Friday 31 August 2007

End of life as We Know It?

Nothing ends - all transforms,
changes direction like a river bends.
Day becomes night, bodies decompose
to feed roses, freeing spirits to roam.
When the earth dies (whether
at our hands or after peaceful millenia
orbiting a dying star) atoms from
Amazonian rainforests will become
part of some magnificent
beings we cannot imagine
on a helium atmosphered planet so far
away it seems beyond
the end of space.

The End for Sunday Scribblings

This poem has been translated into Spanish by Nia andcan be read as part of her post on composting.

Thursday 30 August 2007


shaking out
a thousand uncaged eyes -
the peacock shimmers.

written in response to Invitation to Poetry: Freedom at Abbey Arts

The Wild Blue Yonder

Last night we saw this film from eccentric genius director Werner Herzog. It centres on an alien who dissects human space travel to thought provoking effect. In the process he has a lot to say about valuing the earth. There is extensive re-contextualised use of footage (such as scenes under the Antarctic Ice) and appearances from NASA scientists proving that NASA has a sense of humour! The soundtrack is distinctive, featuring cellos and chanting. Its insightful and thought provoking, but I think it could have been cut without the message or atmosphere being lost.

Felt from Rabbit Fur

I discovered the following information on the felt making process, more detailed than the previous link I posted on the topic. I've now attempted to make some felt from our rabbit Anya's shed fur that we had collected while she was alive. It wasn't the most successful crafting experiment ever, I have to admit:

Problem number one, the fur had compressed too much while in storage, so was almost a felted lump to start with and it took a while to pull apart the fur. It also meant I didn't have as much fur as I thought I would, since some was unusable.

Problem number 2: I wasn't patient enough or thorough enough in my treatment of the fur. So rather than a nice uniform piece of felt, I have a raggedy mess. However as you can see from the photo there are definitely some bunny ears in there and I will use the rest as clouds in fabric collages. Plus it may look raggedy, but its a beautiful soft felt, just as you would expect to make from the fur of such a beautiful soft bunny!

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Through an Open Window

Summer we open double glazed windows
to let in air, but this means
dirt from the city streets,
traffic noise, drunken chaos
from the bar on the corner, midnight
glass recycling from the same bar,
car alarms and fighting.

But sometimes, someone wanders
past singing Italian arias
and always birds
sing in the gardens.

An Open Window for Poetry Thursday

For another interpretation of the theme, please see my Alter Ego blog.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

haiku - Tiny Pretty Things

by my fingernail -
golden beetle.


tiny shells
colourful on the sand -
sea recedes.

And another on Alter Ego.

Tiny Pretty Things for One Deep Breath

Consumerism and Recycling

We live in a very consumerist society and we need to reduce the amount we consume. However sometimes we need to buy things! Luis from Live Paths made a comment on a recent post here about the need to support companies that make products from recycled materials and other environmentally responsible companies. His blog offers a good guide to finding such companies and invites recommendations from readers. Here are just a few ideas for green consumerism, taken from my own shopping:

Buy locally produced, organic produce where possible - The Cyrenians organic farm is just outside Edinburgh and produces a good range of vegetables, fruits, preserves and eggs. They sell their produce in our office building and at Edinburgh Farmers Market, which happens every Saturday at Castle Terrace and sells meat and cheese as well as vegetables and other produce.

Buy toiletries made from natural ingredients. Yaoh is a company in the UK that produces organic, vegan bodycare products made from hemp with no more than one or two artificial additives and none of the dangerous ones.

Buy gifts made by local crafts people or make them yourself! I love to buy crafts from the craft fairs that spring up in Edinburgh during the Festival and at Christmas.

Buy second hand, Edinburgh is full of charity shops, selling second hand items to raise money for charities. These include specialist second hand shops for books and music.

These are just a few ideas, feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

Monday 27 August 2007

Rubbish Photos

Photos of rubbish that is, mind boggling amounts of rubbish. Chris Jordan is a photographer with a mission - to use images to help us understand some of the statistics of our lives, statistics such as the 60,000 plastic bags used in the USA every five seconds, the 426, 000 mobile phones retired every day in the USA. The statistics are mind boggling, the photos more so. Most of them are overwhelming, just because of the sheer numbers of items involved but some of them contain a strange beauty and there is also a clever recreation of a Georges Seurat painting using aluminium cans.

