Capler

The Wye, South Herefordshire. Photo by me.

 

Hey you, who abandoned me at life’s worst moment; who lied to all of us. Who told me of a love, un-encounterable to most. The path that cut steep down through red soils was lined by light. Tiny stars of wood anemone watched over my eager feet as I moved down through the bluebells having their first conversations with the early bees. All seemed so narrow, a weight, but with an unfurling canopy of shock-green saving me from a complete molten, lead sky.

 

But at the base, where woods fall literally into the river, the sky came in with a bright summer blue, and I stopped to take a deep breath. Breaths are gold, each one, even on ventilin. The river moved like a sliding plate of silver down the table, pausing by me, almost stationary, to hear an ornicophony of riverbirds, and the faint shriek of peregrine somewhere high above. Remember, you asked me to write a poem.

 

Everything opened up to me at this place, Capler, and to everything, flowing through my veins and into my lungs and to the lips. This was what I came for. To try to heal.

 

I’m suffering again, not in your arrogance, in your image fixed into the eye of red-bellied black snake (poor snake), but a realisation that a lifetime of my own difficulty here at my desk, might be a neural difference, an unbidden mindset, unseen and unfelt by all who have tried to help me until now. I don’t like the terminology (this is a symptom too), though I sometimes give too much of my attention, and am hardly inattentive to others. But it only takes a hairline fracture to let the light into pitch black.

 

The DNA-flow of great grandmothers, grandmothers who died by their own hand, mothers (me), daughters who swim beautifully but who still feel they are drowning ~ I just thought this is what it meant to be a woman. To be let down by men.

 

Apparently, only a few are weighted by this “attention deficit”. The anxiety that has ripped through all life’s traumas—there have been many, about as many men in our lives—I just thought we were sensitive. Perhaps, that’s just all we are. It’s hard to contemplate another turn of mental anguish ~ I’ve only just come off the pills.

 

So the path swings left as the river widens into the most exquisite vista to the south, the Wye leaning into a high slope of woods, carving the opposite bank where thick Herefordshire farmland sits heavy. There’s a grandmother over there, with her granddaughter, and they are throwing pebbles in the stream. Bredwardine memories stop me still and then empty me.

 

Butterflies filled me up ~ at least six species; little flighty wings got my attention. I sat among them for a moment, down in the undergrowth, smiling with them. How do you tell a butterfly she is beautiful? Then the path sunk into the bedrock cascading in steps to where the salmon try to run old Ballingham, where the proto indo european rip of riparian—that deep climatic tear—is plain for all to see. More butterflies lay prone on the rock, soaking in the heat. I felt lost there, truly lost in that most profound, good sense.

 

When I came to my other senses, where dream-brain switches into task-brain (as I am now told), I followed a bee into a wide holloway, pushing up into the steeps under Capler Hill Fort, and into a vast auditorium that would have blown your mind.

 

Ravens sounded their wings in circles above me (put that sound in my pocket and save it for later). Giant red-tailed bumblebee queens looked like tiny ants as they rustled their buzz under dry, tongued ferns. All the passerines from all over the Earth were here it seemed, super-high among the quarry-top trees. One oak lay crashed down at the bottom of the cliff, fallen from the topsoil that looked so thin at the top. Another big tree that looked small because of the scale dangled precariously, its roots like tentacles feeling the air. All life is so reliant on that thinness.

 

Then, to hear a slow-rising noise, the shallowest anthrophony of cessna above, of brightly coloured canoe-shouters in the channel, and a sit-on-lawnmower droning slowly towards me. Here, at this place! I could hardly contain my anger. I talked to him later when I’d cooled down, about grass clippings and river ecology—they don’t mix—and he talked to me about keeping things tidy for the tourists, and the fly-fishing licenses; saving the kids from being stung by nettles (I laughed out loud); saving Earth from the scourge of balsam. And litter, to be fair. Even a Ford Capri. And I thanked him for that.

 

I walked back alongside his engine, and we stopped to listen to the noisy peregrines eyeing two-day old ducklings swimming the big, scary river, in little flurries.

 

The man told me the quarry I’d found may have been the source of the red sandstone that is now Hereford Cathedral. A hole in a hill the size of nine hundred years. These peregrines live there now, perched on the quarry ledges. Peregrines also hunt their quarry around the Cathedral tower.

 

I think I found a feather of a female the other day near the remains of a dead pigeon. It’s pinned to my notice board for me to admire the inward beauty of her. Like a shock.

