Water, Swans and Word-Flight

October 3rd was National Poetry Day here in the UK. I’ve been so busy, I didn’t manage to finish writing a Poetry Day celebration post in time (though, thankfully, the ever-enriching words of Seamus Heaney were holding the fort in my previous post, providing poetic sustenance to anyone who found their way here that day).

But, hey – every day is poetry day! So, let’s keep the celebrations rolling…

The theme this year was ‘Water, water’

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

– From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Here’s a lovely film by Leo Crane, with sound by Andrew Hayes – a London Animation Studio production for Forward Arts Foundation – complete with Rachel Rooney’s mermaid, Roger McGough’s handfish, Jacob Polley’s Book of Water – as well as Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and other watery treasures…

(A download of the poems featured is available on the National Poetry Day resources section of the Forward Arts Foundation website).

Thinking my way towards a poem through which water glints and slips and brims, The Wild Swans at Coole by William Butler Yeats quickly surfaced.

My daughter loves it too. She first met it in The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, stunningly illustrated by Jackie Morris.

The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B. Yeats - Illustrated by Jackie Morris, The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems

The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B. Yeats – Illustrated by Jackie Morris, The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems

Front cover - Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, Illustrated by Jackie Morris (Published by Barefoot Books)

Front cover – Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, Illustrated by Jackie Morris (Published by Barefoot Books)

My knowledge of Yeats is sketchy, but the lovely Coole Park and Gardens website provides an interesting taster of his relationship to Coole in Ireland; how he loved its lakes, woods, wildlife – and the healing calm it provided in the wake of deep exhaustion.

The swans Yeats saw at Coole were probably Whooper swans – but also may have been Bewick’s. Back in February this year, we made a visit to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s centre at Slimbridge, to experience the winter magic both species bring to our shores. It was a stunning day – bright sun, blue sky, mistletoe draping the trees

– and a sunset that blazed the sky, and cast coloured silk on the water.

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The wild swans, shrugging the North through their wings, shook the winter rays deeper into their feathers as they landed in the Rushy Pen to feed. They became part of the water…

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…they became part of the sky:

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Flight

…keeping the Arctic in the turn of their head, in the shards of light in their eye, in the descending beat of their cry. Framed by the window of the Peng Observatory, they transformed the lake at Slimbridge into a Sir Peter Scott painting; the whole scene water-coloured by the light:

Wildfowl on Rushy Pen, Slimbridge WWT

Opposite, an iconic image of a Slimbridge observation tower glowed in a wash of ochre.

Old observatory, Slimbridge WWT

The Bewick’s arrive, they go, arrive and go – travelling with the seasons. Some return and return; some don’t make it. Others survive, but carry shotgun pellets embedded between flesh, bone and feathers. Living targets for those who, beneath the ancient, global turn of the swans’ journey, do not welcome them. Yeats was right to see an echo of mourning in the wild swans’ departure – to fear the doubt of return.

Winged layers and layers of significance take flight through time:

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky:
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lakes edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

By William Butler Yeats.

Now, as I write this, the Bewick’s are, once more, on their way back to our shores – creating an epic shrug of earth-breath southwards; folding the thrill and cry of the North through the quiet, promised chill of our days. We wait, hopeful.

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My other choice of watery poem – this time one of my son’s favourites – is Duck Weather by Shirley Hughes, from her beautiful picture book, Rhymes for Annie Rose.

Rhymes for Annie Rose by Shirley Hughes - a Ted Smart Publication, originally published by Bodley Head Children's Books, Random House

Rhymes for Annie Rose by Shirley Hughes – a Ted Smart Publication, originally published by Bodley Head Children’s Books, Random House

It seems especially appropriate to choose something from Shirley Hughes, as her work appears on two of the National Poetry Day 2013 posters – each one a wonderful reach-out to a child’s natural readiness for poetry discovery.

