Another moment of stillness and calm beauty. Two swallows circling around the little jetty that juts out into the Estuary. I’m nearly finished a longish poem about a journey up the estuary and the beauty of all that, but I doubt I’ll capture that as well as the swallows did this morning.
The same night, a little further along the beach, a sandbank with tiny waves flickering along, transparent and alive as little fish.
I found it very calming, for a few minutes, to watch these lines of energy arriving and dispersing in the late afternoon sun.
I recommend looping this!
It’s been a recurring thread for me in my writing and thinking: the idea that there are things hidden or buried, or forgotten and still intact beneath the surface of things. It’s there in some of my earliest writing, the very title of my first collection, Lost Things, and in images like the abandoned picnic place, the lost highway, Atlantis etc.
So, of course I’d be fascinated to see, last Friday when I walked to the beach after a busy week at work, the fragments and wreckage of past structures that had emerged over the winter at my local beach.
I’d seen glimpses of early constructions before; perhaps a pier, or foundations for a jetty of some kind, but nothing like these full and intact structures that had been beneath my feet all along, all these years.
I took these photos to preserve them, before they’re buried again.
I finished the monolithic biography of Ted Hughes by Jonathan Bate this morning and thought I’d reflect on some of that. At 672 pages it’s an effort, but mostly worth it, except for some of the more arcane analysis, particularly close examinations of notebooks and notebook poems and some tenuous links between life and art.
It’s a bit of a defence of Hughes against the ‘Libbers’ and, despite the fierce instance of the value of Hughes’s work in its own right, he remains a figure connected always with his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Plath, a connection that’s evident in both the writing and the life lived forever after.
Bate argues that the release of Birthday Letters, late in Hughes’s career, marks a freeing up moment but Hughes didn’t live long enough after that to benefit from that clarity.
As a writer I was very interested in Hughes’s own working mode, his self-scrutiny and reliance on detailed notebooks, and observations of people and nature, many of which seem like poems themselves. This is an unauthorised biography, and it seems the estate did not give Bate permission to use poems in the text, behind the notebooks quoted a lot.
Most importantly, it’s drawn me back to a poet I thought very highly of when those first books came to my attention in the 1980s, and I pulled these two down from the shelf and re-read them both.
After a busy time lately, it was nice to take a bit of time yesterday to walk in The Briars, a little historic homestead park close to where I live. I took some photos, looked for birds from a couple of hides and followed the line of Balcombe Creek back towards the sea.
I quite like the idea of walking the same place again, year after year, and seeing the fine and subtle differences. As Thoreau wrote: ‘Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.’ I have high praise for the local: from Gilbert White to Thoreau to the place examined in contemporary writers like Robert Macfarlane.
There’s something refreshing about walking by water in the morning. This morning, the bay was blue-grey, the sky just grey, the wind talking of winter. It was nice to be out in it, beside that body of water.