Window on The West

fenlandsunset

From here I’ve seen

thousands of suns,

the days end with copper glints 

through languorous trees. Summer’s 

apogee is seed of summer’s end, sure 

as swifts scream out the balm of night.

 

A fast-forward pipistrelle delays 

the drawing curtains, ever 

thankful for the light.

On the windowsill the sphinxing cat 

sleeps, pointing 

the way to live

Poem and picture ©copyright rp 2016

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Simply Bee

beeonrosemary1

Nature will provide

There’s enough for you and me

Riches all around

greenfield2

haiku and images ©copyright rp 2016

 

What Goes Around

roundhouse3Providence recently took me to Flag Fen, a three and half thousand year old Bronze Age site in eastern England. What began in a field several decades ago with the discovery of timbers from an ancient causeway, has now transformed into one of the most significant archaeological sites of its kind in Europe.

Flag Fen lies at the fen edge, where the flat lands of the south and east meet with the higher ground to the west. It would have been a rich, much sought after environment then, one the most abundant in Britain at the time.

In those days the fenlands afforded a welcome bounty, an alternative to the interminable forests which had still not been extensively cleared. There would be fishing and fowling in the winter; in the summer as the water levels dropped, massive areas of pasture became available for sheep and cattle to graze on.

soaysheep

I’d been to Flag Fen before maybe a couple of times, though certainly not in the past fifteen years. It has changed of course, there is more to see and do. It even has some of its own Soay sheep to give it that authentic Bronze Age feel. But can we truly feel it?

What I enjoyed the most was the roundhouse reconstruction. That probably goes for a lot of the visitors, too. Yes, it’s only a reconstruction, but common sense tells you that it’s probably pretty accurate. Less accurate were my initial feelings towards these ‘primitive’ people who had to live in such dwellings. Standing before it, there was an odd sense of familiarity about the building. The roundness is, well, homely. It’s dark inside but not depressing, nor suffocating. In the summer it would be a welcome shelter from the sun and the heat. In the winter it would be a shelter from the cold with its wattle and daub walls, turf roof and warming fire. All year round it would simply be a welcoming family home. This would be one of the best alternatives to caves, which offer the same benefits of cool summer shade and warm winter shelter, a more organic and equable way of living through the seasons. It was natural, more efficiently heated than any modern house, even with the earth floors. And by the way, organic was the rule then, not the expensive exception of today.

roundhouse2But ok, so none of these people who lived at Flag Fen were literate. Yet they had a sophisticated working language, intimate knowledge of the seasons and the sky at night. Yes, life was very hard, brutal at times, and most often quite short. However, there was clearly a meaning to their existence. How many of us can say that about ourselves? The wooden causeways they built, the votive offerings of broken knives, swords, spears and other valuable items, they cast into the water either side: They genuinely believed a different dimension lay through and beyond that water. A dimension they inhabited after their death.

And who’s to say they are not right?

They experienced life directly, first hand. There was no TV: They had no news to listen to, no game shows or soap operas to watch, no video games to inure them to life’s crazy extremes. There were few distractions to prevent them from contemplation, the storytelling during the long winter nights. We can only guess who their heroes were. It was a harsh world, a verbal world. A real world. Do we live in a real world, or is it just different?

Neither was there any excuse not to pull your weight during the seasons: You either harvested, pulling together, or you starved. Everyone was involved, you invested your energy into your own community. You depended on your family, your community and vice versa.

roundhouse1So, would I swap my existence for one three thousand five hundred years ago on this piece of fen edge? Probably not, but I came away thinking that these people, invisible now, yet tantalisingly close at hand, were more than my equal. I feel I could learn a lot from them, discover something more meaningful in my own life, something better than merely typing these vain words, casting them into the ether. At least that Flag Fen farmer cast seeds that grew, caught fish to eat, slaughtered his own livestock. By comparison I feel almost like a pale shadow, whilst he positively interacts with his environment. So is there anything worthwhile I could teach him? I can’t think of a thing.

Perhaps we should reclaim (while we can, if we can) some of the practical, timeless knowledge we have lost, effectively go one step back to go two forward. It’s certainly foolish, arrogant of us to believe that Bronze Age men were in any way inferior to ourselves.

roundhouse4

© words and pictures copyright rp 2016

Poem: A Tramp Speaks

Soon after he arrived I gave him
some food. Half way through
his ham and eggs he raised a fork,
pointing it at me as if he had
a thought:

“The universe is where you are, not
somewhere else. Belief is the key,
not truth. Truth is relative,
subjective,
so don’t look for it.

Believe
in what’s important
to you
and go all out. Then keep it
to yourself.”

© copyright David F. Barker

Solstice

solstice

I stood alone
with you,
like it was the end of our world, an
eerie glowing sky reflecting my heart, with
the solstice on its way. You
turned to look at me, that smile
I knew so well, your gracious nod
I’d never seen in real life. My hand
went through you – you were not
there anymore, just an echo like the
sonorous bells over pantiles, made
uniform by the morning rime. You said
I looked ‘frit!’ in the dialect
brought across to your city,
the voice of your
distinction. ‘Your life is not
your own,’ you said, ‘even the sun
never stands still, only seems to.’
So you told me not to worry, not
even care, to let it all go
now, that it’s better to die trying
than do nothing,
a short life
with meaning and all its
tortuous crosses borne, can become
a pilot light of inspiration. You
walked towards the sea, smiling
once more and unafraid, before vanishing
out of time into the
low glinting sun, a promise
of far off warmth
and the revelation to come

image and poem © copyright Dave Barker 2012

Poem: ‘München 1980s’

Toit stade Munich

Toit stade Munich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Munich was the revelation, a summer
day and sultry night spent on streets
full of girls.
Americans from Boston, all eyes,
all teeth and smiles, never knowing
the word ‘retreat’. But they froze
in the face of my voice, my accent
(and so what is that all about?). Not a word
to comprehend, though one
would understand my kiss.

Then we rose in circles of museums,
BMWs going back in time— looking
further out toward Alps, first glimpses of
Olympic legacies, where Bayern now
played in their blazing red. More
a work of art than a stadium; like
the girl at the counter, almost beyond
beauty, leaving me speechless
and sadly gawping. “What is this?”
I asked myself. “What are you
doing to me, this feeling?”

So typical of me, my mind going off
in tangents, to eastern philosophies
of afterlives and rebirth. Patience
has made her beautiful, patience
in forgotten pasts, risen up
into this image which attracts
without trying, like a baby or a kitten,
yet so deep, more profound.

I found myself smiling into
cobalt eyes, stuttering my worst
German words. And all the poor girl did
was blush

poem © copyright David F. Barker 2012
* inspired by a trip to Munich way back when
and Claudia’s fine prompt for dVerse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NIi-Q09gLs

Some favourite music for a hot sultry night…

Poem ‘Think of Me’

Think of me

please pay your respects
to the dust trodden into carpets,
ingrained in chairs
and in curtains,
all along these tired window ledges

Then will you write my name
on the dusty shelves
where my books used to lie?
For in truth
they were more surely me

image and poem © copyright dfbarker 2012