Sunday, 27 February 2011

>Language >Place Blog Carnival - Edition 4

The contributions to this fourth edition of the blog carnival trace a meandering, creative, self-reflective path through the vicissitudes of place and language. Some point in particular to an expansion of or challenge to identity: "another language, another place, another self". If the section headers are like street signs, these are streets that intersect and double back.

Colours of a Different Place
 Steve Wing: Firefly Domain's Posterous  


Hatches and Despatches 
In January, there's a round-up for the year in the bulletin of our local commune... I always take a quick glance at the naissances column... I've noticed that the Celtic style names of the first wave, such as Erwann, Tanguy, Gildas, Kevin (the first three more authentically Breton, the last a bit later I think, and now become a cause of middle-class wincing), seem to have fallen away rather in favour of more novel and (perhaps) hybrid ones.  Old-fashioned very classic French names seem rare as hen's teeth (more 

First Language 
Finnish was my first language. I was five years old when my family emigrated to Canada. Arriving in Winnipeg, I was promptly placed in school, not knowing a word of English. Now that was language immersion! I don't remember much of those early scary days. I was already reading Finnish and we continued to speak Finnish at home. I learned English quickly enough as children do, but my parents' English was never perfect. LIke many working class immigrants, they were too busy working hard to survive to take more than a couple of basic language classes.(more) 


Hatsepshut's Temple
I have a fixation about the ancient Egyptian egomaniac Hatshepsut and the reason I went to Luxor was to go back to that ancient time and place where I believe I once belonged and was her and commanded things to be done. Like building this stupendous temple to make sure I wouldn't be forgotten by future generations. And behold here they are those future generations, in their touristic thousands, walking up and down clicking their cameras, the name Hatshepsut always on their tongues - Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian... (more)
Natalie d'Arbeloff: Blaugustine

At the center of the cozy room is a kotatsu, a low table with a heating element set underneath. The saké is served hot. The shabu-shabu pot is set to bubble so that supper can be cooked right there. You are warm from inside the deepest part of your heart to the tips of both of your little fingers ... then someone calls for Yukimizaké! (This one word in Japanese actually means "snow viewing whilst drinking saké in order to enhance the beauty of the snow scene.") With red cheeks, you bravely call back, "ikimashyô!" Let us go ~ out into the snow! (more)
Rouchswalwe: Fünffingerplätzje'

Some Other Faces [Chengdu]
Finally, after a few days of seeing just Birdy, I get to meet a few of the other foreigners here. Just around the corner of the university gates are a few restaurants. Many of them are run by Muslims. Probably because Xinjiang Province is close by. They are quite distinctive from Han Chinese. You can spot a Muslim Chinese a mile away. Their features are different – and their dress and mannerisms different. One of the restaurants I like is run by a friendly Muslim woman. She is almost always sitting outside the restaurant, urging customers to step inside. In front of her are flat breads – almost like a pizza base we know back home. (more)

I Walked [New York]
I walked on snow and tainted thoughts about the future. Another self, dwelling away from home. Sometimes the lock was frozen and it took a hair dryer for me to go outside. Other times I fumbled in my pocket for a lost ticket--to the art museum that left me in a daze; for the train ride that fleeted past like a ghost retrieved from an old film. (more)
Nicolette Wong: Meditations in an Emergency

Intercambio [Barcelona]
The Raval never stops. Volem un barri digne, plead banners on residents’ balconies. Women work on the corner day and night. I hear shouts and songs and sirens and skateboards rattling past. Cannabis smoke wafts up from the neighbour’s place. Hashish, offers a man walking past us on La Rambla. Juan’s place got broken into recently and the door’s still fucked; I hide my laptop under a bag of laundry like that’s going to fool the burglars. And I know this place, not like the back of my hand, not like I’m a goddamn expert on how everything works, but I know it and it’s where I feel good. (more)
Nine: Abyssinia, Henry


La Isla [Lanzarote]
Everything was moving there, every single grain of sand. That's what she realized some days later, at the beach, where she stood still and watched the wind move across the ground. And was stunned. For what she saw was the miniature of a dune desert: the beach, a lake of motion, a genesis of sand, following the path of the wind. She kneeled down, and touched one of the tiny dunes, wondering where it came from, and how far it could travel. The dune gave its answer by gliding on underneath her hand. (more)
Dorothee Lang: Virtual Notes