Through the story-ways of Shirley Hughes’ picture books, so many children have taken their earliest steps into the magical rhythms, sounds and transports of language. Her words, and the enchantment of her illustrations, brim with the essence of daily childhood; filling both the child and adult reader with such a strong sense of recognition.

Duck Weather by Shirley Hughes, from Rhymes for Annie Rose

Duck Weather by Shirley Hughes, from Rhymes for Annie Rose

I love how this poem is, in itself, a constantly remade moment of sharing with my son. He loves its rhythms – and the sturdy and joyful declaration of its tone. I love it too because I remember so vividly that fascination for rainy days I felt as a small child. The rituals of arming ourselves with bright, shiny wellies and waterproofs. The fun of unfurling and twirling umbrellas (or in the case of those domed see-through ones fashionable in the 1970s, balancing them on our heads, hands-free as we splashed in the puddles). Rainy days brought blurred light, jagged and pooling on the pavement; reflections of colour caught in the tarmac; the somehow comforting swish of passing cars, and that happy feeling of escape as we splashed our gladness and felt faintly smug that we weren’t the people hunched inside those cars – but could taste freedom and the smell of grass rising, and could almost see the trees oozing their secret scent into the enticing dampness…

All things from which word-flight – and the flights of our dreams – are made:

Detail from 'Night Flight' by Shirley Hughes (Rhymes for Annie Rose)

Detail from ‘Night Flight’ by Shirley Hughes (Rhymes for Annie Rose)

Happy (across the Nations) Poetry (Every) Day, everyone!

And a very warm welcome to the many new Bookish Nature followers and readers who have found their way here since the blog was (unbelievably!) Freshly Pressed last month. My stats rocketed overnight (quite literally) – and the bar chart for that day unfolded like a Big Friendly Giant, leaving the previous days’ stats peeping, like tiny, nervous Sophies, from under a table loaded with snozzcumbers. My thanks to WordPress, and to everyone who has read/ liked/ followed/ commented. It’s been really rewarding to connect with so many interesting, talented and engaging bloggers and visitors. Please forgive me if it takes me a while to answer comments and to visit blogs etc… Life, always busy, has taken an extra time-filled turn lately. I’m doing my best to keep blog content coming (lots of posts in the pipeline) – though, often, it might be the case – as with National Poetry Day – that I’ll turn up just a bit late to the party!

You can catch up with the latest news about the Bewick’s swans’ migration at the Bewick’s Swan Diary on the WWT Slimbridge web pages.

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29 thoughts on “Water, Swans and Word-Flight

  1. Lovely post, just lovely. As the saying goes, better late than never. In the United States, we celebrate poetry in April, that time that begins both The Canterbury Tales and The Wasteland. But whatever time it is celebrated, poems are truly a thing to celebrate.

    • Many thanks, Don! So glad you enjoyed it. I love the idea of a special celebration of poetry in April, corresponding with the opening-time of each of those great poetic milestones. Lovely to think of those first, spring-time steps out from the Tabard Inn at Southwark, and into the poetic journey of The Canterbury Tales, being metaphorically followed by a whole nation celebrating the ever-continuing legacy of poetry!

      Melanie

  2. A delightful weaving together of watery things – I loved the way you combined children’s literature with the grown-ups, including Yeats (who my English teacher said – while teaching him to us for ‘O’ Level as 16 year olds – shouldn’t be read until 40). I came to love his wild swans even so. Your post has made me want to go to Slimbridge – I remember going as a child and that we had a Peter Scott print in the home I grew up in. Thank you! Liz

    • Thanks so much, Liz – I’m really pleased you liked that mix; I’m so passionate about the importance of children’s literature, in its own right, and as the seed of all that grown-up literary journey – and of so much more in life too. Certainly for me, great children’s books have never stopped being a really strong link in the chain of life’s literary and general understanding. I read a lot of children’s literature, both for myself and via my kids. My son, though he hasn’t developed spoken language, responds so much to story books – especially to language with strong rhythms (he loves me reciting the opening lines of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan!) His favourite thing in the world is music – and he sings a lot! Poetry is his language link to all of that, I think.

