Heron

Snow whipped down the Tarmachan Ridge, and gathered in hoof prints in a field by the Lochay.

That’s where we met.

You, hunkered in a grey fur coat
Bedraggled and stiff
Gathering the cold
Like a sobering drunk at a bus stop Knowing the last bus has gone,

And me, cowering from the wind,
Dressed for Siberia,
With hot-breath-blow-back flowing Like the Dochart beneath my mask.

I might have passed you by
Had it not been for the sun’s flame
Painted on the dead bracken
Catching my eye.

But I stopped, and a moment passed, You fluffed your feather boa, And I straightened my mask.



Outsider (video)

Thanks to Thrawn Craws for posting this poem to their Facebook group today . I realised, after an hour of pulling my hair out, that Facebook no longer allow us to embed video’s. How annoying. So here is the video that was posted on the Thrawn Craws Facebook page. Please also click on the link to be directed to their page, check out all the creative talent they offer and give them a like.

https://www.facebook.com/ThrawnCraws

The Outsider

This photo was kindly donated by Emma Mooney, and was also the inspiration for this poem.

I told him to come.
I put the key in a plant pot,
And a slice of Madeira cake
Wrapped in cling film, on a floral plate.

I said, ‘Please, help yourself,’
And left the porch light on,
And brown sugar cubes
In a silver bowl, and a sachet of coffee mate.

I said, ‘It’s going to be a cold one.’
And I stoked the fire with extra logs,
Folded the scarf I’d knitted last June
And left it on the armchair.

I said, ‘I won’t wait up.’
And I drew the curtains on a blinding blizzard,
Took photographs from the shelf,
Leaving eleven lines in the dust.

I said, ‘Perhaps he’ll come.’
And left well worn slippers by the fire,
A blanket folded in a plasic bag,
And a kiss on an old book from another time.

In the morning I said, ‘I wonder.’
As I counted the sugar, dusted the crumbs,
Then drew the winters curtains
To size eleven footprints in two inches of snow.

A Snow Kiss

Killin Scotland

We had so much snow yesterday but most of it melted as it hit the ground. It did lie on the grass through. When I went out with the dogs, on a not very adventurous walk around the park, the snow was blowing sideways, big thick snow that made visibility difficult. I kept my face to the ground, hurrying my wee legs as quick as I could with the vision of a steaming mug of tea waiting for me at home, and of course my jammies.

It’s easy to take the surrounding beauty for granted when the weather isn’t to your liking, and to be honest, the above picture was taken on another day when the wind was just a wee whistle and, the snow just a wee crust on the periphery of my walk. It wasn’t until I was on my last lap of the park when a flake of snow, a giant flake of snow, landed on my lip. It was only a second before it melted, but the wee snow kiss ripped me out of my daydream and I found myself in the middle of a snow globe. There wasn’t another in sight, just me and my snow patterned dog, who looked at me wondering why I had stopped. It was a moment of absolute beauty, from the cold fizz of the melting snow on my lip, to my tongue reaching for a taste. I was utterly alive. For the remainder of my walk I kept my head up, letting the snow land on my face, my hat, but it only took.a single kiss to bring me into the present moment.

What is the weather like where you are?

Is it a Genie or a Cloud?

The night sky in Killin

One of the best things about living in the Scottish Highlands in the wee detached village of Killin, is the night sky. It’s pretty dark at night, with little light pollution and the brightest moon I’ve ever seen. When there is a scattering of clouds, however, the sky puts on the most spectacular show of patterns and shapes, it’s like art. When the days are clear and the rain is at bay, we have a new exhibition to indulge in every night, and often with twinkling stars dotted in between. That’s not to say it’s not freezing, wrapping up is essential for sky gazing. The picture that accompanies this post was taken in December 2020. It was taken on my phone and zoomed in. I couldn’t help but notice a genie smoking his pipe and pondering what’s to become of this bloody pandemic.

What do you see?

The night sky is a great place to start for writing inspiration. Perhaps on a clear night, get yourself wrapped up and venture out into the dark.

Listen
Look
Smell
Feel

By tuning into the senses, you might be surprised at what the night has to offer. For me, on a night like the one in December, I would hear the hoo-hoo of the owl, the swishing of the trees on the old railway, the creaking of the car port roof, possibly a car in the distance bit mostly not.