Another Place
I'm a poet. To me visual poems are another place of another language to another self. When I'm in these places anything is possible to me, I can fly, I can reach something nearly impossible. These poems in here are from the year 2008 (originally). I made them by cutting Abu Nuwais poetry. I cut the pages from his book and built a new world, a new place and language from these cuttings. And at the same time it was also a trip to myself, to my soul and body, to my skull where my inside world met the outside world. (more)


Unicornian for Beginners
Almine channels messages from unicorns, merfolk, dragons, giants, the pegassus (which she uses as a collective noun—deal with it), and some mini-dragons called “twitches.” She transcribes first into unicorn (or whatever) speech and then translates. Here, for example, is the name of one unicorn: Brshmirklekleurtlvapelshnuritvakulesna, meaning “The one who whispers ‘fairies are real’.” That’s one of the shorter names. (more)
Cathy Douglas: City Mouse

Rudas Bath
A steamy experience in Hungary is featured as ‘Monday’s Poem’ at Leaf Press:
rudas bath, budapest.  The process that accompanied publication included a linguistic snag: The original submission was called ‘rudas gyógyfürdő, budapest’. The Hungarian word ‘gyógyfürdő’ translates into English as ‘medicinal bath’. This word–gyógyfürdő–is the one that caused the glitch. Late Sunday evening, the night before publication, I opened an email from Leaf Press publisher Ursula Vaira: I am working on the poem now, and am stuck on the last o in gyógyfürdő … my software (Dreamweaver) simply has no character for that.  Even when I go to a website and copy the word and paste it directly in, it still turns up as a question mark. (more)
Karyn Eisler: Living?s

Lost in Translation [Paris]
“Dites moi ce que vous en pensez,” said the old woman. “Tell me what you think.”
The girl had been gazing at the canvas, an astonishing explosion of color amidst a grey background of tattered cardboard and greasy clothing and tired plastic bags, and she now sensed the woman’s gaze on her. What could she say? That she wanted to press her cheek into the cool ocean purples, put her lips to the milky sky and drink? (more)
Michelle Elvy: Glow Worm

Visiting Places
It had been a while since they had travelled anywhere. They wanted to, but couldn’t; they never spoke about it. On this Saturday evening, she suggested a walk through town: let us pretend to be tourists, she said, and picked up the camera. He didn’t see the point, but agreed.
Afternoon rain had followed morning snowfall, and although the slushy streets made walking difficult, the sky was clear and the air fresh; it seemed like a new place after all, she said. (more)

Stone Story
Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.
He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two. (more)
Stella Pierides

Where do You Come From?   [Trinidad]
asks the stranger by the ocean,
who looks at me, full in the face,
all activities of gathering blossom forgotten.

I open my mouth to reply, all there is,
is a gargoyle glare as my tongue sticks
in a groove, words lodge in my throat.

Sheree Mack: Every Day Creativity 3

Metro Stories
So: it's late one night on a crowded Green Line metro car running between McGill and Berri/UQAM. The first speaker is a tall Quebecer, anglophone, pale reddish complexion, sandy hair and beard, 20-ish; looks rather straight. His friend: same age, also Caucasian and anglophone but with dreadlocks and loose clothes, affecting a worldly hippie look. (more)
Beth Adams: The Cassandra Pages


Old Dust Made New
First day of school: I do not speak a word of English. Copy everything painstakingly from the blackboard. (My dad will decipher it for me when I get home.) My classroom has dark green metal shutters for windows. On the first day the only thing I can do is draw.

A vignette and a poem from the time I grew up in Nigeria. The vignette is brand new. The poem old dust made new was first published in One Ghana, One Voice. It was written for their Harmattan series.(more)
Daniela Elza: Strange Places

Bento Boxes
Tweny-five years ago I outsourced my motivation to the Japanese. I wore the Kansai humidity like a second skin and shaved my beard to get closer to the soup. I went to all kinds of extremes, even fell in love. Anything to avoid going to class.
Opening a bento was like taking the roof off a cheap apartment building, the kind where you can hear every word through the thin walls but understand nothing. I speak from experience: the woman in the next apartment had a screaming orgasm every afternoon at 3:00. My roommate took to accompanying her on the guitar. (more)
Dave Bonta: Via Negativa