Chris Jordan will be exhibiting at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, opening Sep 8. More info at

Sunday 26 August 2007

How to Go On Holiday without Leaving Home

We've just had a week's holiday, during which we didn't leave home except for a short train ride and a couple of local bus rides. We do this every year and its a great way to appreciate your local area. Admittedly its much easier for us living in Edinburgh, a city with loads of art galleries, museums and several festivals during the year, not to mention excellent public transport links across town and into the surrounding countryside and coastal areas. However, why not try some of the following to enjoy a holiday by staying at home:

Discover some local walks or bike rides

Visit your local museum

Visit an art gallery

Visit a local restaurant that you've never visited before

Jump onto a local bus and go to an area you've not visited for a while

Go along to a local fete

Go to an evening event

Spend a day in the garden of you have one, or the local park

What are your ideas for a holiday at home?

Saturday 25 August 2007

Actions Speak Louder than Words

In my post about Ruth Padel at the Edinburgh Book Festival, I noted that Ruth Padel had said 'artists and writers can only be witnesses' in the face of environmental or political issues. Ascender Rises Above made a comment that we all have a duty to speak out. I agree entirely - we all should speak out about the issues that concern us, in blog posts, conversations with friends or however else. People who see themselves specifically as writers and artists have more options than other people, but we should all speak out. My concern with Ruth Padel's statement though was my feeling that words are not enough. Famous people who speak out on environmental issues have more credibility if they don't own private jets and several luxury homes. I think my recent poem about the environmental impact of mobile phones has more credibility because I don't own a mobile phone. Those of who write or speak about environmental issues need to take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our lives, because otherwise why should anyone take us seriously?

Friday 24 August 2007

North Berwick

Another perfect late summer day so we went to North Berwick, just a short train ride out of Edinburgh. The photo shows the north beach, where we sat and watched terns (don't know which species, but probably common terns), red-breasted mergansers and an oystercatcher. The Bass Rock is to the south of the town, not on the photo, it's too far from shore to come out well with our camera. The Rock was totally white from all the gannets nesting on it. The air around the rock is alive with gannets too, flying and diving. It was warm, sunny and very windy:

sand blows
across the beach -
curlews call.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Faro

This Malian film follows Zan, who's made it rich in the city, as he returns to his village to find his father and to build new drainage systems for the village. The villagers believe in the power of Faro - the Goddess of the Waters and Zan's personal and professional ambitions seem to be thwarted by this belief. Its a beautiful film, full of sunsets over the river and a thought provoking one regarding the clash between traditional culture and modernity.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Late Summer, Corstorphine Hill

Today has been a perfect late summer day, blue skies with a slight mist, lovely and warm. We walked around Corstorphine Hill, in the west of Edinburgh. There are some wonderful fungi around just now including several bracket fungi on the dead tree shown in the first photo. Rosebay Willowherb is a common plant, but it looks wonderful at this time of the year with its pink flowers and equally pink seed pods (see second photo). Gorse seed pods were popping in the heat and grasshoppers were rasping. House martins were flying around at the top of the hill, wonderfully aerobatic birds. We also saw a couple of spotted flycatchers, there one minute, gone the next as they flew after the late summer insects.


Walking with friends, anti-social
phone clamped to your head,
radiation tumouring your brain.

The school-roof phone mast
electrosmogs the pupils
with headaches, insomnia, memory loss.

Mining coltan in the Congo
modern day slaves
(who will never see a mobile phone)
are forced to sacrifice gorillas
on the altar
of an alien god.

I'm reposting this poem from the earlier days of this blog, to coincide with the publication on Bolts of Silk of Cell Phone Mania by Michael Lee Johnson. I have never owned a mobile phone.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Festival - Planting the Dunk Botanic Gardens

Planting the Dunk Botanic Gardens is a poetic monologue, beautifully written by Australian poet Mark O'Connor and performed by David Malikoff against a slideshow of stunning botanic art by Linda Martin. It's the story of attempts to create a tropical botanic gardens on the Australian island of Dunk and includes poetic descriptions of various species of tropical plants along with amusing scenes from the history of the island and the lives of its gardeners and some intelligent commentary on climate change. The audience was only small when I went, which is a shame for such a good production. So if you're in Edinburgh and like gardens and poetry, please make time to go and see this!

Planting the Dunk Botanic Gardens is showing at 11.30 am at the Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Terrace until 25 August.

Monday 20 August 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Garbage Warrior

Garbage Warrior is a documentary focussing on the architect Michael Reynolds. Based in New Mexico, Reynolds makes houses our of old tyres or plastic bottles embedded in cement made from soil. The results are spectacular - the houses collect rainwater, do not require heating or air conditioning and are aesthetically interesting and often beautiful - for example the bottles in some of the walls are left uncovered to create stained glass type effects. The film follows Mike and his crew in their work in New Mexico, dogged by officialdom and their work helping to reconstruct communities in the Andaman islands after the tsunami and in Mexico after Hurrican Rita. This is inspiring architecture and offers a great deal of thought for sustainable living. (All carbon produced during the making of the film was offset and most of the trucks used were run on used cooking oil).

