What is Common Ground?
Once synonymous with the NI countryside, we only have one breeding pair of corncrakes left. Help shape an agricultural policy that helps bring them back by taking action here:
This is a call to petition, on Twitter, by Nature Matters NI, that was tweeted just as I sat down to write for Corncrake Magazine.
Synchronicity or what? (more…)
At the Margins
Common Ground can be found in overlooked places, where rich land and poor entangle. The farmers of Tempo looked across the valley, past the orderly estates of Brookeborough, to the wild and barren heights of Slieve Beagh and Mullaghfad. Tattenabuddah lies between, a hidden, intricate place, not well suited to large schemes or great plantations of either trees or people. The boundaries here are wide, and each a world in itself.
The Silo Gallery
(inspired by Jeremy Henderson’s I ran down the Hill of History)
I stood mesmerized by one painting
It’s a landscape of hills and valleys, water and sky
that took me way back
to the Broadhaven Bay I knew.
There was something else that drew me in;
I stepped nearer to see what it might be.
Rain Lough Sea
(after Jeremy Henderson)
Layer on layer upon layer of lustrous paint
Creating striations of wondrous colours:
Indigo, red, green, yellow and Klein Blue
Intertwining with one another so playfully
On the vast virtual loom of the canvas.
The warp and weft of the silken oils create
A virile landscape of verisimilar aquatics
Following the serpentine course of the Lough.
The Art of Sliabh Beagh
after a Sliabh Beagh Arts sculpture
Hello Crow, how bright the light
That shines in your gimlet eye
Set amongst furls of fine plumage
Illustrated by the glittering voids
Made in the blackened metal plate
By the artist’s sharp, cultured blade.
IN THE FIELDS OF COMMON GROUND
Out in the meadow in bright sunshine
She explained about “wilding,” about rattle
and field buttercup, about late cutting of grasses
and the importance of time to flower and seed.
How hedgerows and margins encourage life:
how sometimes it is better to do nothing
and just let nature take its course.
Bringing the Meadows Back to Life
Viewed from above, the “Emerald Isle” is indeed very, very green. Unfortunately, from a conservation point of view, the lush, uniform grassland that dominates our 21st-century landscape is the wrong shade of green. (more…)
Seasons of Seeds
Seeds strewn on eager soil
seem to die into dust
dissipate into air
over the meadows.
Seeds burst open
creeping green stems
stretch advancing out
covering the ground.
The sky is clear tonight;
late frost sparkles the rushes, casting back
the light of distant suns
The moon, full as a silver thruppence,
shines the trackless grass pure white.
No shadow moves but one.
Lopsided loping leather-horn
crouch back, old-woman-wise, she comes.
This is her world, and yet
she does not sleep.
The Old Fort
How many men climbed up this field – and saw the land as we do now
How many families joined them – in the settlement upon the brow
A place of safety on a hill – with Druid stones above the rill
That marks the place where once there stood – a Celtic fort
I reclined by the river in borrowed chair
and while the breeze off the meadow ruffled my hair,
Frankie amused and regaled us with tales of the hay
and how it used to be “won” way back in the day.
Anecdotes, amusing, informative, yet sometimes so sad:
how day-to-day life was lived in times that went bad.
Tessie and Charlie
I wrote the following two short poems recalling memories of my Aunt Tessie and Uncle Charlie. A sister and brother of my father’s they lived in a thatched cottage at the end of Tempo Main Street in County Fermanagh. They were the last to live in the cottage where my grandmother and grandfather had raised fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls, born from the mid-1890’s to 1919. (more…)
Philosopher in the Ditch
He pushed the empty dinner plate away
Knife and fork lay respectfully side by side
And picked up the child’s blue stocking-filler flute
Huge hands gripped where small hands fit
Fingers swollen fat as cows teats at evening milking
Ooze blood from countless thorn and briar lacerations
Each knuckle bent; etched deep with wrinkles as a thinker’s brow
A lot has been written about place, the importance of it in our hearts and souls. We all come from somewhere. The places of our childhood are indelibly pressed into our psyche. Fields are particular places, defined by the boundary hedges around them. When we ‘go into’ a field that it gives us a strong sense of having left one space and entered into another. It gives off its own ambience; as with people, we relate to each field in a particular way.
The Milk Run
Back when we first joined the Common Market as it was then, a change came to the country. Concrete lanes snaked round hills to farmyards where once the track was so rutted they were more easily approached across fields and ditches.
Five-barred tubular galvanised gates began to replace alike the ancient wrought iron and the makeshifts of barbed wire, branches and binder twine. (more…)