      Yes – literature changes for us as we change, doesn’t it. When life is still fresh and open, we can respond to and love a poem like this one by Yeats – but we tend to feel a kind of projected or hypothetical sympathy for what it expresses. It’s not until experience brings us to the same place of loss, that we truly understand and recognise what being there feels like. Then the poem tends to hit home, far more viscerally.

      Slimbridge is such a wonderful place to visit. There’s always something to see, whatever the time of year – from spectacular flocks of overwintering migrants, to watching a kingfisher flying to and from its nest in spring. Always beautiful art on show in the exhibition room as well (another of Peter Scott’s legacies).

      Melanie

      • Hello Melanie – thanks for these really interesting reflections. I love that son enjoys you reciting the opening to Kubla Kahn! I will try that with Dylan, who also loves to hear me reciting poetry. Dylan loves music too. A musicologist friend of mine once suggested that Dylan perhaps had perfect pitch and that his annoyance with some ‘music lessons’ in school or music in public space (piped etc) was his discomfort at sounds which he found unsatisfactory. My friend also suggested that Dylan responds especially well to B flat and E – the language of the blues. And Dylan does really love blues music so there may be something in this! Thank you for your observation about understanding a poem more fully when experience brings us to the same place – I think you’re right. I’m really enjoying your posts, thank you,

        Liz

        • Liz, thank you for this – it’s so interesting that Dylan loves music too! Fascinating stuff from your musicologist friend – so intriguing that Dylan loves the blues, and so interesting how certain notes and characteristics of the ‘language of the blues’ might be key factors in what strongly appeals to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dylan does have perfect pitch. Speech eludes my son (one of the particular effects for him of his cerebral palsy) but he can sing a tune, note-perfect, within just seconds of hearing it for the first time. Once he gets to know a song well, he will start to embellish it with little compositions of his own! He loves all sorts of music, from Mozart to really cheesy Disney stuff – via Led Zeppelin and Metallica! A really eclectic mix! When he was in hospital for a month earlier this year, music was an absolute lifeline for helping to keep him calm and to ease his distress. Thank goodness for his iPad loaded with favourite tunes!! And the hospital music therapist worked such magic. She was always an extremely welcome visitor!

          It’ll be really interesting to hear if Kubla Khan appeals to Dylan as well!

          Melanie

          • Hi Melanie – lovely to find your message. Your son’s natural ear sounds amazing! What a gift. Dylan doesn’t seem to be a ‘producer’: he loves music and art but it is art and music appreciation rather than actually wanting to make music or draw. I was trying to explain this only yesterday to someone who is mediating an education programme for Dylan; I said I’d love it if Dylan could have an ‘art’ curriculum, but immediately had to explain that I meant consumption not production. I’m very interested in this tendency Dylan has to be a sort of ‘receiver’ – a looker and listener. I am fascinated that your son sings but doesn’t speak! How interesting. I too have discovered the wonder of the iPad. I’ve been buying Dylan one download a week – he loves the music and I’m finding the photo albums really great for giving Dylan choices and explaining what is to happen. I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface of its usefulness yet – it feels potentially quite life-changing! How do you go about choosing tunes for your son? Does he have a way of showing you what he’d like? I’m struggling to extend Dylan – he is choosing music which he recognises from my own collection, so duplicating what I already have (and what he has already listened to) on CD. I’m wondering how to extend this? Perhaps I just have to buy him something I haven’t got – though I wonder whether he’d listen to something he doesn’t recognise?? Finding my way still! Please don’t worry if you don’t have time to answer these questions – I realise you must be very busy! Looking forward to your next post, Liz

