A brief catch-up: I almost completed by book triage but left a few littering my broom-cupboard house, and retired to Prinknash Abbey for my annual chillout with a buddy. It's a place total escape - no pressure, no house tasks, no constant reproach from the yawning gap between my goals and my achievements; a place for resting, reading, and no alarm going off at 4.45am...well except for the abbey bell that calls the monks to their first Office of the day, Vigils, at 5.45am.
The bliss of simplicity...
We're atheists, but we love chatting with the Prior and Abbot in the cafe, the silent and slightly confusing meals with the monks, and Vespers and Compine - book-ending each day with the beautiful sung Latin. We walk in the woods, picking up litter as we go, or chat in the cafe.
Like detectives we always try piece together the happenings of the monks from Google and snippets of information from our brief conversations with the Benedictines. We've worked out all their names, their personalities, the progress of the dispute with the nearby Bird Sanctuary. But who is the mysterious elderly monk who sits praying after Compline yet doesn't dine with the others?
The abbot was surprised when I handed him a print of William Noel's TED talk about the discovery of the Archimedes Codex, complete with colour slides. The abbot is a student of ancient Greek and Hebrew, and I rightly expected him to appreciate this. He later said it cheered him up lying in his sick bed, and that the Prior and Brother Hugh were looking forward to reading it also.
Since then I've gone back to work, trying to keep my shit together there, and mainlining podcasts - Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, and also the interesting Youtube lecture by John Vervaeke.
I've also taken custody of my late mother's sewing machine and have enjoyed sussing it out. If I can only also find a way of getting rid of the ants nest that have taken up residence in my house.
So, a few miscellaneous verses to finish. This first is an ode to the astonishing efflorescence of my mother's garden the summer after she passed away. She packed the flower beds with seeds. My father is now gradually turning into a wasteland, and possibly ultimately tarmac.
Rita's Final Summer
After she died
Flashing dashing colour fragments
Fill my eyes, my skin my mind
Garden out of control
Flowers between the flowers between the flowers
Still bright lamp of colour
Never more so than the summer after she died
Though her spirit persisted
Inhabited the flower bed
She embedded herself briefly
Six months reprieve
And the colour fled
Now year on year fading
I repaired my bird table, and watched the efforts of the pigeons to adapt:
Paloma sentries on the neighbour's apex
Juicy feathered bird balls
Caution beyond caution
Awaiting their moment
The feline-free interlude
Swoop, stand, slide unexpectedly
Sunflower seeds loaded high
Shiny rebuilt bird table roof
Fearful frantic flapping
How to fit their big bodies in
Tasty prize awaits
They know there's a way
Slide, flap, flutter, panicked repeat
And in they go
And now a quick bit of prattling about the whale-watching trip from Seattle in 2017, a few days after seeing the incredible eclipse in Oregon:
Fifty miles across the Sound
Horizon of Canada
Calm blue all around and above
We're all up on the deck now
Stern to prow
Pacific breathes as we hold our breaths
The water plain lifts and drops
Its vast lung
Grey mammal silkiness slips under bows
Hot vapour jet ahead
Shocked someone screams
We're over a living submarine
Grey meat flanks pass
Curved barnacled ramparts
Curious dark eye takes us in
Vertical sheet like a smooth notched building
Slaps the water hard
Calm ease of oceanic ownership
My impulse to join her
To enter the cool water
To depart with the Leviathan
And lastly, this week I arrived home after work to witness bizarre activity in the garden:
I'm returned from work sticky and tired
Drawn a blind across the long dull office day
She's under the garden arch
Precarious on a folding step
Soaking buckets of water through the honeysuckle
Her clothes drenched
Washing fresh weedkiller from the leaves
The wrong spray
But wait - the next day's surprise!
Now new green joy
Leavened, lifted leaves
Renewed bloom of bush
Laundered into ruddy health
Water cannon please
Works wonders for disease
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