Edinburgh International Film Festival - In the Cities

In the Cities is a Quebecois film centring on Fanny a gardener with a mission to save trees in her neighbourhood in Montreal. The film is set in a beautiful autumn, with lots of artistic shots of changing leaves. The emotional mood is correspondingly melancholy with most of the characters being isolated and disconnected from other people and from the environment. The only exception is Jean Luc, who is blind, but seems to know more about the world around him through touch, hearing and general awareness than all the seeing characters put together. Its a beautiful, thoughtful film but perhaps not one to see if you're feeling really down.

haiku - daybreak

paints the clouds -
birds sing.

I've posted another haiku on daybreak on my Alter Ego blog.

Daybreak for One Deep Breath

PS - I'm really pleased that Haiku Scotland recently accepted five of my haiku for publication in their September and December 2007 issues.

Sunday 19 August 2007

Ruth Padel at the Edinburgh Book Festival

I went to hear Ruth Padel speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The event focussed on her latest book: The Poem and the Journey, which suggests that the secret to reading a poem is to see it as a journey. She talked a lot about her travels in Asia, researching her earlier book on tigers: Tigers in Red Weather and read some of her own poems including a wonderful series of re-imagining Chinese poems in the light of current environmental issues. She suggested that poets and other writers and artists can only be witnesses in the face of environmental or political issues, I think we can also have a potential role in demonstrating our beliefs in the way we live our lives and in fact I think that once artists become famous they have a duty to live a life that supports the political or other messages they convey in their work. But I digress. Ruth Padel is always a passionate and inspiring speaker and today was no different.

Saturday 18 August 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival

This fortnight is the best fortnight in Edinburgh if you're a film fan as it is the Edinburgh International Film Festival. This is the last year it will happen in August, from next year it will happen in June to avoid clashing with the other festivals.

My attitude to the Film Festival is to find the most obscure films that are probably not going to come back on general release, plus those that might but look so interesting I don't want to risk missing them.

Today I saw a wonderful American indie film (that should come back to smaller UK cinemas) - Lovely by Surprise. Its the interweaving stories of Bob, a second hand car salesman and Marian an aspiring novelist. Bob has lost the will to sell cars, instead engaging potential customers in conversation about the meaning of life and persuading them that they need to take their partner out for a nice mean more than they need to buy a car (I can so relate to this philosophy!). Marian meanwhile is struggling with her novel. Her old University tutor tells her that to address her writer's block she needs to kill one of her main characters. However Marian finds this very traumatic and her characters take on a life of their own and start to invade reality. There are at least three layers of reality in this film and its a wonderful mix of surrealism, humour and philosophy, with some excellent insights into the creative process.

Lovely by Surprise will show again 22.00, Tuesday 21 August at Cineworld.

More reviews to follow, depending on the subject matter either here or on my Alter Ego blog.

Friday 17 August 2007

Poetry Postcard from Poet with a Day Job

Melissa, Poet with a Day Job over at Contest Central was giving away poetry postcards during National Poetrty Month to people who commented first on her posts during that month. I was the lucky winner of one of the postcards and here it is! It arrived in the post yesterday and features Melissa's poem Sick. One of the postage stamps also features a butterfly! Thanks so much for the card, Melissa!

Wednesday 15 August 2007



Wide horizons of desert,
dry hard land, dust-windy and lonely,
empty but for lizards
until the houses come.

The desert populated. Aliens
unaware of beauty, the life
already there.

Wide horizons of suburbia,
smart new houses, well-furnished and lonely,
sprinkler-fed gardens
where alien lizards live.


They fought. He missing city life
stole her energy.
She missing water, drained his spirit
to dry emptiness between them,
prickly sharp with unspoken fears.

Previously published in Raindog

Monday 13 August 2007

Haiku Train

One Deep Breath this week is hosting a Haiku Train. This is a connected series of haiku where the last line of one haiku becomes the first line of the haiku written by the next participant. Why not pop over and have a look or even join in?

Friday 10 August 2007

Making Felt from Rabbit Fur

As some readers of this blog may remember, I was collecting fur from Anya our rabbit to make felt. Now that Anya has died, it seems like a nice thing to do to remember her. I've found some instructions on how to make felt from cat fur, which seem really easy. I'll post my progress here!

Thursday 9 August 2007

CD Case Desk Calendar

I made this calendar from an old CD case. The pages are made from plain white offcuts from used office paper with pictures from magazines and the calendar months cut from the 2008 planner section of this year's diary. The case then can be reused for a 2009 calendar! Making calendars and diaries early means I'm not tempted to buy them out of laziness later in the year.

