Someone nearby

has lit their fire.

Smoke smudges

the edges of everything.

In the garden

green hues muted,

my view, dream-like.

Streamers of rain

dampen, leaves shine,

pools gather in celebration.

The window a vision

as I sit and wonder

about life that has happened

and all that is to come.

~The H Word~

Friday’s Commute

The passing glare of headlights

Is interrupted, through the side

Window flames lick the horizon

Like dragon’s breath has set alight

That perfect point where land meets sky

And it is beauty, breath-taking,

Enough to make you want to stop

And pay attention. A new day is dawning.

You should celebrate, do something

Significant, mark the moment,

But you have work to go to, so you drive

On, reluctant, take one last glance

In the rear-view mirror as the sky

Explodes in crimson colour, hues

Which seem to scream murder

As you round another corner

And flee the scene.

~The H Word~

‘Between Mountain and Sea’ by Norman MacCaig

I’ve been a few days longer away from posting than I had planned (assessments have me a little ragged) and I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of April already! But it’s not like poetry is going anywhere, it doesn’t disappear in a wisp of smoke when April turns to May so there’s no need to be sad that National Poetry Month is coming to an end.

Instead we can be thankful that poetry is eternal. As long as hearts flutter with love or break with its ending, as long as humans search for words to find solace or meaning, poetry will be there.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my favourite poems and poets with you all and will keep doing so even after April says its farewell and May sashays in. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them.

Today I’m sharing a poem by the late Norman MacCaig who I’m sure most of you will know, but for those who don’t here is a short extract from the Poetry Foundation website:

“MacCaig was a Scottish poet from Edinburgh, with a deep love for Assynt in the Scottish Highlands. Though he spent much of his life and career in Edinburgh, MacCaig’s mother’s Highland ancestry was an important part of his identity, and he spent his summers in Assynt, Scotland, in the northwest Highlands. MacCaig’s poetry bears the influence of his dual upbringing: though he wrote only in English—something of an anomaly for a Scottish poet of his generation—his poetry frequently drew on the Highland landscape and Gaelic culture which he loved” (Poetry Foundation n.d.).

You can read more about Norman MacCaig by clicking here which will take you to the Poetry Foundation website.

The poem I am sharing is one of my favourites and its from the collection Between Mountain and Sea: Poems from Assynt which was published by Polygon in 2018, however the poem itself was written in December 1984. I hope you enjoy reading it.

‘Between Mountain and Sea’

Honey and salt – land smell and sea smell,
as in the long ago, as in forever.

The days pick me up and carry me off,
half-child, half-prisoner,

on their journey that I’ll share
for a while.

They wound and they bless me
with strange gifts:

the salt of absence,
the honey of memory.


MacCaig, N. (2018) Between Mountain and Sea: Poems from Assynt (Edited by Roderick Watson). Edinburgh: Polygon, 157

Poetry Foundation (n.d.) Norman MacCaig 1910-1996 [online]. Available from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/norman-maccaig [27 April 2022]

Poems from ‘The Water Engine’ by Ankh Spice

I have been impatiently waiting to share poems from The Water Engine (2021), Ankh Spice’s debut collection published by Femme Salve Books, but I was struggling to pick only one or two and kept changing my mind about which ones to share. This is one of those collections that immediately takes up residency in your chest, it snuggles beside your heart and let’s you know it is always there for you whenever you might need it. And the poet is pretty darn special too. I first encountered Ankh’s poetry on Twitter and was, for want of a better phrase, blown away. His ability to capture a single moment alongside the entirety of the universe and everything in-between is outstanding. He gets to the heart of what it means to be human; how we treat one another, and this wondrous earth we call home. How our relationship with both can be flawed and joyous and more often than not breathtakingly beautiful. I highly recommend purchasing a copy of this collection for yourselves, you will not be disappointed, and you can purchase a copy via the publishers website by following this link – Femme Salve Books.

Ankh is a poet from Aotearoa New Zealand and is obsessed with the sea and believes our natural environment along with those old stories we don’t even know we know, mingle in magical ways to shape the human beings we become, and that sometimes we’re allowed to notice it happening. His poetry has been widely published with nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is also co-editor at IceFloe Press and a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine (Spice n.d.). Ankh is also one of the most genuine, humble and kindest people you will ever meet and whilst I have not even met him, or know him personally, I had the privilege of attending the launch of The Water Engine and it is one of those experiences that will stay with me forever. Alongside the other poets and writers in attendance, the love and respect and care for one another radiated from the screen despite us all being scattered around the globe. I am delighted to be able to share a couple of his poems tonight for those who have not come across his work before. I hope you enjoy!

