We mustn’t take it for granted though – the heart and the belly of it, the pulse and thrust – all this careless, determined change. The world moves, quivering and quickening, and we do: back and forward, forth and on. It’s so easy to forget.

In The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd writes of dwelling “in pure intimacy with the tangible world”. She notes that, consciously, such contact comes only in rare moments, such as when we’re waking from sleep or preoccupation, our habitual selves temporarily shed.

But it’s there all the time whether we choose to feel it or not: a low continuity beating in the belly; a green weaving, a breathing red thread.

Pontycymer, Cwm Garw, South Wales
26th April 2014

the field

There’s an idyllic green field that I’ve returned to now the summer is ending.

It sits draped over the hill behind our house like a soft saddle. From above it looks as if it’s floating, suspended over the tightly arrayed rows of the village, held beneath the bare bleached shoulders of the valley head.

The valley climbs steeply, with the village pitted deep in the cleft of its slow slim river, and the field hangs halfway up, smoothly swathed over a gentle hollow in the hillside, like a dear green meadow of the mind.

I once read a quote in a Kenneth White book about the mind of a deer being a green place and the image has stayed with me. I imagine a quiet clearing in a forest, filtered by leaves, a cool greenness gathering.

The field doesn’t have the close-hid intimacy of woodland, with its winding trails and swift wildness. The field is domesticated, grazed upon alternately by ewes and their half-grown lambs or a few highland cows and a dark brown horse. It’s open pasture, where you can lay out your thoughts and bathe them in the flooding sunlight and sit with them there; or lay your whole self out and rest, while the light illuminates the veridical carpet and the world, for a moment, stays.

Above Pontycymer, Garw Valley, South Wales / Cwm Garw, De Cymru
29th September 2013

the green fuse

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
drives my red blood; that writhes the roots of trees
rouses my desire;
and my flesh runs with the rich sap’s flood
as my limbs spring with the same green fever….

When I lived in Montreal winters were bitterly cold, and so long. Even into March everything was still smothered in thick snow, gripped hard in grey ice. Other than the dark blue-green of a few conifers in parks, no living vegetation was visible and it felt like the whole world was held in a sterile stasis. By late February I’d start to feel a deep longing, an almost physical thirsting for greenness, and I’d be scouring the city for the sight of the slightest green blade poking or peeking through.

The first time I was back visiting Scotland in the winter I was amazed by the colour of city parks and gardens and would wander across lawns reverently marvelling at their soft green hue, brushed only lightly by sparkling morning frosts and giving way to stronger vibrant green by mid-morning; and when the shoots of snowdrops and crocuses came pushing through in late January, it felt miraculous. I felt that I had come to some secret northern paradise.

I’d kneel down to feel the firm fine shoots between my fingers, and cup their swollen buds in my hands trying to feel the force that was thrusting them from the earth, pushing them spear-like through the grass.

This year (now back in Scotland properly) the snowdrops came as usual, their fragile forms belying their hardiness, as they bobbed up and down through snowfall after snowfall, and I eagerly anticipated the (comparatively) early Scottish greening. But as the crocuses and daffodils waited coiled beneath the soil, the unusually late spring drew my green thirst again, as trees stayed bare and late snows and cold winds blew over the pale land.

Until all at once, everywhere: buds folding out green fingers, ferns unrolling feathered fronds and even the gorse bursting brightly, as the world quickens into flower, flutters into leafy green flame.


Oh greenness! Green for growth, for firm but supple strength; green for a fresh profusion of life. And green for gladness, for this force that germinates and generates, driving the flower, and driving all of us, in our continual and generous emergence.

Green for gladness; green for verdant, luminant life. And green for gratitude: for the sunlight coursing through the floral fuse and – as we go to greet it – for the sunlight pouring through ourselves.


Dylan Thomas, ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Strathendrick, Stirlingshire, Scotland / St David’s Head, Pembrokeshire, Wales
30th March / 4th May 2013

green light

Green light in the near branches,
in the soft mossy bark,
in the lowlit sun, slowly wheeling round.


Glas, Gaelic, green, grey; from Irish, glas, from Proto-Celtic glasto, green; like German glast, radiance, sheen.

Green glow, green gladness.

Strathendrick, Stirlingshire, Scotland
6th March 2013


Everything looks green and golden in this early, private light filtering through the branches. It touches the fingered ice on the burn, the crusted snow among the grass, rests on the snowdrops bent over by the heavy cold, and comes finally to the little wood-and-chain swing hanging quietly over the burn, and then – gently luminous – to myself.

Lumen, from Latin for light:
the space inside a biological structure, an artery or cell;
a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted from a source;
an opening through which light can penetrate, through which day comes.

Lumen: light in this channel of the valley, light in this channel of the glen.

Strathendrick, Stirlingshire, Scotland
11th February 2013