The sky can be anything from a yellow oil slick, to a blue fox stretching lazily between the seven sisters and the plough.

There’s usually a smell of a burning wood in the air, the smell of wet grass, sweet frost or mulch. Sometimes even the smell of laundry from someone’s tumble dryer.

I will feel the sharpness of the air as it reaches my lungs, the sting of cold on my cheeks, my feet on the ground, my heart beating, the clothes on my skin.

This is present moment awareness, a moment of mindful contemplation. All of it relevant as I stand completely alive, sharing the sky with those brave enough to be out too.

Happy writing folks.

Frosty Fields and Sensible Ducks

Today the temperature has remained below zero, the lowest being -4°, but the sky was the deepest blue I’ve seen in a while, and with only a slither of cloud on the horizon. Me and my two chocolate Labradors walked along the river bank, the river was flowing so slowly that the opposite bank was reflected clearly on its surface, apart from the odd random ripple and patches of grey ice around the bank that is. My dogs love the water, but they also love chasing the ducks, and there are an abundance of ducks on the river at the moment. So they remained safely on lead while I took lovely photographs. Here’s one of them in a little sandy cove.

Millie and Kimber

Once we moved away from the river and into the field, the dogs relaxed a bit and I was able to settle comfortably into my surroundings. The mountains seem to have gathered more snow overnight and looked particularly dramatic. One in particular, Ben Lawers, looks to me like its twisting away from the other. There are parts of Lawers that are so incredibly steep and its a wonder that so many people climb it. And even though I view it with that sense of fear, I can see the draw because it is overwhelmingly stunning. This sensation reminded me of an English Literature lecture about the feeling one gets when confronted with the beauty and the terrifying in nature – I believe it was described at the sublime.

Edmund Burke identified the sublime as the experience of the infinite, which is terrifying and thrilling because it threatens to overpower the perceived importance of human enterprise in the universe. 

Sublime | Poetry Foundation

Where was I? While I was having these wonderful emotions, and keeping one eye on the dogs, who sounded like little piglets sniffle out truffles, except it wasn’t truffles, it was frozen rabbit poo, I wandered into some frozen flood water.

We had an incredible amount of rain in December and the field, which is normally filled with sheep, was flooded. The sheep were replaced by ducks, but with this new cold snap, even the ducks are warming their bums in the river rather than the solid ice.

Frozen flood water

So, as I stood in this mini ice rink wondering how I’d got there, I realised there was an opportunity to walk mindfully, to bring myself back into the present moment, all because of a crunch…

What does it mean to walk mindfully?

Mindful walking is about intention and paying attention. Let me explain. When I found myself on the ice, the first thing I noticed was the sound, the satisfying crunch as my wellington boot broke through. It was a familiar sound, something that drew me back to my childhood and I found myself smiling. This is when I decided to walk mindfully, in other words, I made an intention. The dogs were sniffing around, eating poo and were in no hurry to move on, so I stopped, and I took three long deep breaths, (this is kind of like the Bell or the Gong in my previous post as the breath allows you to arrive into a moment, to be present). I then took a moment to check in on how my body felt, to relax any muscles that had become tense, to feel my feel on the ground, or in the ice for that matter, and that’s when I noticed, for the first time that day, the cold on my face. In fact, I was so surprised to feel the sting on my cheeks and neck that I raised my hand and touched it. Then I began to move. Mindful walking is walking intentionally, walking slow and feeling the range of motions while experiencing all the sensory pleasures available to us. That’s not to say that this exercise is exclusive to able bodied people, it can be adapted to wheelchair users too, although I wouldn’t recommend wheeling into a frozen flooded field, but the exercise can be adapted on less dangerous terrain. As I began to walk, I concentrated on each movement, the weight of my legs as I lifted my feet, the feeling of my feet landing on the ice, that moment of resistance before my foot broke through the ice and then landed on the sticky earth below. Then there was the sucking sound, and a moment of fear which I noticed landed between my shoulder blades and high in my stomach. It felt like a screech, if a screech were a feeling, and for a moment my breath became tight as I lifted my foot. I suddenly felt my face flush with warmth and my hair filled with prickles, and I breathed a long sigh when I discovered my wellington was still attached to my foot. I continued to walk like this, observing each movement, each emotion, watching the ice crack and crumble as I punctured a path of size fives through the middle. It was the crunch that kept me right there though, the brief squeal before the coosh sound, (I think it sounds more like a coosh than a crack). I could smell the frost, that sharp almost sweet smell, followed by a rush of mulch and sulphuric bog smell. I only walked like this for about two minutes, but managed to collect so much information as well as becoming more aware and feeling relaxed.

