Foxy Spirit

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October has arrived, and both city dwellers and country folk alike may have noticed a subtle increase in the number of foxes that roam at night. The reason? During the later part of the year, in what is known as the season of dispersion, kits leave the family den and “disperse”, to seek out their own territories and establish new lives.

To many people, the presence of foxes may be seen as something controversial. However, in traditional cultures, the fox possesses a spirit associated with wisdom, cunning and guidance.

Here in this poem are my observations of this spirit in action on our city streets:

Seen through broad windows above polished oak tables,
Dark blanket of evening adorns the city in sables,
Coy figures shimmer between lonely street lights,
Pen is released by the hypnotic sights

In the gloaming they observe without being seen,
Their invisible presence scanning the scene,
Sudden amber pearl-drop eyes pierce the yellowy light,
Slender red muzzle narrows to black nares and snowy white.

Again like sleight of hand they slip from sight,
Then re-emerge from the shadowy night,
Spirit of vulpes silently glides,
With totem wisdom it effortlessly guides.

New season signals freedom and new adventures when,
Silent troops disperse from the den,
Bushy tailed shaman casts magic! all are withdrawn!
Pen starts to scribble on page until dawn.

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Curiosity

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This week NASA released some fascinating results from the experiments carried out by the Mars probe “Curiosity” on the Martian soil, which could potentially have very profound implications with regards to the future direction that human civilization may take.

According to the findings that have been published, Curiosity discovered water in the topsoil of between 1.5 and 3.0 percent, which in simple terms means that by heating one cubic foot of Martian soil, about two pints of water can be obtained.

Now, there are of course other, very serious factors, that need to be resolved before humans colonize mars;  high levels of radiation, extreme temperatures, a lack of oxygen on the surface, and now the discovery that the soil contains perchlorate, which interferes with human thyroid function if ingested.

But all these things can be overcome with technology. And the fact that there is now a way to obtain water directly from the red planet’s surface means that we are a step closer to the first human landing on Mars, and then if an economic case can be made, the first Martian colonies.

But what would it be like on that first journey? And what about the psychological impact of living so far away from home? Look at the photos of Curiosity, all alone on the surface. What would it be feeling if it had human emotions?

I am a ton of pristine steel,
Reflective glass and gadgets to feel,
Curiosity has brought me to a barren place,
Open my eyes and enjoy rust covered space.

My masters leer through a distant screen,
Key in commands for their favorite machine,
But why don’t they hear my frozen cries,
When my robot eye is turned up to the skies?

Shield of darkness falls one last time,
Heralds a new beginning for a forgotten crime,
Power down to sleep in the hope that one day,
I will be found and taken away.

Morning Passion…

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An early morning excursion revealed far more than I had expected. After a gentle stroll along an oft-treaded short cut through a local park, a rather thick fog seemed to descend as I approached a wooded area, enveloping all within it’s mist.

I was fortunate enough to locate a nearby bench through the murkiness, and I resolved to sit and wait for the gloom to lift. So as the morning progressed, visibility began to rapidly improve, and I was treated to a true wonder of nature, igniting my thoughts as vividly as the grand display before my eyes. My heart was stolen in a moment of passion, and Autumn has now become, against all odds, the season of love!

I feel so fortunate that I was able to record in this poem a glimpse of what I had seen this morning through the eyes of my enamoured heart.

Enjoy…

Here in the woods there lays a carpet of soft golden down,
And trees beneath which repose beds of ambery brown,
That rustle underfoot and scatter in the breeze,
As watery sunlight glitters amongst the leafy seas.

Abundant fruits promise most mellow flavours,
Floral passions now replaced by pastel papers,
Sounds of crackling chestnuts mingle in the smoky air,
Prize Pumpkins soon for sale in the market square.

Early morning fog cloaks hidden treasures,
Then lifts to reveal a riot of fiery pleasures,
Nature’s last stand brings on it’s greatest shows,
The tinderbox is open! How it sparkles and glows!

Wispy mists battle a distant sun,
But neither can win for Winter’s Spectre has come,
The season resigns to be sentenced by Jack Frost,
So enjoy Autumn’s fragrance before it is lost!

Harvest Moon

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How many of us actually realised that last Thursday night (in the northern hemisphere at least) heralded the yearly appearance of what is known in traditional sky law as The harvest moon?

