Moonless Night

 
 
BH:  “Why on earth did I say I’d write poetry about the moon. I can’t even see Her for the rain!” 
EW: “ You know She’s there though”

 

JUST AS WE SIT DOWN TO ADMIRE THE FULL MOON, THE CLOUDS THROW A SCRATCHY WOOLLEN COWL OVER HER FACE.  OUR FACES CHAFED BY WINTER WIND, AND BOTTOMS NUMBING ON THE COLD HILLSIDE, WE WAIT. IN THE FUZZY DULLNESS OF HER ABSENCE, HEARTS SINK TO STOMACHS.

We fill in the void with philosophising. This must have sometimes happened to the haiku poets too, a voice in the dark ventures. Toes encased in tomb-boots kick at the ground, and hands are rubbed together in forced enthusiasm. And when a respectful pause for grieving has passed, it feels safe enough for someone to squeak- Pub then, is it?

My friends shrug, and laugh. They unfold stiff joints, and clamber to their feet. They dust themselves down. They toss their disappointment back over their left shoulders as they trudge away, downhill, to warmer climes.

 
BUT I STAY.

As their footfalls recede, I push myself further into the icy ground and whisper to the gloomy, vacant sky.

 
 I WILL NOT ABANDON YOU.

**

And I wonder… What did the haiku poets do when their party got rained off?

When, even as they laid their plait grass mats on the cold ground, and sat, the fog smothered the moon, and snuffed out its light? Even as its reflection in the pond slipped away between water lilies? What did they do, when, just as their nib made the first scratch on rice paper, a gust of wind spun the cherry blossom from the bough? Or, getting too close to the elegant icicle hanging from the leaf, their warm admiring exclamation of a breath, mist in the air, melted it before their eyes?  Or, when the deluge of rain arrived without notice, and soaking the autumn leaves, stole that pleasing crunch from under their sandals?

 
WHAT DID THEY DO?

I screw my eyes closed, purse my lips to prevent chattering, clench my buttocks, and scrunch my toes. Then I stay with what might be, if only I have the faith enough to see. To realise it in myself.

Because I know what the haiku poets did. But it’s not to be said out loud. Grasping that final, fading chink of spectral moonlight with their gaze, they closed their eyes, and dreamed her milky brightness. They held the vision of it close inside. They smelt almonds hearts on the breeze. And clinging for comfort to each other’s arms, they clung too, to their faith. They pushed themselves to remember what they knew.

 
THAT HOWEVER LITTLE CAN BE SEEN, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE.
AND IT IS ALWAYS PERFECT.

**

At first, inside me, there are just the darkest depths. The internal scene as gloomy as outside. But I anchor myself to my breath, and remember the haiku poets.

And, after a time, with one intake of breath, (that is no deeper, or shallower than the others), the white orb, minty fresh, flashes in my mind. Catching hold, she rises heavy and indigestible with my rising chest. She is iceberg through my stomach.  She is balloon-light in my chest. Then she sails to rest behind my eyelids- a white feather. She finally settles, pure white pearl, between my eyebrows.

In that instant, outside of me, a gust of wind claws at my frame, almost de-seating me from the hillside. I lose my connection to her, and that pearl between my eyebrows judders. She begins to reduce in size, as if she is being sucked away. Ever smaller, until there rests only a pin-prick of shaky white light, threatening to be extinguished. Eyes screwing tighter, nails digging into hands, it is by a force of will that I keep her there. Stop her vanishing.  

 
I WILL NOT ABANDON YOU.

She hears me, and steadies. She begins to expand. There is a band of heat in my forehead. Blinding light behind my eyes. It spreads through my face. It runs down my neck. It floods my arms, my core, my legs. Until… I am pure, white light. The light traverses my outline. It diffuses outwards through my .skin. It reaches north, south, east and west, touching all corners of the world. Spreading over all. Bathing all in light.

 
HER BRIGHTNESS
THROUGH THE DARKEST DEPTHS.