How can Mindful Walking help with my writing?

It’s all about the experience.

What did I notice?

How did it feel?

When we walk mindfully, we begin to notice a range of things, such as the temperature of the air, the ground beneath our feel, textures and smells, our surroundings, the soundscape. Have another read at my experience and see if you can identify these things. There is definitely many benefits for a writer to practice mindful walking, although it is easier to plan the mindful walk than to decide halfway through a walk that you are going to do it. By planning a walk, you can pick a place that may resemble a setting in your story, then you can experience the setting in the same way your character will. This will enhance your description. Remember the old phrase,

Write what you know.

It might be relevant to disclose to you at this time that I am writing a novel set in this very village and partly in this very field, so all of this is wonderful research for my book. But I will conclude today by saying, thanks for reading, and also, of you would like any more advice on mindful walking or how this could be adapted to a wheelchair, please comment and we can chat. In the meantime, here’s a photo of my side of the mountain.

Happy walking.

Dead in a Doorway

Photo by Alvin Decena on Pexels.com

The weight of the world smothers you

Like a wet wool blanket

On tired bones.

And you lie there as still as death.

Your eyes; dusted in grime

Follow my reflection along the ground

As my footsteps silence the sound

Of a town laid on its side before you.

A red umbrella flicks to the side

To hide you from a pigtailed child,

While a balding builder wipes pie grease

From his mouth.

I step into your space and listen.

And like a shell pressed upon my ear

All I can hear is the sea and my heart

Beating. Beating because

I’m afraid of you.

I’m afraid if I don’t shake you

Who will wake you?

But I won’t shake you

For fear of hearing you rattle

Like a bag of bones.

I find your cup, drop a coin and say

‘Sorry man.’ Just like the last time

And I wonder,

When the first freeze frosts the leaves

Will you see sparkles

When I see dust.

©EilidhGClark

This poem is dedicated to the man who died in the doorway of the old BHS in Stirling. R.I.P. Never forgotten.

Lost Connection

alone man person sadness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was alright in mid-June apart from the weather which was typically Scottish. Charcoal clouds were scribbled over the only green hill that formed part of our view. The air was thick. A warm breeze swayed the vertical blinds and they clattered together.

“I can’t concentrate.” I said, saving the document I was working on. I put my lap-top on the couch and got up to close the window, but Helen began coughing. She sat forward, red faced and I thumped the top of her back, careful to avoid the line where the nerve pain started. “Are you alright?”
She shook her head. “Not…”
“What can I do?” I asked.
She pointed to the window and wagged her finger.
“You want it left open?”
She nodded.
I hurried to the kitchen and edged a glass between last night’s dinner dishes and the cold tap. I filled the glass with water.
“I need to clean the kitchen,” I said when I returned.
“You said you’d do it later.”
“I know, but it stinks.”
“It’s just last night’s dishes.”
“It’s disgusting.”
“I’ll do it then.” She sighed. “You try to do too much, and you need to work on your dissertation.”
“It can wait. Besides, I can’t have you struggling to stand at the sink.” I kissed her cheek. “You worry too much.”
“You’d be better going up to the university to write. There’d be less distraction.”
I shrugged my shoulders, sat down and I lifted my lap-top onto my knee. The blinds rattled.

I was in the kitchen a couple of hours later when I heard the letterbox snap shut. The mail flopped on the floor. It was mostly junk, a Farmfoods leaflet, money off coupons for Domino’s, you know the likes, when I heard the Post woman’s footsteps echo down the stairs in the communal hallway. I considered opening the door and pointing at the sign above our letterbox: NO JUNK MAIL. But I didn’t. I realised for the first time, I couldn’t.
“Anything for me?” Helen called from the Living-room.
“Something from the council.” I took it through to her.
“Maybe it’s about the wood-worm.”
“It’s too soon.” I said. “Although it would be my luck to have the council ripping up floors while I’m trying to write a dissertation.”
Helen opened the letter. She raised her eyebrows.
“They’re coming to lift the floor, aren’t they?”
She nodded.
“When?”
“In a fortnight, and they want the house empty.”
“What about us?”
“They’re putting us up in a hotel. Guess we have some packing to do. Should I ask some friends around to help?”
“No!” I said too quickly. I even surprised myself.