‘No (thing is) right’ by Ankh Spice

Who told this calm day
it had any right
to reel delicate and radiant
when I am dissolving hard

Who said
that when a person falls
to pieces, there must be noise –
screaming, sharp edges

The only sounds here are distant:
the quiet, ordinary tide
and a long, soft keening –
the wounded ape in me
calling, calling

‘I mean how do we balance at all’ by Ankh Spice

At centre you carry the weight / I don’t mean
a heart but yes chambers liquid
with iron / I don’t mean blood I mean
restless and betrayed only by being
magnetic / your core invisible
to something on the surface
otherwise / I mean a heart is a constant kind
of collision / I mean momentum
dizzies us / sure as a slow leak
in the moon. I mean we tide.
I mean our being off-
balance has flow-
on effects. I don’t mean
to be dense / I mean if your heart
was different this whole life thing
would collapse. I mean fragile.
I mean, it is.


Spice, A. (2021) ‘No (thing is) right’ & ‘I mean how do we balance it all’ from The Water Engine. Vermont: Femme Salve Books, 49 & 55

Spice, A. (n.d.) Ankh Spice – SeaGoatScreams Poetry: About [online]. Available from https://www.ankhspice-seagoatscreamspoetry.com/contact [22 April 2022]

‘Seabed’ by Aoife Lyall

The second poem I am sharing tonight may be small in stature, however, the emotion and tenderness it manages to capture in those four short lines is ginormous!

‘Seabed’ is from Aoife’s debut collection Mother Nature (2021) published by Bloodaxe Books. You can purchase a copy of Mother Nature here. Aoife was born and raised in Dublin and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. She has been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Writing Awards in 2016 and 2018 and her work has appeared in many literary magazines. Aoife has also been guest editor with Butcher’s Dog Magazine (issues 13 & 14). As well as writing and editing Aoife also teaches poetry, writes reviews and mentors, you can find out more about Aoife on her website here.

Mother Nature “explores the tragic and tender experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood, from ante-natal complications and the devastating pain of miscarriage to the overwhelming joy of healthy delivery” (Lyall 2021). It is an incredibly emotional collection that constricts the heart but also floods it with hope and joy.

I hope you enjoy the poem I have chosen to share.

‘Seabed’ by Aoife Lyall

When you fuss, your father turns
from cliff face to cove and curls
you into him, his steady breath
the swell that brings you home.


Lyall, A. (2021) ‘Seabed’ from Mother Nature. Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 48

‘Evening Poem’ by Seán Hewitt

Good evening! I hope you’ve all had a lovely Easter weekend. I have to admit I’ve enjoyed the Easter holidays very much and am a little sad that my youngest is off back to school tomorrow and me back to uni. But all good things come to an end, as they say.

As I’ve not shared any poems for a couple of days I’ll do more than one tonight. First up we have ‘Evening Poem’ by Seán Hewitt from his debut collection Tongues of Fire (2020), published by Jonathan Cape. Seán is a book critic for The Irish Times and teaches Modern British & Irish Literature at Trinity College Dublin (Seán Hewitt n.d.). Michael Longley says on the cover of the Tongues of FIre: “Seán Hewitt understands that poetic form is sacred and mysterious. In these godforsaken times his reverent procedures are food for the soul” (Longley 2020).

I hope you enjoy the poem I’ve chosen to share this evening and you can purchase a copy Tongues of Fire here.

Evening Poem

First the clatter-iron blackbird,
its fanatical shuddering in the magnolia.

Dusk, and the garden is re-assembling,
calling its sparrows home,

and what a voice-racket under the aucuba
(doors closing to) and each sparrow

an iron-filing sweeping the field-lines
of the garden. I sit out in the last warmth

and watch it all come to rest:
the light falling, the thrushes settling

in the sycamores at the far end
of the lawn, how each tree lowers itself

under a new weight, and I hold out
for a while for everything to darken,

for the birds to stop singing, as though
I am teaching myself again to bear it.


