Feels her white foot
Through the Dark Sod — as Education —
The Lily passes sure —
Feels her white foot — no trepidation —
Her faith — no fear —
Afterward — in the Meadow —
Swinging her Beryl Bell —
The Mold-life — all forgotten — now —
In Ecstasy — and Dell —
F559 (1863) J392
So, out in the garden, all will be well, in fact, ecstatic.
Elsewhere, our institutions and public services are in turmoil. One framing is that we’re all growing-up, challenging authority as a rite of passage; another is that injustices are more visible than before and it’s time to hold those who’ve profited for so long, to account. Or, it’s part of a natural cycle, as in biology or the development of civilisations. Things become bigger and bigger, then collapse and regenerate from the bottom up. I’ve taken cuttings and then dug up and disposed of a giant rock rose that failed to survive this summer’s brutal heat. Tiny cups of green are already opening on the leaf-tips of the twigs I kept.
Universities are on my mind at the moment as I support the current industrial action. I’ve been thinking back to my undergraduate years at Sussex, an MA at Warwick in my thirties, and then most recently PhD studies at Canterbury Christ Church University. I was also a sessional lecturer at CCCU, teaching courses on poetry therapy, women’s poets of the spiritual and writing the earth in Community and Arts (now cut) and contributing sessions on the MA in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred (now cut). On the positive side, the work in Sustainability is increasing and a creative project there may have a new post-Covid life.
I love this Emily Dickinson poem, every line replete with symbolism and sensuousness. After a lifetime of random faffing about, planting this, planting that, to take my garden seriously and more systematically. The Dark Sod is literal and metaphorical for me at this time of the year when the seams of sadness run through the joy of Advent. Already, though, the bright green shoots of next spring’s flowers are passing sure through the frozen earth, and the magnolia is covered in velvety grey buds. The out-of-season roses and azaleas meanwhile have succumbed to the sudden frosts.
The pioneering artist Tom Phillips died last week. His projects, as you can read in this obituary, lasted a lifetime. In 1993, I bought a limited-edition print made in 1986 for the Silver Jubilee of Sussex University where I did my first degree, the first in my family to go to university. I’ve dug out the flier advertising the print. The images reflect the six stages of a university education, with visual references to Sussex: entering the campus, changing identities, engaging with Brighton, night-time study, travel, politics and religion until ‘wisdom gained is suggested in a flash of lightning’.
The six images reflect my current preoccupation with turning sixty next year and the reflective nature of Advent, mortality, birth, darkness, sods and all.