Well, just to clarify, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and depending on the year, the Harvest Moon can come anywhere from two weeks before to two weeks after the autumnal equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the 2013 autumnal equinox comes on September 22, so the September 19 full moon counts as the Northern Hemisphere’s Harvest Moon.

It’s name is derived from the fact that in the days before farm machinery, farmers and farm workers would take advantage of the additional hours of light and work through the night in order to complete the harvest, something that was vital not just for the success of the farm, but for the lives of those who were reliant on its sustenance during the rapidly approaching winter months.

Well I am an avid sky and star gazer, and Thursday night was no exception. Whilst admiring the beautiful full moon that adorned the late September night sky with a certain commanding presence, my thoughts turned to those who in the past, and who may still, rely upon the Harvest Moon to give help and guidance through its appearance in the autumnal sky. With this in mind I have strung together a few words which I hope may capture some it’s true value. Enjoy!

Here in the season of mists we await,
The silver sky maiden to arise and awake,
For upon her presence is written our fate,
Time is short and much is at stake!

Rising up high and clearing the sky,
The magical orb casts a spell through the night,
And thus we shall stack our bails so high,
Whilst the maiden pauses and bathes us in light.

Dawn approaches and our work is done,
The maiden has disappeared with the rising sun,
And so we give thanks to our dear harvest moon,
Though lingers a feeling that the year past so soon.

You can run…

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I live in a sprawling city, where I share my space with 9 million other inhabitants, surrounded, in the main, by monotonous concrete edifices, or other structures of equally wearisome complexion.

So sometimes I need to escape for a while, in an attempt to find redress to the imbalances within the equilibrium of my spirit that modern life imposes. Let’s face it, even the most hardened city dweller amongst us must at some point in their lives at least ponder as to whether or not there is a better, or at least more natural way to live? Who does not like to occasionally leave behind the daily diet of technological over-dependance, combined with sensory and information overload, thanks to the sea of gadgets and devices served up in all manner of brutalistic 20th or 21st century buildings, streets and transport services that clutter our lives to the point of distraction? An escape plan should always be at hand, in case it needs to be called upon at short notice!

On Wednesday this week, I made one such escape attempt, to the countryside, where the space and openness somehow allow me to release all those jumbled up thoughts that have built up in my mind,and to give them some semblance of order or meaning.

Well, that was the intention. I have a standard escape route; public transport to the edge of town, followed by a stroll down the final streets of the city before encountering the vast ocean of green freshness as the fields that lay beyond open up in front of me.

And so from there I continued my journey along the road, as it morped from city street into country lane, reveling in the sense of escape that one experiences upon leaving the “big smoke” behind, free to roam the countryside, uninhibited by formal street layouts and obtrusive dwellings.

All good so far. Silence, panoramic views of field upon field, only interrupted by the occasional hedgerow or cluster of trees now displaying their full complement of glorious autumnal shades, and the vast overcast September sky meeting the landscape far away in the distance. But as I scanned the horizon, something caught my eye, something unnatural and out of place. That horizon, that meeting place of earth and sky that I so enjoyed, so admired, punctured by a towering white monstrosity piercing the sky.

My curiosity of course got the better of me, and I made my way across numerous post-harvest fields, public footpaths and rights of way, horrified to see more and more of these almost extra terrestrial structures multiplying on the horizon as I got closer, all lined up in formation like a battalion of ancient warriors.

One final coppice, one final stile, and I had arrived. And there, towering over me, stood my nemesis, overbearing with three great sword like arms pointing out from its very heart, like a Martian war machine from H.G Wells War of the Worlds; the sum of the very things that I had tried to run away from. A huge, plain monolith, full of machinery, driven by the latest technology, it positively oozed aggressive modernity, the other monolithic machines carefully positioned around it only adding to the menacing effect.

And so I had run, but I was unable to hide. The symbols of dependancy still found me, even drew me too them. I reject them and despise them at times, and yet they comfort me, and, like today, almost instinctively I seek them out, without wanting to. I feel so over-dependant, and yet cannot let go. A pardox.

Have you ever tried to go even a day without depending on a machine to do your bidding, or to blight your sight and mind with a screen of second hand information set amongst repetitive rows of man made architecture that prevent you from seeing what is in the world beyond?