The Pyrenees, The Cathars and Imago
I want to tell you now about the genesis of my novel Imago, due out any day.
The first time I went to the Pyrenees I was 14, and travelling with my French penfriend and her family. We were crossing to stay in a village by the sea in the foothills in Spanish Catalonia.
I remember three things from that trip: a sense that this hauntingly beautiful mountain range was in some important way significant to me; a day's ride into the mountains on big grey (white) Spanish horses, just me with my penfriend's gorgeous and rather awe-inspiring older male cousins; and a severe and acute mystery illness, where I was delirious for several days, and couldn't even keep down water. This is the first time I remember having what would have to be called an out-of-body experience. (more)
Roselle Angwin: Qualia and Other Wildlife

Reforma Agrária
My name there was Joana. They talked to me all day and at first I understood little, but I learned quickly, as you do in case of need. My boyfriend spoke Portuguese, but was rarely with me to interpret. Gender apartheid ruled in both farmwork and homelife. I've a lasting image of his backview disappearing on a tractor, on the pillion of a battered motorbike - an unfamiliar backview at that, for on day two they took him to the barber and I saw him for the first time with short hair. (more)
Jean Morris: tasting rhubarb

Paris 1986
The metro.
The dogshit.
The smoke.
The traffic.
The noise.
The stairs.
The walls.
The silence.

Pica: Feathers of Hope



Their Next
Michael Solender reads his short story about an American's final journey to a remote monastery in Bhutan. (video)
Michael J Solender: not from here, are you?

Sunday Afternoon
This was going to be a post about words and worlds. The spaces turned into places by the swift needles of language. There was going to be something about how text patterns experience. About how, these days, experience fragments text in turn.
The post was going to start with how for Gaston Bachelard, who used to muse about the poetics of space, words "are little houses, each with its cellar and garret," a structured space in which poetry is channeled from the cellars of  obscure etymologies to the garrets of dreams far removed from the ground-level drawing rooms of common sense. (more)
Maria Benet: Small Change


Edition 5 of the >Language >Place blog carnival will be edited and hosted by Parmanu

Submissions will be open from 1 to 20 March, with the next edition planned to go online by the start of April. Check out the guidelines here.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Cathédrale sous la pluie

A few more photos of Ely Cathedral in the rain are here. Taken in a hurry and all from the same side, because gosh it was wet! Nice light, though.

Friday, 25 February 2011

"Black Fen they call it"

Oddly enough, after last week's thoughts of Portugal in 1978, I found myself the following day, via an exhibition of new and wonderful photographs, back in the 1970s again. "You have to remember how things were then", said the interviewer of Justin Partyka about his photographs in the new edition of a book written in 1975.  Oh my, I'm old enough to be part of a living history lesson! - as were the women of Isleham, a village in the Cambridgeshire Fens, when Mary Chamberlain talked to them in 1975 for her pioneering oral history book, Fenwomen, which was the first book published by Virago Press.  

The interviewer, looking back to 1975, meant not just the long lives of the older women on the land, already then becoming rare memories, but also the low pay, poor conditions and blatant sex discrimination of the scattered new light industries and service sector becoming the main employers of younger women in this then still quite isolated rural region of few opportunities. 

Full Circle Editions have republished Fenwomen in a fine-quality hardbacked edition - an object of great pleasure for the hands and eyes - which also includes new photos of Isleham commissioned from Norfolk photographer Justin Partyka, known for his much praised East Anglians series - pictures of Norfolk farmers. I'd seen these on the Internet (via Conscientious, I believe. As so often, a voice from far away points me, via the Internet, to something close to home) so the chance to see some of his work for Fenwomen at an exhibition in Ely, a few miles from Isleham, was not to be missed.

It rained, as it can in those parts: a drenching mist that turns everything dim and ghostlike - people, buildings, trees, everything but the black earth of the fens, whose blackness deepens in the rain. Travelling damply from London to Cambridge to Ely, I wondered why I'd come. I could have stayed at home, stayed dry and got some work done. It was worth getting wet for! This small exhibition moved and impressed me as much as any photographs have ever done, and photography has affected me more and more these past few years of my late, blog-born enthusiasm.

Here was a distillation of what I love about the fenland landscape. In the big city, amidst so much, I experience such nothingness. There, in the flat, empty, watery, windy countryside, there is so much, space for so much - such vastness and such smallness, such expanses of monochrome and intensity of colour. On the Internet, I'd loved the subject matter and the composition of Justin Partyka's photographs of rural landscapes and people, a certain compelling ethos. It took the large, high quality prints to help me fully appreciate the deep, touchable texture of the works, their visceral thingness.