            • Hi Liz – sorry I’ve been slow to get back to you… It’s so interesting to hear about your and Dylan’s experiences. My son tends to be more of a ‘receiver’ than a ‘producer’ too – but music has always seemed to channel his proactive side! He sings a great deal of the time (always wordless – a humming with varying vowel and consonant sounds – which do often mimic the patterns of the song lyrics). This is the way he expresses every emotion. The tone and expression of the music will reflect whether he is happy, relaxed, sad, worried, anxious etc. His complex learning difficulties, though they don’t include autism, do seem to lead to very similar challenges to the ones Dylan faces. We’re still discovering the uses for the iPad too. Our son’s school uses iPads a lot. They use storytelling apps (like “Storyteller”) on which you can download your own photos – and written and recorded voice messages – to aid communication. Our son loves games like the ones where you can burst “Bubbles” on the screen – and he really enjoys “Garage Band” on which you can play and record lots of different instrument sounds – as well as record your own singing. “Tiny Piano” is also one he loves – hit any key on the keyboard and it plays the correct one for the chosen tune. There’s also a “Tiny Guitar” app on which you can strum guitar strings to play a chosen tune (on both apps there are also visual, light-up representations of the tune’s patterns).

              The music choices our son and we make seem to happen organically somehow. He’ll hear a tune on the radio or TV etc. and start singing it to show us he loves it – so we’ll download that for him or get him the CD. Then, we tend to make further choices based on what he’s liked before and try those out. He does tend to like a very broad range of stuff, and will make it obvious what his favourites are by singing them a lot! Although he understands Makaton signs, he’s never yet made any signs back, but he’s very smiley (most of the time!) and very sociable and seeks to communicate – with facial expression, various indications (from vague to definite) of choice and intention. The whole process of interaction between us is so complex and difficult to explain. It kind of just happens – and I’m never sure how it works exactly! The music therapist in the hospital very much took a follow-the-child’s-lead approach – she was so calmly responsive – gently introducing and demonstrating instruments, tunes, sounds and watching him very carefully to see what most strongly appealed – and she left lots of silent spaces to allow him to respond in his own time (he loved strumming her guitar, banging drums and rattling the rain makers!) Hope this is of some help to you and Dylan!

            • Hello Melanie – this is very helpful. Thank you so much – I really appreciate it. I’ve printed out a copy of your reply as there are many useful leads in it. I’m interested in the music therapy approach. I’m in the process of negotiating a package of post-19 education for Dylan with my Local Authority and am starting more or less with a blank page in terms of’ ‘curriculum’ design. I’ve made some suggestions about possible ‘strands’ of learning, one of which was some music therapy input, so this is very timely (I have a meeting with the teacher who will be working on this later this week). Your description of the way you work with your son is so interesting and in many ways familiar although, as you say, the nature of the disability varies. I’m about to invest in proloquo2go for Dylan’s i-pad; a bit expensive but the specialist school he has recently left trialled a number of packages and recommended this one. I’m hoping that as Dylan’s education provision gets going we’ll be able to take things forward in a more joined up way – there’s been a bit of a hiatus as I had to take the LA to court to get adult education for Dylan 😦 It’s not quite signed and sealed yet but once it is I’ll blog my top tips for getting access I’ve no doubt. Although it’s been a stressful process I’m beginning to see it as a bit of an opportunity for the future – hence my questions and my gathering of tips and ideas for resources. How wonderful that our sons get so much from music – Dylan is listening to Rachmaninov as I type 🙂 Looking forward to your next blog post, Liz

            • Hello, Liz – I’m so pleased my previous reply was helpful! Your replies, in turn, are such a help – and so interesting and informative. I shall look into the proloquo2go for the iPad. I’d not heard of that. My son is several years younger than Dylan – but, time passes so quickly and I feel as if it will be no time before we’re facing the same hurdles that meet you and Dylan now. I’m dreading it! It seems that every new stage throws up yet more battles, doesn’t it. Everyone I know who has a disabled child has had to go through hoops – either just lengthy, soul-destroying, barrier-laden processes, or going to court/ tribunal to get provision for their children. Thank you so much for sharing all your tips and incredibly hard won insights on your blog. It’s hugely helpful and supportive. I wish you lots of good luck and best outcomes for building a curriculum for Dylan. Wonderful that you’re now on the cusp of getting things joined up. You must have had such a stressful time getting this far. I think I’m still recovering from the drawn out years of trying to arrange adaptations for the house! Now they are in place, and the house is properly accessible for our son, it’s wonderful! At my son’s school, the post-19 leavers this year have college places, or some kind of placement. I’m not yet familiar with all the ins and outs of it all – but I got the impression that post-19 education was a right for all. I feel angry, but not surprised, that such difficulties still manifest themselves in trying to access that right…

