walk down longwoods lane

the air here is heavy, dense with scent

branches sway gently, the emerald grass is silently lush

the back of my skirt flutters against my heels as I step

just the same as fifteen years ago, I am entranced

by fountains and flowers, the Chimes Tower and Eye of Water.

I, the fairy unicorn princess, traipse bare-footed

by gurgling stream, the rush-rush-still waterfall.

If my baby self saw this Me,

they would find it majestic. Even beautiful?

When is the light show? I must remember

what Grandma’s smile looked like

hit of freedom

we are just around the corner,

turning on the edge of the finale,

the door at the dead end says “OPEN”

since this is weather for flicking your sunglasses down on your nose

and letting the leaves blow out of hand

(they’ve been frozen all winter, let them play)

everyone is mesmerized, lying flat, stroking the grass with flat palms

wriggling fingers fearlessly into the cool soil. at last we have colour.

cut off your spare cloth, let your skin out

so the rays can heal us all of our journey inside

take a magical hit off the sunlight pipe,

it will change your world.

yesterday’s biology lab

Our professor walked us out to the forest trails on the edge of our campus and hands us each this:

IMG_2303This lab was all about appreciating and respecting that which surrounded us as much as it was about learning the names and technical terms of everything. This poem is rather long, but I would ask you to have patience with it and take a few minutes to meditate upon this ancient, beautiful work which so aptly characterizes my personal feelings about the woods.

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The groves were God’s first temples. Ere man learned
To hew the shaft, and lay the architrave,
And spread the roof above them,—ere he framed
The lofty vault, to gather and roll back
The sound of anthems; in the darkling wood,

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Amidst the cool and silence, he knelt down,
And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks
And supplication. For his simple heart
Might not resist the sacred influences,

IMG_2379Which, from the stilly twilight of the place,
And from the gray old trunks that high in heaven
Mingled their mossy boughs, and from the sound
Of the invisible breath that swayed at once

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All their green tops, stole over him, and bowed
His spirit with the thought of boundless power
And inaccessible majesty. Ah, why
Should we, in the world’s riper years, neglect
God’s ancient sanctuaries, and adore
Only among the crowd, and under roofs,

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That our frail hands have raised? Let me, at least,
Here, in the shadow of this aged wood,
Offer one hymn—thrice happy, if it find
Acceptance in His ear.
Father, thy hand
Hath reared these venerable columns, thou
Didst weave this verdant roof. Thou didst look down

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Upon the naked earth, and, forthwith, rose
All these fair ranks of trees. They, in thy sun,
Budded, and shook their green leaves in the breeze,
And shot towards heaven. The century-living crow,
Whose birth was in their tops, grew old and died
Among their branches, till, at last, they stood,
As now they stand, massy, and tall, and dark,
Fit shrine for humble worshipper to hold
Communion with his Maker. These dim vaults,

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These winding aisles, of human pomp and pride
Report not. No fantastic carvings show
The boast of our vain race to change the form
Of thy fair works. But thou art here—thou fill’st
The solitude. Thou art in the soft winds
That run along the summit of these trees
In music; thou art in the cooler breath

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That from the inmost darkness of the place
Comes, scarcely felt; the barky trunks, the ground,
The fresh moist ground, are all instinct with thee.
Here is continual worship;—Nature, here,
In the tranquility that thou dost love,
Enjoys thy presence. Noiselessly, around,

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From perch to perch, the solitary bird
Passes; and yon clear spring, that, midst its herbs,
Wells softly forth and wandering steeps the roots
Of half the mighty forest, tells no tale
Of all the good it does. Thou hast not left
Thyself without a witness, in these shades,

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Of thy perfections. Grandeur, strength, and grace
Are here to speak of thee. This mighty oak—
By whose immovable stem I stand and seem
Almost annihilated—not a prince,
In all that proud old world beyond the deep,

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E’er wore his crown as lofty as he
Wears the green coronal of leaves with which
Thy hand has graced him. Nestled at his root
Is beauty, such as blooms not in the glare
Of the broad sun. That delicate forest flower
With scented breath, and look so like a smile,
Seems, as it issues from the shapeless mould,
An emanation of the indwelling Life,
A visible token of the upholding Love,
That are the soul of this wide universe.

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My heart is awed within me when I think
Of the great miracle that still goes on,
In silence, round me—the perpetual work
Of thy creation, finished, yet renewed
Forever. Written on thy works I read
The lesson of thy own eternity.

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Lo! all grow old and die—but see again,
How on the faltering footsteps of decay
Youth presses—-ever gay and beautiful youth
In all its beautiful forms. These lofty trees
Wave not less proudly that their ancestors
Moulder beneath them. Oh, there is not lost
One of earth’s charms: upon her bosom yet,

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After the flight of untold centuries,
The freshness of her far beginning lies
And yet shall lie. Life mocks the idle hate
Of his arch enemy Death—yea, seats himself
Upon the tyrant’s throne—the sepulchre,
And of the triumphs of his ghastly foe
Makes his own nourishment. For he came forth
From thine own bosom, and shall have no end.