 

Then one flew right over me casting avumbra. And that was the healing moment of the day. The silence of avumbra. I came home wanting, by the habit of four years, to tell the image of me in the mirror ~ you. I wanted to tell the other one too, the earliest bud of cherry blossom, but he’s just told me he found someone else, before the flowers have even fallen to the ground.

 

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PhD Fluminism as Literature. Practise based research ~ One

Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a series of moments on the Wye; an in situ telling and collection of personal experiences that helped shape my creation of Fluminism as a symbioethic.

One: Eaton Camp, Wye.

Trigger Warning: Contains distressing descriptions of the memories of suicide ideation and behaviour. If you are feeling vulnerable in anyway, please, don’t listen. Seek urgent help. Help is available. If the first help isn’t positive, try and try again until you find the RIGHT help for you. You are unique. The right help IS there.

I am testament.

#Love #Ecology #Flow

Moment One (link to Vimeo)

 

Trisense ~ an essay in three parts.


1. Emily
2. Lynn
3. Ginny

 

Emily

1


 

It’s barely possible to imagine the hem of her black or white dress resting close at the knee of a leather boot belonging to a soldier with so many children borne to another woman.

Metallic scents of expensive ink on expensive paper linger not in her room, but in her father’s office downstairs. She writes by hand, of course, in her bedroom, at a small, crafted desk and seated on a chair that is cut and waxed from some of the grandest trees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The glories of lilac and generations of bees flavour an ordinary lead pencil, maybe a sharp knife too, laid on the desk to carve a point. Her neck is long and pale, black hair wrapped into itself at the nape, and pinned.  The line of her spine drops plumb as she breathes quick and anxious.

In bitter winter, Emily looks down through her window at a horse raising his snow-dusted hooves through drifts, the wheelwright’s toil rolling behind. They travel along the road to a neighbour, delivering to the town’s elite. Her brother’s children, released from next door, laugh in these memory grounds beneath the cold, white blanket surrounding the yellow house. She’s observed robin search for his worm at the edges, pecking at the frozen leaf piles. Her secret lover makes boot prints through her father’s garden to his place of work. He glances up to her window with a wry smile beneath his flamboyant well-groomed moustache.

Spring has raced through this year—the bulbs bursting with colour in the borders—purple crocuses, yellow daffodils with orange hearts, and pink and blue hyacinths—and then abandoned her. How must she feel? The petals have shaped her thoughts into words, but she is anxious that it will all end soon. This keeps her in with her thoughts.

In a summer heatwave, the warmth of wet soil in clay pots, and spiced leaves, drifts into her hair, and Emily throws open the conservatory windows. A bead of sweat runs across her brow when the nights are sultry. And there is fresh-pressed lavender-scented linen on her bed when thunder comes, especially when the leaves redden and fall to the first frosts.

Emily writes each letter one at a time until they make words, and lines like tiny rivers on the back of used envelopes, and orange telegrams—Baltimore orioles—and any scrap paper she can find. There is a slant of light, of truth, yes; that bright New England kind that contrasts even the palest patterned walls and white skirtings.

She writes again in her beautiful garden. Blue jays are gifts, red cardinals shock. The loud warbles of tiny Carolina wrens float along the perennial borders of the Homestead under an orderly, painted, hickory fence. Even the Magnolia tripetala leaves swelling through the winds of the Fall gently vibrate that same, perfectly hand-stitched hem just when their rosy red fruit cones are in their prime.

For now, thanks to Austin, I read they flourish beyond Homestead northward about two hundred miles from their native range and a degree of centigrade.  You are all visionaries.

Emily mouths her own words quietly and sends them silently to a huge appetite denied in public spheres. The repression bubbles up, coded in decorum. Blood flows to her lips and through her fingertips. Skin on skin, under the skin of him, and her, then through the hand; hand through wood and lead; lead on manilla, and into her pocket. She can keep him there constantly, and no-one would ever know. She smiles, politely, at Lavinia.

If Emily had split a lark herself, somehow without harm, and peered into the microscope, she’d find her neighbour Lynn searching for the slanted truth, and source codes, and yellow, deep in a cell and the organelles. This place is where all the energy is, and all that lays in her pocket.

 


 

Lynn

2


 

She’s young on her wedding day—nineteen, like my Mum. She looks happy, swept into the folds of intellectual love. As a child, she has a bright mind free to roam the woods, unhindered. Now, it’s a strong will to study, and to be with him, and to inspire. They have a child together—Dorian. They divorce.