              With very best wishes to you and Dylan for the road ahead. Do hope the next stage in sorting out his education will be less rocky. Lovely that Dylan is enjoying Rachmaninov!

              Melanie

  3. Thank you for sharing, your passion for language is infectious. I can probably hit Slimbridge in 35 minutes; can’t believe I have not been yet. My curiousity has been whet.
    Glad the blog is going so well. Best wishes, Don.

    • Many thanks, Don – glad the language-love travels into the ether via the screen!

      Do go to Slimbridge if you get the chance. I think you’d love it. The perfect time for the wonderful spectacle of the Bewick’s swans and other overwintering migrants is fast approaching. In the winter, the wardens feed the wild swans in the late afternoons – and it really is magical to see and hear them (and the various huge flocks of other species in the sky) as they fly in to the Rushy pen (if you go, make your way to the Peng Observatory in plenty of time for a good view from the window – it tends to get crowded in there at feed times!) My children love our trips there – as I was saying in my reply above to Liz, there’s always something to see, and as well as the wild beauty of the wider views of the reserve, and the chance to see kingfishers and other fantastic wildlife from the hides – there are otters and water voles to see close up in their enclosures – and lots of birds all around you wherever you walk.

      Melanie

  4. Lovely post and it is always helpful to visit with someone who loves language and the the beautiful poetry that comes from observing. I know from experience that babies can be entranced by words read by their mother or father and watching the turning of pages and the pictures that go with the words.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Judy. I’ve just enjoyed your post about geese – and loved seeing your own local landscape through your deeply observant eyes. Geese on your blog, swans on this blog – each in different parts of the world… It seems like a global flock of words taking flight in response to nature…

      The enchantment of books at work in the lives of babies and children is magical to see, isn’t it. So many of my loveliest memories are bound up with the daily story-times I’ve shared with my children, right from their earliest days.

      Melanie

        • I so relate to that, Judy! I’ve had to buy new copies of a couple of worn-out treasured volumes too. And I just can’t part with well-loved books either. The baby board books especially (complete with teeth marks!) are priceless mementoes! My daughter (now a teenager) is currently clearing out her room, and there are some books she’s decided she doesn’t want to keep – and I keep rescuing them and tucking them away – I’m certain that she’ll thank me for it when she’s older and all nostalgic!

          • It would be hard to part with a book on which a little someone tested their new teeth. My son is starting to be a bit more sentimental and he is 36. Yes, your daughter will change her mind, I am sure.

  5. What ravishing -;looking childrens books – the pictures are poetry themselves… a beautiful piece of writing Melanie, you weave the childrens books and the adult poetry so seamlessly into a satisfying whole, and triggered lots of swan memories for me ..lovely stuff…

    • Valerie – thank you so much for your kind words. Lovely to know that this post evoked some swan reveries for you… I think I love those picture books as much as my children do! The Shirley Hughes’ book was my daughter’s before my son inherited it – so lots of memories are woven into the many turns of its pages over the years… Alfie and Annie Rose, who appear in a whole series of books, are like friends; always there through both my childrens’ childhoods. When my daughter was at primary school, I took her to an event at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival to see Shirley Hughes. She read from her wonderful Alfie stories, and talked about her art and life – such a fascinating and memorable day for us both. You’re so right about the illustrations by both Shirley Hughes and Jackie Morris being poetry in themselves. Both artists achieve such magic in their work.