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There have been holy men who hid themselves
Deep in the woody wilderness, and gave
Their lives to thought and prayer, till they outlived
The generation born with them, nor seemed
Less aged than the hoary trees and rocks
Around them;—and there have been holy men
Who deemed it were not well to pass life thus.

IMG_2359But let me often to these solitudes
Retire, and in thy presence reassure
My feeble virtue. Here its enemies,
The passions, at thy plainer footsteps shrink
And tremble and are still. Oh, God! when thou
Dost scare the world with falling thunderbolts, or fill,
With all the waters of the firmament,

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The swift dark whirlwind that uproots the woods
And drowns the village; when, at thy call,
Uprises the great deep and throws himself
Upon the continent, and overwhelms
Its cities—who forgets not, at the sight
Of these tremendous tokens of thy power,
His pride, and lays his strifes and follies by?

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Oh, from these sterner aspects of thy face
Spare me and mine, nor let us need the wrath
Of the mad unchained elements to teach
Who rules them. Be it ours to meditate,
In these calm shades, thy milder majesty,
And to the beautiful order of the works
Learn to conform the order of our lives.

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– William Cullen Bryant, 1824

mbale (ten days)

My family has spent the past few days in Mbale, the first town we lived in when we moved to Uganda.

The market is wonderful:

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it started to rain and a few drops hit my lens:

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As I was leaving, an old man asked me to take his photo:

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and we rounded off the day by a drive up Wanale to see the sunset (which we missed, unfortunately)

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I love being home.

you sit next to me in math

the way you see the world –

failing to plan like these all around us, happy

we are just taking each piece of life in turn

we are not of this land, we recognise the potted plants

when we see them. Transported, roots always with us

we love the sun as life.

We have been cooked into these other selves,

frozen and reheated

eaten up by them as plastic dinners

when our core is all organic,

full of the things they are searching for.

drowning

When I first went to India, I wrote a piece concerning drowning and being drowned in a culture that was not my own:

“Each of her parents had gone their own way. Her mother had walked out of an icy, damp land, hair blowing in the wind – Ireland, the place she mentioned with longing sighs and wistful glances out the door. Her father had stood tall on the decks of ships way out across the Caribbean, traversing the dangers of South America, a land that had chiseled him down and made him a man.

So it was only natural that, after they’d all been together on the plains of Africa, that she would dive off the deep end and drown herself in the madness of India.

The drop into India was longer than she expected. She fell silently, her eyes open and her arms outstretched, until she crashed into the water with a mighty SPLASH, where it tore at her clothes, ripping out her hair. She sank swiftly and silently, shooting down by her skeletons of dreams and tattered kelpy thoughts, sinking deeper and deeper into darker and darker waters.

She came up for air in Agra, where she found a sort of life raft named Andy which carried her along for a while so that she could wipe her hair out of her eyes and catch her breath. All the water she’d swallowed stayed down, and he told her that she should keep it there because it would keep her alive.”

(2008)

Now I am melting, falling into this wasteland that says I belong,

I am overcome with memories and confusion

this constant reminder of You Do Not Understand,

You Do Not Belong

even though I look and speak like a native

I have perfected this chameleon act, blending

speaking this language to communicate a modicum of thought.

 – And yet, it is never enough.

I am exhausted of getting everything wrong, failing

in work friendship conversation class assignment meeting

I truly just want to get back to a language I can speak fluently,

speaking the truth into every ear, bold in faith

knowing that I am wholly loved and that I love wholly.

Let me fight this current, hold down this fiery water that burns my lungs

offensive, grating, I will breathe it

and swim to summer shores

then from there learn how to breathe air again.

M.C. Escher

The Infinite

by Giacomo Leopardi

This lonely knoll was ever dear to me

and this hedgerow that hides from view

so large a part of he remote horizon.

But as I sit and gaze my thought conceive

intermediate spaces lying beyond

and supernatural silences

and profoundest calm, until my heart

almost becomes dismayed. And as I hear

the wind come rustling through these leaves,

I find myself comparing to this voice

that infinite silence: and I recall eternity

and all the ages that are dead

and the living presence and its sounds. And so

in this immensity my thought is drowned:

and in this sea is foundering sweet to me.

– Translated from the Italian by Jean-Pierre Barricelli

in the face of all this dreary snow.

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About a year ago, I was on vacation with family – out in the plains of Kidepo, the best place for going safari that I have ever been. On the first morning of our trip, we rose early to go out on an early game drive, since dawn is the best time to see wildlife.

Being two metres from a  pack of full-grown lions is a wonderful way to start any morning.

homesick.

repeated dream:

you and i push off in a little boat, laughing

breaking the filmy layer of ice

using our oars to guide us around the frozen chunks.

Every time, we begin to sink

the boat tilts, spilling us

I crash into the waters, which break

and I fall into the river of home.

It is warm, and my eyes open

emerging from the gloomy depths,

weathering crocodiles,

I gasp onto shore,

a rocky bank breaking the rapids.

You are gone, and I know where to go from here.

I tear my clothes from my skin and fly into the waves, carried

on a current I understand.