So it was a strong experience seeing these few prints hanging in a small room; a strong experience too to hear the photographer speak about them, to learn how from Norfolk he went to study folklore in North America, got to know the work of John Cohen and Cohen's film about Norfolk ballad singer Walter Pardon, and thus came full circle (like the publishing house) back home to Norfolk, to take photographs of the East Anglian countryside and its inhabitants that are full of shadow and colour, knowledge and feeling and questions.

Justin Partyka's photos and Mary Chamberlain's book have in common a patient, serious study and waiting, a certain raw sensibility, and respect for a harsh, particular rural life that has almost disappeared.  They go finely together and are deeply engaging.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

From Magdalene Bridge

I crossed Magdalene Bridge every day, often many times a day, when I was a student in Cambridge. So crossing it now is like looking down a telescope at all the other times long ago - an inevitable introspection intrudes into a moment that may not be introspective at all. I stop and worry about being too introspective here - rarely anything else, really. I don't live in a vacuum: the recent popular revolts and natural disasters, as well as all the other huge, ongoing global and less global suffering and dilemmas, are daily in my thoughts and feelings, along with the British weather (it's stopped raining!) and the weather in my own mind. Those thoughts and feelings are doubtless typical of any middle-aged Western liberal - nothing new or startling, but I do have them, and do question this small, continual maundering on about my own immediate environment. What I end up thinking, I suppose, is that noticing, reflection, self-reflection are necessary in all circumstances. Otherwise we scarcely exist and can't imagine how things might be better.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Every day it rains

Every day it rains: every day a different dance of cold and damp under the same grey sky.
A new umbrella: the green one is broken, the black one too - they were designed for occasional, not daily, use.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Friday, 18 February 2011

Reforma agrária

Woman's costume authentic. Man alongside, perhaps not so authentic

For the >Language >Place blog carnival (still time to contribute to Edition 4), I find myself mining my very first blogposts from years ago, where place and language, the things that had formed and held me, figured large. This one is substantially rewritten - a bleaker mood, I think, than when I first recalled these things.

We rose at four. A hasty gulp of coffee with warm goat's milk (warm from the goat), as I fumbled into the strange costume that each day felt less strange: close-fitting, hand-sewn cotton leggings under a short skirt; long-sleeved cotton shirt; headscarf topped by a small bowler hat; sandals easy to slip off and stand, squelch barefoot in the shallow, muddy water of the rice fields. A big haul up into the back of a lorry, sway and chug at sunrise on rutted tracks to today's field.  My name there was Joana. They talked to me all day and at first I understood little, but I learned quickly, as you do in case of need. My boyfriend spoke Portuguese, but was rarely with me to interpret. Gender apartheid ruled in both farmwork and homelife. I've a lasting image of his backview disappearing on a tractor, on the pillion of a battered motorbike - an unfamiliar backview at that, for on day two they took him to the barber and I saw him for the first time with short hair.

The work was back-breaking. Hours bent double in fields of chickpeas, tomatoes, rice - the watery rice fields cooler, at least. Rows of women's bottoms, all sizes, raised to the sun. The bowler hats held tightly with elastic on inverted heads. Raucous, shouted conversation down the rows: words that began to have pattern and rhythm, then meaning, now mostly forgotten, for I've never been back to Portugal since that summer of 1978. We'd hitchhiked from the North of England to the Alentejo, volunteered our services on a communist-run co-operative farm. It was just four years since the Carnation Revolution. Watching events in North Africa and the Middle East, many recall the non-violent revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe. Only a few have also recalled the end of Spain's and Portugal's dictatorships in the 1970s. This makes me feel old. Most commentators are so young.

That summer, ideals and alternatives still prevailed. For good or ill, it was all to be short-lived, the radical project soon abandoned, expropriated lands returned, though the Alentejo still votes Left, I believe. I'm not as sad about this as I might be. For it was also the summer of ideals shattering, of seeing how communism meant women bent double in the fields and men riding on tractors; after work, women bent double in the communal wash-house and men in the village bar; only one woman on the elected farm council. Alone in the barn at night, we rowed, me and my boyfriend. We looked at each other with new eyes, our youthful attempts at equality evanescing in the face of powerfully held communal values, drawn back so quickly into the separate tribes of our sexes.

