflax
tangled on the wall
yellow lips, purple lips

as if I have no choice
dancing to the tree’s tune

amber? vanilla?
we press our noses
into its white petals (Encyclia abbreviata)

Hylde-moer, Hylde-moer
what is she calling for?

half-Rothko, half O’Keefe
I paint the light
of the flower in oil

Ward 9 – flowers forbidden
he takes his Nanna plastic

five hours
in the meditation garden
a cat’s cradle

gathering mullein flowers
remedy for earache

he splits a root
of meadowsweet
the smell of germolene

dong quai
Chinese angelica

orange and blue petals
in my tea cup
a pot pourri

a day of gifts
a calla lily, chocolate, Patti Smith

coming home
to a crescendo
of white gladioli

trimming the privet
housework outdoors

despite the rain
the fragrance
of sweet peas

in one envelope
a whole garden

harvest mites
berry bugs
chiggers

a sliver between clouds
to cut the grass

sixteen poets
sixteen renga lilies
in the sun

we cut a tray of violas in half
‘yellow duet’

our last day in the garden
is like a wedding –
photographs and cake

Anaphalis – ‘pearl everlasting’
its name a lie

the stink of rot
from the compost bin
clings to my hands

elderflower, lemon, sage
for an equinox cold

seeds of light
on chandeliers
of cow parsley, hogweed

the fern by her bed
an emerald flamenco

petals so gorgeous
you can’t get close enough
like silk, like skin

a glory of an afternoon
calligraphy of thorn and ash

time already up and away –
planting bulbs
I won’t be here to see

everywhere you choose to sit
there is a fountain to cool you

a grass labyrinth
loved and glittering
in russet light

one fallen frangipani
the smell of sex

counting the trunks
on Goethe’s palm
a poet’s blessing

I can’t help but love
her love of the garden

‘a beautiful tree
we sometimes forget
to admire’ (On Radio 4 – the ash)

you paint your toenails
the colour of parma violets

the haiku master
named after a banana
Musa basjoo

bravado of mistletoe
alien, unapologetic

safe in my pocket
the biggest conker
I’ve ever seen

persimmons – like people –
sweeten when they ripen

his reindeer ears
more like flowers
birds of paradise

he draws me
the circle of Ryoan-ji

flowers of glass
a bower
round their door

frost redefines
roadside ivy

a wasp’s nest
enough
for my winter garden

pine and bamboo
keepsake from the cloud gallery. (British Library)

*

Flower verses extracted from the renga journal I kept throughout 2012 – slightly rearranged to fit the requisite patterning in a different context, but pretty much as they were written.  A way of stepping into the new year – reflecting on where I’ve been already and clearing a space for where I might find myself in the months ahead.

Warm wishes to you all for 2013 – a thousand flowers!

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Renga at the End of the Year

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The Gate of the Moon

Nowhere left

for the rain

to run to

*

solar panels capture

a dull grey sky

*

this hill

rising above

winter earth

*

three hundred thousand miles

reflected in a puddle

*

a quick burst

glimpses of red

waxwings scatter

*

assorted woollen socks

circle the rug

*

in awe of grammar

we follow the rules

we have never heard of

*

the white Buddha

mossy round his knees

*

the poetry master said

if you don’t understand anything

it’s all right

*

how convert digital

love to analogue?

*

while the clock ticks

memories chime

to a different rhythm

*

a year’s worth of tears

spilled before breakfast

*

she draws

small villages

when she’s lost

*

the language of light

tells the garden its season

*

how to be an artist?

invite someone dangerous

for tea

*

the fox in Brian’s garden

weighing his options

*

what we’ll see

when it’s all over

the gate of the moon

*

seedheads of honesty

waxy, translucent

*

the mouse carefully sniffs

the air outside

the opened trap

*

budding black already

ash branches, tips uplifting.

A Renga in Winter

at Harnham Buddhist Monastery

on 27th December 2012.

 

 

Participants:

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Chandra Candiani

Linda France

Geoff Jackson

Martha Jackson

Neda Popovic Bras

Christine Taylor

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