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Yet again it’s been a grueling few days. If it weren’t for the fact that all of life is precious, I think I might be under a rock by now. But all of life is. And with the terrible news of a student dying, and the mother of one of M’s friends also dying, both last week, came R’s and my 20th wedding anniversary. We went away for a night, just us, eating good food and ordering a different wine with every course. The weather was blazing, and we slept on the beach. 

He also sent me flowers.

*

I’ve been looking for a poem to gather everything into one place. The fact that so much can co-exist, that indeed it must. Love and grief in the same room. Dread and longing, to paraphrase Adrienne Rich. So. An approximation via one of my all-time favourites, by Mary Oliver. Won’t have you rolling in the aisles. But goes partway toward something.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — 
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a guest blogger today: my (oldest) friend Valerie Gregg, now in Lilburn, Georgia, USA. Welcome! She’s seeing things I can’t from here of course, right in the middle of it. Here’s a peek:

 

Back to present curses, like the state of the American government.

I co-sponsored a bake sale for Barack Obama this weekend with a good friend that is also a reader and writer.  Our local county is very Republican and we were harassed and an angry man stopped his car and ripped up one of our Obama signs into a million pieces and tore off in his car. Several other white men drove up to our sale and burned rubber out, presumably in anger?!  I felt very threatened and afraid. But we had so many baked goods that local Obama supporters had entrusted us to sell to raise money for his campaign, that we felt we had to persevere. So we went to the Unitarian Church on Sunday (a bastion of pagan liberalism), I told our story and cried, and people bought everything and threw 20 dollar bills at us.

Gotta go. Someone just yelled “Mommy!”

*

Thank you, Valerie. Iron-willed or what?! And a mother. Somehow stands to reason.

Just to say that last Thursday I was invited to — and attended — a turf cutting ceremony for the new CLASSICAL LABYRINTH being built on the University of Kent Canterbury campus. Oh yes I was and did.

This labyrinth thing is no joke. All sorts of people are involved. The University apparently passed through the permissions in 13 days. Unheard of. Finance people nodded. Unheard of. The site is off a minor path, and the entrance will line up almost directly with the spire of Canterbury Cathedral, easily seen through the trees and down the hill.

People from learning and teaching were there. From counselling. From the chaplaincy. One of the deputy vice-chancellors. I think. Lots of other people. A gorgeous little girl in red trousers and jumper, with bright red shoes. At one point she held herself upright by holding the shiny shovel, stuck deep in the ground.

It’ll be 30 feet across, paved in old stone. Get ready, oh ye of little faith (e.g. second year students): you’re there whether you like it or not.

By the way, anyone interested will find one at this very moment  white-painted on the green grass behind Keynes College at U Kent. There for the Earthworks conference I opened on Thursday (as well! I’d forgotten both happened the same day). 

Heavens. I only just realised that both were ceremonies to do with the earth. Getting down to business.

A bit haunting. Perhaps real change is on the way….

I think that the last post had some kind of magical effect. Indeed! I don’t think it’s rained since. Seriously.

However it has been one looonnng week, and once again all I can do here is come up for air.

1) Poet’s Picnic on Saturday: a good time! writers, children, hot sunshine, and the most fabulous spot by the sea in Whitstable Tea Gardens.  A real pick-me-up.

2) Also on Saturday: a real live ball! This will mean nothing unusual to Brits, but to Americans…well, I’ve always wanted to go to one, and lo, I go. Long black dress, pearls (James Bond theme), stilettos. No R, not his scene, but I gamely sallied forth, and had a great time. I went for the dancing, and did plenty, losing my shoes more than once. Ahem. Also rode on bumper cars, four times. Ahem. Took a fake pistol. Ahem. And enjoyed draping myself over the pretend casino tables. I know, I know. I’m a child. I loved it. 

3) Journeyed up to Norwich School of Art & Design on Sunday night. I’m the new external examiner there for their creative writing BA programme. Given that I used to teach there (and so enjoyed it), it was a real treat to see what everyone and everything is up to. And it’s good stuff: fresh, vibrant, almost raw work sometimes — rarely if ever suffering from the over-writing that students also studying with literature with a vengeance can sometimes produce. There is also the added bonus of text and image work, which I’ve always found fascinating: index cards arranged in months, with an entry on each day. Accessible in order and randomly. Performance poetry with video link and guitar. Art house stuff. Exciting stuff. A pity then that the course has been cancelled. While there I heard that I shall see it out examining-wise: well, I’ll try to do it proud.

I’d like to be more involved with the visual arts. But I’m sorely, sorely lacking in skills and no doubt talent in that department. Alas.

4) Schubert has slain his first creature. After several weeks of (we thought) farcical hunting (I mean, a bright white cat jogging through the undergrowth, long hair flowing in the breeze — come on!), I walked downstairs this morning to frantic calls and a little deceased vole lying right smack in the middle of the doormat. He was delighted with himself, and I’ll admit it, I felt a tiny rush of pride.

5) M plays in yet another concert tomorrow. She has a new 3/4 Italian violin, which makes a much bigger sound. Suddenly her bowing arm has a life of its own. She’s the only first violin tomorrow, backed up by several second violins. She’s also the youngest. Somehow she just seems used to it all….

6) E is learning this. It is the cool of cool.

 

I HAVE MOVED

From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning

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Who am I?


A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.