Tag Archives: Time

Reaching Out

reaching out, oak trees, living in the woods,

It’s been ages.

I’ve been bumping along on the bottom, hitting rocks and curling up into a ball like a beetle, afraid of getting stamped on. I’ve been a cold day in November. I’ve been leaves falling like snow. I’ve been an angry crow. I’ve been living in the woods, making friends with trees.

The woods are good for me right now. I’ve got no energy for pretending to be normal. My stories are too fractured for facebook. The ground beneath my feet is slipping. I don’t know where I stand. I think some of this is good.

Some of you will know that I had a lot of precious things stolen from my shed last April. Many of you donated money to help me replace them. I am typing this on a second-hand laptop that you bought. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You didn’t just buy this laptop (and many other things essential to my life and work). You proved (in the nick of time) that humans are as kind as they are selfish and as generous as they are mean. I had insurance, after all. It was called friends. Rock bottom is lost and lonely and paranoid, and friends are the antidote.

Some of you will know that I exorcised some of my rage and frustration and sadness in various Spanish mountain ranges. This was humbling in a different way: enlightening, terrifying, exhausting. It was a real adventure, and one day I will tell you all about it. For now, though, I am concerned with survival. Reaching out to catch those falling leaves, lighting fires, oscillating madly between hope and despair. Living on turnips and scrumped apples, cracking jokes and waiting five years to see if anyone laughs (otherwise known as trying to make a living as an author).

I am thirty-nine on Monday. Getting older seems to be the systematic dismantling of all beliefs and expectations. But in the space where beliefs and expectations used to be there is new knowledge, mostly gathered from silence and the non-human world: a constant thorough understanding of impermanence, the fact that oak trees can live for a thousand years (and many do), the mystery of mycelium, squirrels.

‘For there is nothing in creation that does not have some radiance’ wrote a twelfth century German abbess called Hildegard.

And that’s the truth.

I have a piece in the Winter 2017 edition of The Stinging Fly magazine.



Thanks to an award from the Society of Authors worth six months of gardening, I am donating most of my present moments to writing about the shed and other shed-related issues; ecological obliteration, the housing crisis, stars.

I’ve been animal sitting among snow-covered mountains on a remote hillock topped with a few dozen tall and bendy Scots pines. The pines shield me from the worst of the weather and harbor owls and kites. There’s a windmill and a hammock and horses to ride.

I was sitting by the stove, feeling the ache of time passing and cuddling the kitten, when this poem arrived:


Screen shot 2015-01-26 at 11.35.17


Next up on my monkish writing trail is another house, and after that a wooden gazebo in the woods, but on both sides of the house and the gazebo is a stint at the meditation centre.

A few people have mentioned recently that they think meditation is self-indulgent. I have wondered if they were right. But last night I watched the startlingly good BBC film Bitter Lake and I knew they were wrong. As Schumacher wrote, way back before most of the things in the film had even happened:

‘Where can one find the strength to go on working against such obviously appalling odds? What’s more: where can one find the strength to overcome the violence of greed, hate and lust within oneself?’

Some other people have said that they think meditation is boring. I get that. I have also been conditioned by Twitter to have the attention span of a goldfish. All the more reason to meditate. Sit down. Shut up. Stop buying stuff. Reverse the awfulness of Bitter Lake.

Plus, I increasingly consider boredom a failure of my own mind. As Geoff Dyer puts it:

‘Often when you’re bored, it’s that friction between you and time.’

The older I get, the more I want to learn to live in time. The more we run away from time the more time runs away from us, but moments fully embraced seem to stretch time. As Nadine Stair wrote in another poem, when she was 85:

Oh, I have had my moments
  And if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them.
        In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. 
	   Just moments,one after another.
      Instead of living so many years ahead each day.

Poems, like kittens, only appear when we’re sitting quietly doing nothing. Violence, on the other hand, requires blind and furious action.