We divorced.

From the liberal arts to a passion for the inquiring, challenging mind, science history, she keeps her hair tied, or short. And she cycles to a humming lab where she dwells on processes, where the black and white microscopes stand in rows. Soon, she is eye-deep in the cell and the organelles through the glass—the glascella—where she splits the minutiae larks, to think and theorize a new understanding. It’s that slant of light falling across all those pale, patterned neo-Darwinists with her rolling-into-words, honey Illinois.

But she takes all her nature in with her; all of it. Worms, termites, termite gut bacteria, birds, slimes, eukarya. And she knocks on the doors of the journals and they turn her away, until one day, the world just gently shifts on its axis. Life, it is proven (until disproved) is to be less anger, after all, and more love; an inter-kingdom of unions and sex and symbiosis, not war.

And Lynn falls in love again. We all do if we’re fortunate. I did. Two more children, all now flourishing, then another divorce—she’s a dedicated first-class scientist and author.

She writes her notes by hand/in type. Spirochetes spin their corkscrews in white cups, and she looks to all those men again and gently laughs. Her time is big moves, from Chicago Chickadees to the Dark-eyed Juncos of Berkeley and back again to the East. And more, to NASA, to Russia, to international councils of men, and time with mics in studios, and interviews with great writers. She’s blazing trails to lecture halls the length of the land.

Finally, Lynn finds her way home to Emily’s town and the grandfather’s college, where she is content as a botanist can be. She has moved next door to those Dickinson memory grounds. And they meet somehow over the hickory fence. Spring has raced through very fast this year—the bulbs bursting too late in the borders—and as Lynn writes through finger tips and plastic keys and memory boards in a summer heatwave, a bead of sweat runs across her brow. This is her place now, her Amherst. It’s friendships, yes Lovelock’s rainbows on Hungry Hill, and the geosciences where they also make art for her, and this is magic for her: an Earth so in sym as to be the sum.

As her children’s children laugh, her love grows for the sauce code in decorum written on manilla and chocolate wrappers just next door; Emily’s yellow. I’m listening to you, Lynn, as you swim forever wild in your Puffer’s Pond.

 


 

Ginny

3


 

I have two lives. One is before Mum’s suicide and the other comes after that. Before, I am steered by the great events of those I love. After, comes a life of trauma and healing. In healing, I emerge, though trauma is never a singularity.

As a child, I have a bright mind free to roam the Herefordshire woods and streams, and listen to larks, unhindered. My hair is long, until the chemo, tied back into a wild bunch. We meet at college, where I design with black ink on whiteboards and read Zevi. He maps gold and reads Lopez. Then, in Welsh borderlands, he gives me tandems, and our dog, and daily walks. And I know these hills like the memory grounds. After walks under rainbows on Hungry Hill, our daughter comes, and life seems the best adventure. We go to that New England light (Chickadee) and wade through Pacific waves under the Aotearoan cloud (Tui). And I still love him for that. Big moves.

But the after comes, and terrible trauma brings anger and control, and it takes a long time in the city between the Taff and the Ely for me to leave. But I do, and I find new, deep love. And so to this intellectual bird love—of  Cardiff Dippers and Albert’s Lyrebirds—I too receive a wry smile—and the hems and leather boots are in symbiosis with visions of a new epoch itself. I have scribbled in pencil on manilla envelopes our word, mirrors. They also know before and after, a lonely place to be.

How dull would life be without you, Emily and Lynn, and I pocket all the slant light and symbiogenesis I can mine in your words, forming my own thoughts and words, pushing all the hickory fences back. I mouth my own words to a huge appetite denied in public spheres. Love is never sentimentalism. Blogs (light of all the seasons) are my instruments—plastic keys— and Twitter, though there is control there and it can make me unhappy. There’s a beautiful book too, thanks to my friend Riechmann, in a language my daughter knows well. And I relish, too, the visceral art with Lyons under Welsh sleet ~ ah, the Elan horses.

You see, I grew up in my mother’s rambling garden with hardly an edge into the wild of the wood and the streams. And I tended a glasshouse, just like Emily, the warmth of wet soil in clay pots, and spiced leaves in my hair. I climbed mountains and even flew them (the Red Kites). But it was Dad who always tasked me to question. We cared for each other in the after, and I held his hand as he breathed his last. I miss him.