Hewitt, S. (2020) ‘Evening Poem’ from Tongues of Fire. London: Jonathan Cape, 37

Hewitt, S. (n.d.) Seán Hewitt Writer: Biography [online]. Available from https://www.seanehewitt.com/biography [18 April 2022]

‘Forests’ by Mandy Haggith

The second poem of Mandy Haggith’s I would like to share is ‘Forests’ from the collection Castings (2007) published by Two Ravens Press. This is a beautiful collection split into three parts: Casting Ashore which is a collection of poems about Mandy’s home: a wooded coastal croft in Achmelvich, Assynt, in the northwest Highlands of Scotland; Casting Off which is a tribute to the River Kelvin in Glasgow; and Casting Adrift which consists of Mandy’s sightings and encounters around the world. Castings is only available in eBook format at the moment which you can purchase here. And you can peruse the many other books Mandy has published on her website here.

The poem I am sharing is from the Casting Adrift section and I hope you enjoy it as much as do every time I read it:


Some are dark hearts full of secrets of enslavement
some dry and dangerous
some alternately fly-infested and freezing
some damp and frail
but all spirit-rich
homes to folk with leaves in their eyes
(and mushrooms in their pockets)
who dream of chasing animals among branching
for whom the future is a tree-root that presses open
     rocks of the past,
with whom all stems intertwine,
in whom all saps and bloods and rivers mingle,
under whose power a single bud
becomes an eye, a wing, a soul,
becomes the whole
breathing planet.


Haggith, M. (2007) ‘Forests’ from Castings. Ullapool: Two Ravens Press

Confessions of a Late Sleeper

I rarely see dawn,
her rosy blush bringing
warmth to my corner
of the world.

My days start late,
too late for some
but just right for me.
Yet, I do miss dawn.

I miss the quickening
of the sky, the change
of shade from black
to inky-blue and those

mornings when she sets
the horizon on fire,
spreading flame through
atmosphere, my world

appears to burn bright
with hope and light.
I should make more
of an effort to see her.

It’s not intentional,
I hope she knows that.

Perhaps one day, soon
I’ll make a special change,
rise while the sky still says
night and wait for her

to call day into being,
let myself be showered
in her dawning. It is the
least I can do. After all,

she shows up every day
even for those who do not.

~The H Word~


Things I Have Never Seen

I have never seen, first-hand,
a murmuration in flight;
those oscillating patterns
shape-shifting overhead.

I’ve seen footage from
onlookers but it’s never
the same as I imagine
standing, slack-jawed,

neck bent backwards
staring at denim-blue
backdrop while those
feathered-gods turn

inside-out, understanding
more than we could
ever, turning atmosphere
to free-flowing liquid,

sky into sea, what
a sight it must be
to see a murmuration
in flight, overhead.

~The H Word~


Maintaining a connection with nature to improve emotional wellbeing

It is no surprise that many meditation and therapy techniques promote the importance of connecting with nature. Studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology show that the development of this connection not only has a positive impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing, but also their actions towards looking after the health of the planet. Throughout our lives, we often seek solace in our natural environment to feel grounded and emotionally balanced, but what do we do during times when we are unable to step outside our own front doors?

Our ability to get outside and connect with nature can be impacted in a variety of ways. Problems with physical or mental health can make going outside seem like an impossible task. Overwhelming professional, academic, or domestic duties can result in a lack of free time. Or, as experienced over the last two years, lockdown restrictions due to a global pandemic can limit the time we are permitted to be outdoors. Thankfully, humans are good at adapting. When our normal way of life is affected, we find alternative ways to achieve balance. 

A Space of Your Own

When Virginia told us how important it was for a woman to have a room of her own, I understood. Yes, she was referring to fiction writing, but as a wife, mother, writer, and full-time student who rarely has space of her own, I feel justified interpreting this in my own way. In an ideal world my space would exist outside the confines of my mind, but this is not an ideal world, not for women. In a United Nations report looking into the impact of Covid-19, statistics revealed that the pandemic had a far greater impact on women in areas relating to health, economy, security, and social protection. In academia, women were also predominantly impacted. In Colleen Flaherty’s article for Inside Higher Ed., she explained that research into the number of academic journal submissions during the pandemic revealed that women’s research productivity had been seriously affected. Lack of personal space due to increased domestic responsibilities was cited as one potential factor. I know I have struggled balancing increased responsibilities at home while continuing my studies. Which is why I am grateful, thanks to visualisation techniques learned through guided mediation, to have created my own special place, one that I can visit whenever I want, or need to. 