The women were glad for the end of tyrannical government, they said, but no, their lives had not changed. They were tough women, had to be. Don't be soft!, the older women were forever telling the young ones. Não fica mole! (Was that the phrase? Most of that summer's Portuguese has faded). Those women's lives must have changed, in the decades that followed, in ways they couldn't imagine then - and neither could I. The flight to the cities, an end to illiteracy and a to particular, grinding, rural deprivation. And a good thing too, in almost every way. A 'soft' place in my heart remembers, though, milk warm from the goat and the silhouettes of bowler-hatted women against a dawn sky.

Portuguese goats came a few years after French cows. There are absolutely no more agricultural memories in store.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Just yesterday

When I scrawled that phrase yesterday about 'my project' here, I'd forgotten that six years ago on 15 February 2005 was when I started blogging - or perhaps not forgotten, just displaced the knowledge to a deeper layer of a mind stuffed at the surface with workaday things.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Life, Legend, Landscape

round the back of the Courtauld Gallery

Why do I like this photo? It's kind of aesthetically satisfying, with the sharp wedge of sunlight, the silhouetted figure and the just-about-visible poster. It's not obvious - the grotty back entrance - but has it charms. I mostly like it because I identify with it.  My project, I suppose, as a person, as a blogger, is to look for the subtle, oddball felicities visible even from here.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Links that really link

The best link I saw all week was this one, which says it all about the winter we've had in London - blogged and reblogged several times by the time I saw it, and all the more powerful for the shared, repeated "oh, YES!"

In general, though, I guess I'm not the greatest fan of blogging conceived of as mainly an exchange of links, although there are glowing exceptions, those who have made it an art form, like the exciting, revealing and highly individual ongoing compilation that is wood s lot.

It's always a thrill to be linked in that endless stream of new knowledg and pleasures, or to see a familiar blogger there. One recent link on the lot was to Parmanu, who's lately been moving some of his online essays in a new direction - a series or circle of linked pieces to be viewed in any order. It's a lovely use of the form that encourages a more thoughtful and sustained experience than the common hopping from one disparate thing to another. 

Alternatives to relentless variety were also what drew me to Five Branch Tree (discovered, alas, just very lately, and now he's gone on hiatus, but there are archives to explore). I like the way he pursues a topic or person through a whole series of posts. I'd like to do that.

The links worth loving, of course, are links between hearts and minds, sometimes momentary and sometimes ongoing. Those are the kind of links you hope to highlight in a blog carnival - art and writing on a shared theme, with contributions that speak to, spark and reinspire each other, and draw in participants for the next time. So I'm really happy about the >Language >Place blog carnival, and that Edition 4  will be hosted here towards the end of February. There's a suggested theme for this edition: "Another place, another language, another self". Ever felt you were someone else, that new bits of you came to the fore in a strange place or through the medium of a different language? I certainly have, and would love to hear about others' experiences of this. As always, contributions on the wider theme of language and place, both new and from your archives, will also be welcome. Submission details are here, and the deadline is next Sunday 20 February.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Poets of Mount Ogura

A beautiful small surprise earlier this week was the BBC Radio 3 late evening Essay by Stephen H Gill, of Kyoto, on Mount Ogura, its long history as the home of poets and the current campaigns to save the mountain's environment.  Poetry readings in Japanese and English - just wonderful. And sad.

The programme audio link (15 minutes - fast-forward for a minute or so for start) is available until Sunday 13 February. Stephen H Gill is one of those behind the Icebox haiku blog. He's also one of the People Together for Mount Ogura, on which I found this extensive article with photos.  One hundred poets on Mount Ogura (scroll down the publications list) is a book published recently to raise funds for their work.

Even the birds' nests
high on Mount Ogura
laced with blue nylon scraps
Stephen H Gill

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Open City

Have you ever been to a wedding - you were there when the couple met, or you saw them one day when they were first going out, and you thought to yourself, oh yes, yes, this is a lovely relationship that's going to last, so at the wedding you feel ridiculously satisfied and proprietorial? It's a sweet, if unfounded and self-referential feeling, and it's rather how I feel as a novel called Open City is published in the US today. 

I'd encountered a brilliant and surprising writer, Teju Cole, in one guise and another, from when I first started reading blogs. One day he blogged a bit of something that seemed to be fiction.  And it was wonderful, as beautifully written and compelling as any novel I had ever read, and not at all like anything I'd ever read. Those first early intimations were a good while ago. He stopped blogging, and was much missed. But now a novel hits the streets, already garnering great praise and rave reviews like this and this.