Happy is the one who still can, but many of us, I feel, have gone too far down the road for such redemption.

Liquid History

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The annual Thames festival culminated on Sunday evening with something quite unexpected and thought provoking. An opera, but not in the usual sense!

A fleet of nine beautiful historic vessels took to the river and performed the main act of ’1513: A Ships Opera’ in front of Tower Bridge on the River Thames as part of the Thames Festival 2013.

The instruments of the Ships’ opera were wholly made up of traditional steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon, which created the most unique sounds.

Lightship 95 from nearby Trinity Buoy Wharf led and conducted the operatic performance and lit up the historic ships on the river as they tooted horns, sirens, bells and whistles.

The result was both charming, and quite a refreshing surprise. It was as if the river itself was calling out, finally allowed to express itself after so many years of silent struggle.

And indeed the dear river that has given birth not just to a sprawling metropolis that takes centre stage in the world, but has also, as some would argue, like so many other rivers have throughout the ages, given meaning, focus and indeed life to whole civilisations, and has so much to tell us.

From prehistory, (30 million years ago the Thames was a tributary of the river Rhine!), through the ice age when it was 10 times its current size, finally settling into its current meandering pattern a mear 3000 years ago, the river has literally forged the landscape that we know today.

And of course, the river has been a magnet for life, and for habitation, since animals and hominids first encountered it; water, one of the absolute requirements for life to exist, providing an essential source of substanance, taking on the role of a provider, the giver of life and prosperity, taking on a ritualistic meaning in the very earliest societies and civilizations, something that is echoed, in fact copied still today in both western and eastern religions and cultures, thus continuing to play its role as a giver of good tidings in the mindset of many people today.

So next time you see a river, no matter how great or small, just ponder and seek out it’s journey, it’s story, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

To boldly go….

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It’s Sunday, and on my blog each week I’ll be looking back at the past week, reflecting on what I would consider to be the most significant or interesting event from the past 7 days.

The Voyager-1 spacecraft has become the first manmade object to leave the Solar System.

Scientists say the probe’s instruments indicate it has moved beyond the bubble of hot gas from our Sun and is now moving in the space between the stars.

Launched in 1977, Voyager was sent initially to study the outer planets, but then just kept on going.

Today, the veteran Nasa mission is almost 19 billion km (12 billion miles) from home.

This distance is so vast that it takes 17 hours now for a radio signal sent from Voyager to reach receivers here on Earth.

Now I remember well when Voyager was launched 33 years ago (showing my age here!), and at the time it was really a very considerable event: humankind was sending a probe to the outer reaches of the Solar System and beyond! And just to put this into context at the time, colour TV had only become available in Europe a few years earlier, and most of the countries in the world still only had black and white. Home computers were very much in their early stages and something that most people had not even heard of yet!

And so a probe was launched, literally, into the unknown. And for the next 33 years it has informed and enlightened us of our solar system.

And now that it has broken free of its original home, I am reflecting today on a number of things that it brings to mind:

A comparison: of the past 33 years that i/we have spend during our lives here on Earth, and that of Voyager and it’s journey alone, with all that it has discovered and given us. This raises so many questions about life, our ambitions, achievements, mistakes and errors. What were we wishing for back then in 1977? The list of questions that this raises is almost limitless.

A contemplation: of the future, the next 33 years, and what it may bring, to both ourselves and Voyager, ageing as we are too. What indeed will the future hold for us all? Do we still have those same hopes as we did in 1977, or have they, no doubt as with Voyager, all changed as we have aged?

Here is to Voyager, and the team of engineers and Scientists that made it all possible. As someone once said… to boldly go…

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Dance amongst the stars…

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Well here goes my first ever blog… And believe me, I am just as surprised as anyone that I am actually doing this!

So here is something I spotted next to the Thames today, Members of the New Movement Collective dance group explore the Endless Stair installation at the Tate Modern gallery in London. The sculpture was created by architect Alex de Rijke to launch the Design Festival on 14 September.

The New Movement Collective seek out and unlock the performance potential of hidden pockets within out cities.

And the question that I posed to myself while I observed was this; can dance and movement around inanimate objects breathe something of the spirit into them and thus give them new meaning?