The crisp winter days are capturing my attention. Mid afternoon sun falling through the woodland paths where we walk our Dachshund (when she is in the mood for walking).
Long shadows fall across the paths. I’m waiting for the first signs of Spring, snowdrops and bulbs pushing through the frozen ground. The starlings are gathering in the trees at the back of our house. All the woodland paths are punctuated by a chatter of bird song.
A sense of movement and change is in the air, each day a new beginning.
We welcomed the New Year with a walk along Hunmanby Gap beach today. A few brave folks were having a New Year’s day dip in the Sea. Strolling along the sand, listening to the waves rolling in and feeling the wind on my face was enough for me.
I would love to claim credit for making pebble pictures of 2022 and a spiral, but we found these along our walk. Today’s adventure was a treat for our Dachshund who doesn’t care for walking much, but does adore the beach. It’s so cute to see her giddy with excitement on the sand.
I was thinking about New Years Resolutions as we walked. Mine this year is to keep on keeping on. Writing is a lengthy process, it’s too easy to give up. I’m going to press on with writing daily and forging ahead with my PhD. The process is as important as the end product. Over the last 7 years I have gradually phased more art and creative writing into my life, I’m looking forward to devoting more time and attention to writing and creativity during 2022.
‘You get to know grey in Scotland in winter. Either you make yourself miserable wishing for summer’s saturated hues, or you embrace grey in all its endless subtleties.’
Samantha Clark – The Clearing. A Memoir of Art, Family and Mental Health. (2020)
When I first started teaching people to use writing to connect to the natural world, I ran a ten week ecotherapy class called Winter Solace. We looked at the beauty of nature through the winter months and talked about using the winter months to take a cue from nature and take a rest.
In grey we can find many shades and hues of colour, something the artist Samantha Clark wrote about in her memoir The Clearing . A beautiful poetic book, with so many themes I could identify with.
We make our own happiness with the narratives we tell ourselves about the world. Instead of focusing on the cold grey winter months, I choose instead to look to everything that is beautiful, dew drops on a spiders web, the delicate veins of a leaf skeleton, the sliding colours of a river…
Last summer, completely by accident, I stumbled upon the breath taking nature reserve of St Cyrus. I only found it because we were looking for somewhere to let the dog stretch her (very short sausage dog legs) and to break up our journey travelling through Scotland.
We followed a track that took us from the road across a wooden footbridge and sand dunes to the beautiful wind swept beach of St Cyrus. We weren’t expecting the vast stretch of sand before us, but there was also another surprise that was one of the strangest things I have ever seen in my life.
We walked for a mile along the beach and found an inlet of rocks and granite stone. In one of the inlets thousands and thousands of sprats had been trapped by the tide. Maybe chased in by birds? The whole pool was glittering with fish as they jumped to get air. Another young group of walkers was trying to dig them a trench to reach the sea. It was an eery sight as the pool glittered and fizzed with fish, many that hadn’t made it lined the edges of the shore line.
Further around the inlet the rock pools were deep and round with perfect clarity, lined with shells and fronds of jewel coloured seaweed.
The whole bay was stunning, there was hardly another person for miles. A few tiny bothies were visible set back in the dunes. Someone had used driftwood to create some fabulous shelters, some of the wood was so weathered it looked like rivulets of water in the sand.
I woke up this morning dreaming of the beach, of the crunch and dig of sand under foot, the sound of the wind sweeping the bay and the pull of the tide.
At the end of the walk, we found the visitor Center with a poem carved into stone marking the placement of a time capsule. If I could bottle St Cyrus and take a lung full of sea air whenever I felt like it, I would have done so!
Marram Whispers Secrets over time Blown Sands. Colour dusted wings Dance over Flowers of memory Lark silvery notes Soar above the sea Rhythmic sighs: Wind woven sounds Singing the song of St Cyrus
The hike gave me the opportunity to begin working on a new collection of poetry. I have been reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, which I am thoroughly enjoying and is helping me to develop my writing.
The poem here is not yet fully finished, reading it again I have more words to cut. A fine poem is like a painting – many layers and edits are made before the finished piece is ready, and for a true artist there is always something that could be tweaked.
Loch Brandy itself has a mysterious causeway running over quarter of the Loch. Some say it was made for fishing the lake – you can see the outline of the causeway when you stand on higher ground. The Loch glittered as we paddled due to the fragments of fine sand – quartz and granite which sparkled as we stirred up the water.
We encountered what I think was an ermine moth caterpillar half way up the mountain, hence the reference to the moth in my poem. We also saw several peacock butterflies which appeared so fragile and beautiful against the landscape.
I would love to hear from any other poetry writers – any recommendations of books or resources. I would also love to read your poetry.
*Walking to Loch Brandy is copyrighted to myself. Please do not reproduce this writing or poem without my full permission. (Emma McKenzie).
Loving York Library reader cafes this summer. We picked up a leaflet in Rowntree Park Reader Cafe encouraging us to get a stamp from all six reader cafes this summer to win a goodie bag.
It worked! We have two left to go. It’s cost me a small fortune in posh lemonade and hot chocolate – but we made it a teddy bears picnic event and the whole family have got back into reading in a major way. (Result!)
I’ve made some great unexpected finds for my PhD. Nothing better than running your (sanitised) hand along a book shelf and seeing and seeing what speaks to you right?
And we have discovered some great new resources under our noses.
For those of you interested in the bears… they are all rescue bears from charity shops ❤️ Mr Snoots (in the leopard print) only likes to be decent and clothed. Tom Traveller (strange green colour) doesn’t really give a damn. Bez the bear (in his lion onesie) is my replacement bear (top pic) after Mr Snoots surprisingly migrated from my room to my daughters.