  6. I’m transfixed by the wonderful light in these photos… a wonderful Lord of the Reedy River light…

    Swans have such evocative names – Bewick, Mute, Whooper… I remember two swans gliding out of the twilight on a midsummer night, a river somewhere near Oxford. There was all the chatter from the pub garden but they carried this aura of all-encompassing calm, with six or seven young swans in their wake like the ghost of an Elizabethan pageant.

    I have such a visual sense of Yeats after I saw an exhibition in Dublin a few years ago – a sort of gold, shimmering mysticism, reflections of gilded towers in his spectacles, swirled with all the eccentricity of these dreams pitched against the more mundane concerns of everyday life.

    And I love the polaroid of the 1970s’ plashing in the puddles and the scent of the trees. Those plastic umbrellas recreate such a particular aspect of that time – pure bright colour, the gloss of new plastic, that utter simplicity and ‘newness’ which seemed to lived so harmoniously with all the treasure of the previous decades. I can’t articulate it… my imagination is immersed in following threads of film and music at the moment, so different parts of the brain are working!

    • I think you’ve articulated it all beautifully… I know exactly what you mean – when I was little, I loved my plastic 1970s dome-shaped umbrella. I was fascinated by the ‘pure bright colour’ and ‘gloss’ of it. It was green – bright, mossy green – with a lime green handle. I loved how the light shone on it; how, when I looked through it the world was filtered green – like a colour gel washing a stage-scene with emerald moodiness – or a slide negative in a back-lit viewer, bringing detail close and altered by the shaping of the shadows. I was fascinated by a lot of bright, shiny plastic bits and pieces when I was a child; mesmerised by shapes, colours, the way the light hit a curved, moulded corner. I used to squirrel favourites away in equally fascinating, patterned biscuit tins and beaded bags – like a magpie collecting treasure!

      I love the beautiful, atmospheric vignettes you conjure of the midsummer night swans gliding ‘like the ghost of an Elizabethan pageant’ – and of Yeats’s ‘gold, shimmering mysticism, reflections of gilded towers in his spectacles…’ Perfect! On the Coole Park website linked to in the post, there’s a lovely mention of how Yeats wandered Coole’s woods and grounds ‘lost in that landscape of the imagination,’ generally responding only to greetings from people he knew – and only listening ‘if you talked of the faeries.’

      So glad you liked the photos. The light during that day and evening was truly magical. Your description – ‘Lord of the Reedy River light’ (love it!) captures it perfectly. We couldn’t have picked a better day to watch the spectacle of the swans at Slimbridge. That amazing light gave the swans their perfect stage setting. First it turned the water a rippling, luminous blue – then, as the sun set further, that gorgeous, silky pink. My little Lumix camera went into overdrive trying to capture it all! I’m not a good photographer – I just tend to point, zoom a bit, focus and hope for the best. In the Peng Observatory, I was sitting next to a chap with one of those extra zoomy lenses. I surreptitiously got a glimpse of his photos as he checked them on his camera screen – and they were amazing (every detail of the swans’ plumage captured!) – and yet he was telling his partner that he was disappointed with them! He must have pitied poor me with my efforts! Even so, I found it really hard to decide which photos to post here (so many of them!) Even now, there are some I wish I’d put up instead – just because they are filled with yet another aspect of that incredible light. (Sorry for long, rambling reply – got carried away!)

      • Thoroughly enjoy the long (non-) rambles, don’t apologise! It’s interesting how 70s children mix that appreciation of ‘modern’ bright, simple – is modular part of it? – alongside a love of the past too. I’m thinking too of that scene at the end of Sally Potter’s film of ‘Orlando’, where she drives her motorcycle up to the ancient house, and the conical, topiary trees are encased in pure white plastic.

        I tend to think that heritage and the past got a bit muddled in the 80s onwards, as if a food-mixer splurged a muddy-coloured soup where you couldn’t see what was of the past and what was ‘trying’ to be of the past. Thinking of John Fowles and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, of the 1960s – with such a clear sense of the ‘now’ but also a pure sense of ‘past’, a respect for its authenticity in representing it as a time ‘gone’, versus a pastiche approach.