There is a place, a special place, where only you can go. It is peaceful, serene, the perfect place to unwind from the stresses of the day. Many roads lead here, you can choose whichever journey feels right for you. On arrival, sentinels of pine trees stand at attention to greet you. Their towering presence offers protection, and you inhale their deep, woody scent, feeling it fill you with life. Walking on, low hanging branches caress the exposed skin on your arms like bark-covered fingers, rough-edged, yet surprisingly gentle. Your anxiety of only moments before pools behind like discarded clothing; you have no need for it here. Up ahead, a verdant mosaic of perfectly formed foliage shapes into an archway leading you from one world to the next. Here, the air instantly tastes different—earthy, pure, free from man’s polluted touch. It flows into your lungs in slow, steady breaths slowing everything down. Your eyelids droop, heavy, before closing completely, allowing you to notice the hum resonating deep within, vibrating in response to the energy that flows here. Your feet feel it too, the warmth from the earth rises through the soles as your toes wriggle in the soft, feather-like grass. You are home, home at last.  

I began meditating as way to deal with anxiety and found it especially helpful during those agonising hours spent trying to fall asleep. You know the ones, where every scenario or decision you have ever made comes back to haunt you? In my youth, I was convinced that meditation was not for me. When I pictured it, I imagined this zen entity, who could empty their mind and transcend all earthly problems to achieve inner peace and calm, which was the exact opposite of how I saw myself. Thankfully, I discovered there are many ways to meditate, and like so many other things in life, it is a case of finding one that works for you.

There are a variety of apps providing meditation techniques, where you can experiment to find the right one. Through a process of elimination, I discovered that guided meditation enabled me to achieve a level of relaxation where I could experience the many benefits meditation had to offer. By listening to a calm, soothing voice, I was able to stop focusing on the never-ending thoughts and anxieties. Like me, you may also find that different styles of meditations work for you at different times, depending on how you are feeling. There are some nights where I opt for a hypnotic meditation, one which takes me on a journey or focuses on the relaxation of the body. Other times, I listen to soundscapes, where you can choose from a whole host of sounds depending on what you find relaxing. I enjoy rolling thunder, rainfall, or theta soundwaves to drift gently off to sleep. However, my favourite is visualisation, where I am encouraged to journey to a place that means something to me, one I have developed to become a haven, set deep in nature, and far from my waking life. When I am there, I can not only satisfy my meditative needs but also maintain my connection with nature.

Therapeutic Practice

Visualisation techniques are not only useful in meditative practice but can also help develop a more compassionate way of thinking about yourself. As part of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy); a talking therapy which helps manage problems with anxiety and depression, imagery is used as way to build compassionate thinking. Research shows that images are powerful in triggering emotions, and that by developing an image associated with a more compassionate mindset towards yourself, you can then use that as a tool to combat self-critical thinking. This image can be of a person, a place, an animal, or some aspect of nature, anything that you can associate with compassionate thinking. During a course of CBT last year, I chose a snapshot of my imagined place in the woods. It was by this point so clear in my mind that I often forgot it was not a real place. I learned to use this image whenever self-doubt or anxiety threatened to overwhelm me.

By interrupting the cycle of self-critical thinking, I developed a kinder way of talking to myself. How many of us push ourselves to the point of emotional exhaustion, trying to be both everything that is expected of us and everything that we want to be? Then, when we struggle, think it is a sign of failure, further feeding the anxiety only too willing to accompany us into the depths of despair, whispering words of disparagement and dismay. There was a time I felt helpless to resist and would get so caught up in a cycle of self-critical reflection that, in some ways, I felt I deserved to be berated for my inability to cope. My struggle was penance for my obvious lack of strength and resilience. I now understand that I could not have been more wrong. Looking after our mental wellbeing is not a sign of weakness. Those who experience challenges associated with mental health possess incredible strength, not only in dealing with them, but in recognising when to ask for help in learning how to overcome them.      

A Room with a View

In a recent study published in Landscape and Urban Planning Journal, it was found that whilst being in nature directly impacts overall life satisfaction, simply having a view of nature can also have a positive effect. This is because the wellbeing benefits experienced from nature depend on our feelings of connection. By having a view, from either the home or workplace, it is possible to maintain that all important connection, often resulting in increased benefits once you can go outside. It is comforting to know that my time spent gazing out of the bedroom window could also influence my wellbeing. Whether I am observing the weather, which can be four seasons in one day in the Scottish Highlands or enjoying the flurry of activity from the variety of birds who descend upon the birdhouse to dine in perpetual motion. By taking the time to appreciate the view outside, I am still maintaining my connection with nature, albeit from the cosy confines of my warm bed.

