Gleanings from the margins. Reader, writer and book-crafter with twigs in her hair and ink on her hands.
What I would have given
to slip my skin and join them,
the fish known by their shadows
in the amber of the sun-skipping river.
Sleek skinned, lovely still and coldly graced,
neither disturbed by nor disturbing
the restless light
and uncertain depths.
Cwm Gwaun © Kate Keogan
The birches are spending their autumn gold, secure in their silver to last all winter long. No tree speaks the changing seasons as eloquently as the birch. Other trees seem most themselves at a particular time of year: birch inhabits all seasons equally, speaking them through white bark and dark twigs, through shimmering leaf of green or rich ochre gold.
Lately each week brings me another woman grieving for the loss of a beloved tree or forest, trees that are local but not ‘owned’ by them and over which they therefore have no rights: trees that they have in some cases named... oh, not birch, rowan, alder but with personal names, names they have gleaned through relationship with trees they considered friends.
My neighbour wants me to ‘do something’ with my birches. He is a keen gardener, concerned they block the light. On sunny days their dappled shade allows me to write beneath them. What do I do with them? For five years I have delighted in their grace and beauty and in that of the many small birds who visit them throughout the year. I have prayed through them, confided in them. I have held their trunks as the wind in their branches sang strength to the roots beneath. I have been at times almost afraid of their vitality, so much greater than my own. What should I do with them then but honour them as fellow beings, as friends?
For the Trees and Those Who Grieve For Them © Katerina Keogan 2016
Sadness has been stalking you for days:
with the softness at last
of charcoal feathers
smudged by the rain
you have whispered it's name to the silence.
When did you last hear the blackbird sing?
Neither riddle nor rhetoric,
the loss unnoticed till now
swells like a gorgeous egg in your throat,
stretches your eyes grief-amazed.
Soon the robin will sing
from the top of the wild pear
but first you will have to bear
upon graceless shoulders
the burden of November's lead.
Nature being generous-unkind as it is,
the blackbird will sing again all summer
but by then the bird that sings
will be a different bird
and you will be a different you.
Autumn © Katerina Keogan
The birches are trembling in leaf now
and this morning the apple blossom
was thrilling to humming wings.
For a moment I shared their faith:
each leaf a tongue, each flower a throat
for the vital word, unspoken, unheard
if not through them.
For a moment I shared their trust,
leaf-tender and petal-delicate,
fragile-strong upon the riotous air;
a willingness to blossom,
trusting the fruit to come,
to be something we can bear.
A Willingness to Blossom © Katerina Tara Keogan 2015
I step outside, recoiling from the usual morning noise: rush hour traffic, kids hollering, ambulances screaming “Emergency! Emergency!” I sigh. Here we go again.
I walk to the birches I planted at the end of the garden. They have become dear friends and confidants; one is a particular favourite. The urgent whisper of wind and rain in their leaves unlocks an openness within me. I begin my morning practice, a combined prayerfulness and moving meditation through which I seek to be present to the different worlds in which I walk: the workaday human world, the natural world, the world of spirit. I become still and listen.
The blackbird sings from the top of next door’s cypress. Birch leaves flicker in the breeze. Suddenly a brightly liquid trill surprises and delights me; my heart dances after it, too happy in the seeking to wish to find the wren that made it. I wonder about the goldcrest that, two months ago, I greeted daily as it daintily picked bugs from the bare twigs of my tree. The corner of my eye picks up a movement high up in the branches. The goldcrest? No. The wren, now silent, has found me. Later, as I eat breakfast by the window, a flock of swifts slashes the sky and a faded blue begins to show at the frayed grey edge. Later still, the rain returns. It is just another ordinary day. It is good.
Morning Practice © Katerina Tara Keogan