        At some point through the 80s the boundaries dissolved a little (although they were redefined perhaps from the late 90s, but this time the past became ‘interpreted’, fetishized, something society was uncomfortable with). By past I mean any aspects – heritage, culture, literature, design, art…

        It would be lovely to think we might be re-emerging into a respect for then and now living happily without either inhibiting the other. I don’t know – this whole musing is a little tenuous… Perhaps it is as simple as the difference between respecting the past and its role in the present, and living in the past.

        Love the comments section re the foggy barrier and absorption in arts to find ‘connectedness’. How fantastic it is when we stumble in the fog onto some piece of writing or a film that clears the skies…

        • Sky-clearing art is such a powerful thing, isn’t it – and often works best when it crops up in the places, or at the times, when we’re least expecting it! Maybe – in some ways – a little like a ‘surprised by joy’ moment… or at least, a surprised by sudden understanding and finding new perspective moment!

          I love all your thoughts here about the past, about heritage and layers of cultural reference and relationship. You are so insightful about all these issues and phenomena – and reading your musings on these things always takes me into fascinating new channels of thought, investigation, pondering and perspective…

          Those truly felt time-connections are such powerful things too – so fluid, circular, cyclic; organic root-threads, growing out of deep, enduring aspects of human nature, imagination, seeking. And yet, there are also specific cultural points which attach us to our own times, and the times we pass through – and the pasts we feel connected to, through literature, art and the stories we grew up with from previous generations etc… all of which feel so essential to our rootedness too. When it all works best for us, we can join up those reference points and gain riches from a kind of fusion perhaps? Reading your blog has got me thinking and questioning so much more all the workings, effects and reasons for ‘interpretation’ and cultural approaches to the past, the schisms etc. I love all the connections you make – like light shining into fascinating corners – and illuminating the hidden doorways which are pretending to be panels in the walls!

  7. What a lovely post, quiet, evocative, cloaked in twilight’s colors.

    Many years ago, on one of my visits to England, we stopped at a pond to watch the swans. Quite suitably, they ignored us. Until we took out our cameras – then, like a flock of divas, they came floating to us, waiting for their close-ups.

  8. Melanie… Wow, what a wonderful journey to have taken with you… Reading your blog for however many months it has been and now sharing a feeling of gladness and gratitude with you that you have been ‘freshly pressed’! So well deserved, I am thrilled for you. And I love this post… How easy it can be sometimes to read a poem or piece of writing and – maybe through tiredness or other life-induced lack of concentration and connection – not absorb its potency or feel replenished from the reading. But you have such a gift for so softly, gently, intuitively introducing the reader to a piece of writing in such a way that it helps them read, absorb, understand and appreciate more fully. Thank you as ever! x

    • Amanda – that’s so kind of you! It’s wonderful to me to hear that anything I’ve written has led to the responses you describe! I know so well that feeling of tiredness and lack of concentration, induced by life’s stresses and strains – and how, so often, it can be a foggy barrier between the self and the things which could most give us balm and needed connection. The replenishment and further understanding we receive from finding that sense of connection and absorption in literature, nature etc. is so important, I think – so I’m over the moon that you feel my introductions have helped provide a bridge in any way!

      Thanks so much for all your really lovely thoughts and wishes… If I said that I was surprised, delighted and amazed when I received the email informing me I’d been ‘freshly pressed,’ it would be a complete understatement! It was a fabulous, whirlwind experience – and so many good things have developed from it. My deep thanks for all your support and encouragement over these many months, Amanda. It’s been wonderful sharing this ever-surprising blogging journey with you! And so special to share in the adventure and development of your own wonderful blog’s fascinating journey via cetacean research, writing and dance! May the road lead ever on to all good things! Hope life has taken you to calmer waters now, and that you and yours are well. x

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