***

At the beginning of July, the weather was still drab but there had been the odd rumble of thunder in the distance. I couldn’t help wishing it would hurry up, if only to clear the air.
“Could you pop over to Peter’s and ask him if he’ll run us to the hotel on Monday?” Helen asked.
“I’ll just finish packing this box.” I said laying an ornament on a piece of newspaper and triple wrapping it.
“I’ll finish that.” Helen said.
“It’s okay, I’m nearly done.” I snapped.
“Sorry.” She backed away and I felt a pang of guilt.
“I’ll go in a minute.”
“I’d go myself, but I can’t do the steps.”
“I know that.” I threw the wrapped ornament into the box and turned away from her.
“What’s wrong.” Helen sat on the floor beside me. “Are you crying?”
I hid my face from her. “I can’t go.”
“Go where? The hotel?”
I let out a sob.
“Kirsty?”
“I can’t go to Peter’s.”

***

By the time we got to the hotel the following week we could barely see a foot in front of us. The fog was thick and white, and our world shrank to the size of the cave we were temporary living in.
“What time are you meeting you tutor?” Helen shouted from the other room.
“In ten minutes, at the bar.” I sat on the toilet and my stomach cramped. I emptied my bowel. Again.

***

“Sorry I’m late.” My tutor said and ordered us a pot of tea. “How are you?”
“I’m well,” I lied but I wanted to run back to Helen and hide.
“How’s the dissertation coming along?”
“Fine.” I said a little too loudly and I felt everyone in the bar look at me. I waited for them to laugh. In my mind they did.
“Are you in touch with your classmates?”
“I’ve been too busy.” I lied because I felt too stupid to say that some of my friends hated me now because I was apparently the teacher’s pet. I felt stupid saying that they were horrible to me – and now I was lost.

***

It was January 2018 before I realised, I had social anxiety. I was standing in the back garden of our new home, inappropriately dressed for a blizzard but poised, perfectly still with a camera in my hand. Through the lens, I watched a robin on the fence have his breast feathers whipped up by the wind as flurry of snow danced around him.
I clicked.

***

“What time is everyone arriving?” Helen sticks a tahini dip covered finger to my mouth.
“That’s amazing.” I lick it from my lips. “Two o’clock I think.” I finish breading the cauliflower and pop it into the oven.
“Are you feeling okay?” She asks. “With, you know, people coming around?”
“I will be.” I tell her. I lift my purple headphones from the table. “I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.” I go into the spare room and close the door. Before I press play on the app, I check to see how many people will be joining me.
12,351.

Find a quiet space where you feel comfortable. Sit on a straight back chair or on a meditation cushion. When you hear the gentle chimes of the singing bowl, close your eyes.
Breathe in to the count of five.
Hold.
Breathe out to the count of five.
Hold.

©EilidhGClark

Now published by Fearlessly.co.uk

The Lesson

Our heaving lungs suck the air as we climb.

Higher, higher.

Aching legs and numb feet scramble over boulders and broken branches.

Rain, wind, and a glimmer of sun. A distant mist descending

from the sullen sky onto the earth, erasing a castle, a monument

a city.

Leaves shake violently in the cutting wind. Noise.

Squelching mud, snapping twigs,

unnatural sound, we create it.

On the cliff top, the landscape is our canvas.

Acorns and chestnuts, branches and stones, litter the floor

like a countryside collage  hung on a  classroom wall. Winters decay.

Carcasses of cream coloured leaves, consumed by insects, lie randomly

forming delicate lace arrangements.

Brown mud, brown leaves, brown bark, paint the backdrop

of a multi coloured woodland.

Green moss on a broken wall,

orange, yellow and grey foliage A tiny shoot, pushes through the earth.

Layers of  life on death, death on life. The liberty of nature.

Nature is shrinking, the colours rinsed out by

buildings, roads, litter, wire fences

hemming in the farmers cows

hemming in history.

Humanity’s smell is pungent,

food and  people

people and food.

Through the wind, a distant drilling is heard.

©Eilidh G Clark