And to abandonment and cancer ~ how must I feel? I am still here above red sandstone, standing at the confluences. Deep down here, there are all the five Kingdoms in symbiosis spreading to cover the entire Earth. I can’t tell you, Lynn, what ten thousand miles away means, and what ten thousand miles back feels. Straight down, beneath my feet, all of time. And then to record them, and the loss ~ each mile ~ with my tiny, black mic, pinned to my pale, patterned blouse.

Daughter’s voice has grown strong in justice and language, like the river, and I learn from her. Meanwhile, I wait and write, and walk each day to Kingfishers and Goosanders, with Heron-like patience; at other times none at all, like the gleam of a Peregrine’s strike. I live Rilke’s questions, searching along my own Amethyst Brook or Connecticut—The Edw and the Wye—  imagining all the spirochetes, searching too for the light beneath my own versions of Magnolia tripetala and all their subsoil mycelium lovers and sunshine. Nothing is separate: All is flow, my rivers, yellow, and that gentle shift of the axis.

Lynn, you asked me for new words, a source code, so I give them to you. Emily, I understand you and the blood to the lips. I feel like we are the lichen on my Mum’s grave, the trisense; it takes three in symbiosis—the alga, and two types of fungi  (an ascomycete and a newly identified basidiomycete yeast), but all three must have that colour.

 

End.


 

My own mental wellbeing, welldoing.

In the young wood, Westhope, where the sparrowhawks wheel. Photo by me.
This, chosen as one of the Guardian readers top 2010 photos.

I just want to note this moment in terms of my own mental health. As an ecophilosopher, I do not separate myself from my thoughts. It would be like ripping me apart, limb from limb. I write about life-love as a devotion, and I am similarly devoted to my cause. These are exceptional and difficult times, and it is important to recognise despair and kindle hope. If someone attacks my core devotion, and any attempt to recognise despair and kindle hope, they are attacking me.

I can take legitimate critiques of the results of my philosophical work, particularly critiques of my literary inadequacies, but not the fact that I work at all. I can take legitimate criticism of neologisms I craft, but not that I craft them at all nor the approach I take. I can take criticism of the contributions I make on social media, but not that I am a woman doing these things. Being overlooked is, I think, one of the biggest struggles of women at work. Neither do I appreciate ideas stolen from beneath me. They are gifts, of course, but I expect some reciprocal credit, especially from revered and financially successful writers.

Being a woman on social media is harder than being a man. That’s not what frustrates me most, drives my anger, self-doubt and depression. It is that my daughter faces all of this, and more. It’s tough enough facing a life with a tsunami of complex problems swallowing our beautiful Earth. That women (including trans women, especially black women), are not treated with equal respect into the future is desperately wrong.

I have written before about my experiences of 2008, so I don’t want to rake it all over. In short, I had as severe an episode of trauma as one can have without ending it all. After finding my mother’s body after her suicide, I nearly followed her into those depths of eternal nothingness. The shock and the guilt. If it were not for the light of my beautiful young daughter, the unbroken affection for and from Ben-dog, and the right help found by my husband at the time, I would not be here at all. I remember the searing feeling of a tear in my frontal cortex *, that moment of choice.

Moving home from Cardiff, Wales, to Hereford, England, straight after an appendectomy, has meant this last few weeks have been hard. Anxieties about my type 3 cancer returning bubble away. And I work hard to recognise them as such. The good news is that I returned to the woods behind the house where I grew up, where I found Mum, and I felt good about being there. I was not terrified, nor miserable. I still know these woods intimately, after all these years. I noticed where the new owners have taken out single trees for their wood burner. But there, in the young wood (see photo above), in the company of my now 16 year old beautiful daughter, I recorded my thoughts for Melissa Harrison’s brilliant podcast, The Stubborn Light of Things, episode 25 on Healing, and you are welcome to listen to it here.

Despite progress, I am still vulnerable to shocks. I struggle with keeping my anxieties on a leash. The deep sadness of a failed marriage, and a frustrated love. There is no perfect life after trauma, but there is perfection in the imperfection. I am still dependent upon medications that also drive appetite as a side effect. Covid and weight have a co-morbidity. I have put on too much weight, so I am reducing my dose, reducing my weight. I am unsettled, whilst also beginning PhD studies. But these studies are important to me. I am holding them very close, in the spirit of Frankl’s love and meaning, my own welldoing.

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  • Since documented by my Psychiatrist at the time, and discussed at a conference with my consent.

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Audio:

 

 

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