Monday 6 August 2007

haiku - evening

darkening sky -
invisible swifts

Evening for One Deep Breath.

I've posted another evening haiku with a review on my Alter Ego blog.

Sunday 5 August 2007

Diary from Reused Materials

I'm making myself a diary for next year and given that the Inspire Me Thursday topic this week is Diary, I thought I would post a picture of the diary as it is now. The covers are made from re-used corporate folders. The lettering and numbering on the front is cut out from magazines. The paper inside is reused out of date office headed paper. The diary is held together by an old shoelace.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Walking and Marking - A Retrospective, Richard Long

Richard Long's work is fascinating. This exhibition at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh brings together a wide range of his work from the 1960s onward. His work is concerned with human relationships with the natural world through walking and simple mark making. A series of work here consists of paper that has been dipped in river mud and then hung, allowing gravity to create patterns in the mud. The results looks like aerial photos of patterns of river tributaries and although they are all very similar, the small differences point up the small details that make for uniqueness in the natural world. Another series uses found items - such as driftwood, Berber tent pegs and scrap metal - as canvases for simple finger paintings. The finger paintings and the site specific artworks aloong the rountes of walks Long hasmade over the years, point to the human need to constantly leave our mark on everything/everywhere. It's a wonderfully inspiring and thought provoking exhibition, if a little repetitive after a while.

Richard Long: Walking and Marking, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
until 21 October 2007. £6/£4.

Friday 3 August 2007

Zen and the Art of .......

I've just re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, a book I first read and loved 15 or so years ago when I lived in Malawi. The volunteers over there had a habit of sharing books and leaving them in each others bookcases as we visited each other - a bit like an early form of Bookcrossing. This was one of the books I most enjoyed while I was over there and it took me all these years to find another copy so I could enjoy it again! It's a wonderful book for so many reasons. It really makes the reader think, encouraging us to observe nature and life in general more closely, encouraging an attitude of serenity, and a positive approach to problem solving. It meditates on family relationships, mental well-being, the history of philosophy (with specific reference to dualism), the purpose of education, aesthetics and makes us look at our value systems and judgement making processes. It's also very readable and often entertaining. Even though I know nothing about motorcycles, I really enjoy the motorcycle in this book being used as a practical application of Zen thinking and philosophy.

Zen and the Art of Creating: As I've been working on painting some boxes while I've been reading this book, I've noticed the Zen like state of mind that painting creates in me. Check out this post on Lunar Musings for a wonderful description of this state of creating.

Zen and the Art of Kimono Recycling - a wonderful post about the philosophy of recycling and the Aesthetics of the Handmade on True Stitches.

Thursday 2 August 2007

My Poetry Featured on Other Blogs

I'm delighted that Deborah of Climate of Our Future has chosen to highlight my poem A Riverscape today on her blog. Climate of the Future is the originator of the Blogging for Positive Global Change Award.

Edited to add: Garden Girl has also chosen to feature the same poem A Riverscape on her blog! I'm happy to share my poetry in this way, just let me know that you're doing it, make sure you publish it with my name attached and make a link back to this blog!

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Festival of the Trees

This months Festival of the Trees is now up at Via Negativa. Why not pop over and browse! It includes Sue Turner's poem Echoes from Tomorrow as posted in Bolts of Silk.

The Good Neighbour by John Burnside

This is a wonderful poetry collection! The Good Neighbour explores relationships between humans and between us and nature, with great insight and a wonderful understanding of the workings of language. The poems are populated by shapeshifting creatures, angels and unidentified beings with:

two spurs of cartilage above

the shoulder blades; not wings,
or not quite wings,
but something like a memory of flight

locked in a chamber of bone

(from Annunciation with Zero Point Field)

and are we all like that if only we would recognise it? Life as a whole here is pervaded by:

that locked sense of robin's egg blue
at the back of a life
that never quite lost its place
in the given script
but wanted, more than anything, to rise
and go out in the dark, to where the owls
were shifting aside, unlocked from the visible world,
and the rain in the trees
was a room at the end of the mind
where what we love goes on, uninterrupted.

(from By Herodsfoot)

This extract speaks to me incredibly powerfully, though I can't articulate why. That is part of the appeal in most of these poems, they capture some aspect of life that you instinctively feel is undefinable, as I read the words I'm thinking 'that is so real' but still wouldn't be able to say what it is.

This is a collection I will read over and over, the poetry is so beautiful and insightful. In fact John Burnside os one of my favourite poets currently writing in Scotland, though in some other of his collections his work imbues nature with too much darkness and the novel of his I read was too disturbing for me to be able to finish! If you only read one book by John Burnside make it The Good Neighbour.