I'll try and write about it properly, of course, as many people will be, and there'll be much to say. Today, though, I just want to jump up and down and cheer.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

More Mayfair windows

and more carpets, but it's not all carpets... more windows here

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Today in Mayfair

Mayfair carpet shop
When I came out of the cinema, late afternoon, a few hundred people were walking through Mayfair, shouting Mubarak, out! There were many old Egyptians, as well as young - white beards and arm-in-arm, head-scarved girls, and the usual British back-up: Green Left, Stop the War... Waiters (mostly Middle-Eastern around there) emerged from the back doors of restaurants to watch them pass. At the front of this very unaggressive crowd was a tight rank of motor-cycle cops and at the back four large police vans with flashing lights, while armed guards swaggered prominently outside the embassies - an uncomfortable reminder of the limits on our freedoms.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Sebald, translation, photography

A while ago I had a half-formed idea about trying to put together a submission to the Translation issue of Qarrtsiluni (which is now turning out to be an absolutely spellbinding issue, a magical stream of exceptional small works).  I'd come upon this poor quality but interesting photo I took a long time ago of a passer-by doubly reflected in a double-glazed office window. I was thinking about how this image - two parallel versions -the same, but not the same - evoked the idea of an original and its translation.  Also about why photography in general puts me in mind of translation and vice versa - something about them both relating to the essence and the image and their changing places. I quickly realised that I'd need to think about this for several years before I had anything coherent to say. The notion continues to simmer, though, and came back to a rolling boil when I saw the photo sequence that Kate Griffin, co-director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, had put together on her terrific photo blog, in conjunction with a quotation from W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, in time for this year's annual Sebald Lecture and literary translation prizes

" If language may be regarded as an old city full of streets and squares, nooks and crannies, with some quarters dating from far back in time while others have been torn down, cleaned up and rebuilt, and with suburbs reaching further and further into the surrounding country ..."

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Trail Mix

Yo! So I have a new baby blog, Trail Mix: small things found on the path.  It's nice and slim and minimalist and makes use of one of my very favourite (minimalist) photos. I guess if I didn't get such childish pleasure from a brand new little web-thing that is mine, all mine, made by me... well, I wouldn't be here

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Stony month

January hasn't been an easy month. The sun has scarcely shown itself - not in the sky over London and not in my heart - and grey midwinter, when it blends seamlessly with your inner climate, is pretty unbearable, even though you know it's not personal and you know it's going to end. So why write, why blog, when my workload keeps growing and my energy keeps shrinking and all I want to do is escape the senseless cycle of effort, curl up and numb everything out?

(Not just a self-pity fest. I've also been seriously attempting lately to change some niggling bad habits and dependencies. This is really hard and has made the bleak midwinter feel even more grinding. It's a worthwhile effort, though, so all is not perhaps so grim).

Anyway, this is the background against which, every single day, I've thought: no, I can't summon the energy to notice something and write it down for the River of Stones January challenge, and every single day I've thought: and what's more, I don't want to. What's the point?

And every day I've moved through these thoughts and done it, and every day I've been enormously glad of such a small thing. Glad because it slowed down time and opened up a space and something else, however trivial, entered the picture. Glad because a daily practice, as I know from meditation practice, which sadly has gone by the board a bit recently, is a powerfully strengthening, stabilising, calming thing. Glad because every time was a reminder that I can pause and take a breath and look elsewhere for a moment whenever I feel sucked into a cycle of overwhelm and powerlessness, as keeps on happening when there's 'so much to do'. Glad because I somehow do still want to write and this daily writing of even a few attentive words is truly, wholly writing, and slowly, slowly eases me back into the flow of a broader impulse and ability to write. And very glad to know that a lot of others seem to feel the same

So, a big thank you to Fiona and Kaspa for their January project and all my good wishes for their plans to facilitate an ongoing online community for writing practice. This is a potent, positive thing, as several hundred participants have already shown.

As for me, I hope to carry on. I've set up a new baby blog and will have a go at writing a few words daily, or close to daily, in emulation of some micro-blogs I greatly cherish and admire, like Dave's Morning Porch, Lucy's Out with Mol and not least Fiona's Small Stones.

I had no aim for January beyond paying close attention to something every day and describing it in a few words.  Maybe this will veer off into more specific topics or formats from time to time.  Maybe a single ongoing focus will emerge. I don't know yet.

It starts here