Sun streams through the window illuminating dancing snowflakes on their journey south. Confused seasons fight for status yet the beauty of both is not lost. Sparrows duck and dive depending on seeds scattered with love around the birdhouse. Daffodils shake their heads in frustration, regretting their decision to peek through so soon. The green soaks up the moisture, glowing with rejuvenation, as frost bitten tips recuperate in the in-between.

Writing for Wellbeing

Creative activities can also be an excellent way of exploring our environment and what nature means to us. I recently organised two writing workshops promoting the use of words for wellbeing, where the theme was finding alternative ways to feel connected with nature. We explored showing gratitude for a place that was special to us. We reflected on the various ways it inspired us creatively and emotionally. We took time to appreciate the natural world without physically going outside. We were also invited to look at our own homes, both inside and out, to see the various ways we could sense nature’s presence. This change of perspective enabled us to see connections we had not thought of before. Those who could not get out into nature as often as they would have liked or lived in an urban environment where a view of nature was not immediately available, found this a positive experience. It showed us how a different perspective can change how we view nature in our everyday lives. 

This home is no nest, that would be far too exposed, high on a branch with inadequate defences. This home is a burrow, buried deep in the soil, each chamber a womb nurtured by Mother Earth. It welcomes hibernation and solitude, holds each steady heartbeat deep in its roots. Asking for nothing more than ourselves.


Last week it was bears who had me enthralled. An author’s creations bringing landscapes and locations to life. How wonderful to escape into the pages of a book for a while. This week it was Hobbits, Frodo and Sam. I watched them adventure to defeat Sauron. They overcame adversities while I lay in bed. They saved the whole of middle earth before I was even dressed.

Reading is an excellent way of escaping and developing our connection with the world. Literature can transport us, either to places we are familiar with or have never experienced before. Recently, I have travelled around Scotland in a campervan experiencing majestic landscapes and interacting with wildlife, thanks to Sue Reid Sexton’s Writing on the Road: Campervan Love and the Joy of Solitude. I also shared her emotional journey of being a woman travelling alone. How unsettling the darkness could be when experienced in complete solitude. On one occasion, Sexton writes, “I am in fact utterly terrified. Have I, as feared, just met my maker?”. I have traversed from Shetland to Greenland to Canada to Alaska to Siberia to St Petersburg to Finland and Aland, Sweden and Norway and back again to Shetland courtesy of Malachy Tallack’s, 60 Degrees North. I was introduced to cultures and landscapes completely unknown to me and shared Tallack’s emotional journey dealing with loss, the feeling of displacement, and where it was in the world that he felt was home. When beginning his trip Tallack says, “To make such a journey, in which the final, certain destination must be home, was an act of faithfulness”. Whatever type of literature you enjoy reading, there are a wealth of options available that can not only provide escape but also a connection to the world, increased understanding, and improved emotional wellbeing. 

For those who prefer to escape watching a TV programme, film, or documentary, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, showed there could also be benefits from observing the world in a digital way. It focused on care-home environments to explore various ways of viewing nature virtually. They used TV programmes and virtual reality devices and found that both techniques resulted in improvements to mood and reduced feelings of boredom. Another study in the same journal looking at the connection between nature and pro-environmental behaviours, found that people who watch nature programmes often display more considerate actions towards the health of the planet. These findings not only highlight why popular series like Attenborough’s, Our Planet, are important in raising awareness and understanding of the natural world, but they also show how these provide an important connection to world around us. 

No Wrong Way

Whether you look to nature to create a space of your own, improve health, or be creatively inspired, it is encouraging to know that there are a variety of ways to explore the natural world to help maintain that all-important connection with nature and improve our emotional wellbeing even during times of isolation.

You see before you a clearing in the woods. There is a small wooden cabin and a melodic, winding stream. Here, you feel separate from everyday life. A gentle breeze stirs the air, dancing over your skin like a whisper as it carries the sweet scent of honeysuckle as a welcome-home gift. The afternoon sun shimmers overhead, its gentle warmth surrounds you in a loving embrace. You have come to sit by the stream, to listen to her sing soothing songs. Some nights she is fast flowing, others she is slow, meandering, telling tales of where she has been and where she will go. The motion of the water flows over you as it caresses every rock and boulder. Every cell of your being remembers this place. You are born from the same womb. Coming here reminds you of what gets lost in the rush of day-to-day life; that it is not the deadlines, the duties, the housework, or the cooking that matters. It is about stopping and listening, truly listening, to all that nature has to say.

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: