Recently I celebrated the birthday of an old friend with whom I spent a rich weekend, sweeping back the detritus of the intervening years and making space for moving on.

Other meaningful autumn birthdays haunt me each harvest-time and Hallowe’en. With time I bid them welcome and make them space.

Last October I went on a solo writing retreat at Adhisthana, a Buddhist Centre in Herefordshire. A weekend group writing course had been cancelled.  I asked if I could still attend and “be my own teacher”.  The community welcomed me, and offered hospitality, shared meals,  and a room above the library space.

In the event, I spent much of the weekend asleep or resting – I was recovering from a heavy cold. For part of my stay, there was drizzle, dankness and stagnation – reflecting my mood.

Equally, there was also fine weather. Blessed by the late sunshine, I ambled through the gardens or sat by the window, my lap open to afternoon warmth and ease.

I was able to drop down into a deep place of peace and acceptance, and to bathe in the golden generosity that seemed to flow from the oak trees, the wisping reeds, the glinting cockerel atop the local parish church beyond the fields.

In my journaling I have frequently explored the notions of waste, recycling, leaving a light footprint, and letting go. The wastewater at Adhisthana flows through a reedbed purification system –  a valuable wildlife habitat – and I was drawn to it again and again.

Here are two poems, both © Kathy McVittie October 2016

Re : treatment of the raw

wandering round the reedbed here

I let myself be moved to tears

by what was sighed by wind and rain

and let my body breathe again./

the purple loosestrife turned to fawn

the willow-herb’s soft rose had gone

the flag leaves of the common reed

had turned, like autumn, into need./

the apple cheeks, unpicked, were pecked

the tiny aspen leaves were specked

and pencilled clumps of boggy rush

leaned to the edge, into the brush./

hemp agrimony ran to seed

and turned, like autumn, into weed

a-withering beyond the edge

I squatted down among the sedge./

the trees beyond, where sheep-fells rolled

were sombre, still, yet one was gold

and when the cockerel caught the gleams

of light, the church spire echoed beams./

Sunday: so tired, so overplayed

yet this is why my nerves are frayed

oh this is why my song’s unsung.

I am bowed down by all this dung.

© Kathy McVittie 16 October 2016



breakfast at Adhisthana

(for Cittamodani)

First to arrive:

last to leave./

Taking time

under the solid rain

taking space

under the clearing skies

taking my place

centre stage

in the core of

the dining hall./

Separate table

first person singular

the only table

that’s unlaid;

in full public view

writing out my inner critic

still moved to silent tears./

When I leave this place

I hope to leave no trace

no crumb, no hair, no flake of skin

but that’s an idle whim./

What I will leave:

four hugs,

a dozen smiles,

a book of poetry,

an oak twig by Green Tara’s feet,

and footsteps in the field.

© Kathy McVittie 16 October 2016