 

 

Not Enough Time

The year-long mentoring scheme starts in October, and I’ve been talking to people about it: the commitment, the challenges, and the benefits.
 
Some writers have signed up without hesitation because it’s the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to birth that long dreamed-of book-child.
 
There have also been people who’ve sent an initial, enthusiastic YES, followed by another email hard on the heels of the first, qualifying that with an  umm… err… perhaps I responded too quickly…
 
Their reason for changing their mind is usually a variation on the theme of I just don’t think I’ll have the time. They often add, I’ll come back to you next year. I’ll have more time and energy when…
 
a) I give up my job
b) my children leave home
c) the divorce has gone through
d) I retire
e) my health is better
 
Now, if you’re one of those in-then-out-of-the-scheme people, just watch what’s happening to you now.  Are you beginning to sink in your seat, embarrassed, or shamed?
 
If so, is that because you feel you responded without thinking in that first email? Or because, in sending the second email, you fear you’re failing in your writerly quest to get that book finished, and out there?  Or is it just because you changed your mind?
 
To allay one concern, I’ll say, as the receiver of those two emails, that it’s no problem for me if you change your mind like that. I believe it’s a basic human right to re-think something.
 
I’ll also say, unequivocally, that if you responded to that first email without thinking, that’s brilliant. Do that more. Expose your instinctual animal self more.
 
On the subject of failing; the only person you make a contract with when you decide to write a book, is yourself. So, the only person you can fail, is yourself.  A feeling of failure is only useful for one thing, for making us examine at how we’ve set up our expectations, in order to renegotiate them with ourselves. 
 
The most important job for us as writers, arguable more important than the act of writing itself, is to raise our confidence, and then raise it some more. To keep remembering we are skilled in the art of sitting down in front of the blank page. That means hitting our own targets. It’s almost irrelevant whether that’s writing for four hours a day, or fifteen minutes a week.  If we keep doing it, one day we find it’s done.
 
When you’ve negotiated a realistic contract with yourself, start saying no to the I’m a failure line in your head. Life is tough enough, why make it harder by beating yourself up?
 
I’m very grateful indeed to the in-then-out-of-the-scheme-people because they point up an internal message that sabotages so many of us writers- I don’t have time.
 
I know very well that feeling of overwhelm when thinking about fitting writing into a busy schedule of work, childcare and domestic tasks. However, I’d say that the idea that we’ll have more time in the future is largely an illusion.
 
Reality check 1: there is enough time to write.
 
Reality check 2: you will never have more time than you do now.
 
We can invent all sorts of stories about it, but actually, none of us have any idea what the future will hold. Chances are it will also be busy. Ever noticed how human beings like to fill time in any way they can?
 
My general line is that we need to know how to deal with that feeling of overwhelm, of constriction, of too-much-ness, and write despite the busyness, rather than waiting for more space. Scary? Yes, I know.
 
Perhaps this message from Stephen King, via Neil Gaiman will help,

“I think the most important thing I learned from Stephen King I learned as a teenager, reading King's book of essays on horror and on writing, Danse Macabre. In there he points out that if you just write a page a day, just 300 words, at the end of a year you'd have a novel. It was immensely reassuring - suddenly something huge and impossible became strangely easy. As an adult, it's how I've written books I haven't had the time to write.”
 
So much more than we expect can be achieved, if we put down the procrastinating.

 

The Monthly Writing Prompt


Here’s a challenge for you:  if you have 15 minutes spare in a day, how about using that to write, rather than to think about when that next clear hour will come up? Do that every day for a month.  

Celebrating the February 'Snow' Moon (2016)

This morning at 6am I saw the ‘snow moon’ of February hanging full and weighty in the pre-dawn sky.

 

How to find language to capture and express the experience?

 

When I take time to look patiently, words arise.

 

When I consciously expand my vocabulary, I not only express my experience more aptly, but I also live it more broadly and richly.

 

Did you know that Scots has at least 421 terms for snow? It’s true!

 

My picture contains (just) 24 words for the conditions of snow and ice, from Scots, Gaelic, and travellers’ cant.