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Between the Lines

Between the Lines

Poetry and prose that connect us

Sometimes it can be difficult to express the emotions we are feeling. At times like this we can often find others who have expressed it for us, through painting, sculpture, poetry or prose. On this page we will regularly add a poem or piece of prose that might express our experience, give us pause for reflection, or simply share in how words can bring us together.


October 2021

In September the Hospice held Nightwalk at RHS Rosemoor for the first time. It was a wonderful evening, full of heart, with nearly 900 women walking through the woods and gardens coming across all sorts of creations to stimulate the senses, lights, music, dancing, and in one corner of the woods, poetry.


We thought we would share a couple of the pieces we recorded for the event.  Hope you enjoy them.



Hallelujah   - by Miranda Broadhead

Hallelujah.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


Loss held in hands folded into prayer

In the cathedral hush of the high trees.

I carry you in my blood,

Each step on this path luminous,

Lit with you,

Filled with a hymn to the lines carved into your dear face

To the sad sweet smile of your weathered soul,

To the flaws of your complicated beauty.


The trees fling wide their beautiful branches in welcome

In memory of you.

I walk queen-like, tall and quiet,

On the ground beneath them,

Holding all that was unspoken between us

All that was harsh and unforgiven

All that was joyful and filled with seeing.


I say to the trees

Talk to me of loss

They sway in tender ceremony,

exalting in the soft holding of the darkness.


Breath – by Daniel Beaudry

Breath.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


Tree, gather up my thoughts

like the clouds in your branches.
Draw up my soul
like the waters in your root.


In the arteries of your trunk
bring me together.
Through your leaves
breathe out the sky.


A Hymn to Time   – Ursula K. Le Guin 1929 – 2018

A Hymn to Time.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


Time says “Let there be”

every moment and instantly
there is space and the radiance
of each bright galaxy.

And eyes beholding radiance.
And the gnats’ flickering dance.
And the seas’ expanse.
And death, and chance.

Time makes room
for going and coming home
and in time’s womb
begins all ending.

Time is being and being
time, it is all one thing,
the shining, the seeing,
the dark abounding.


From Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 (PM Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ursula K. Le Guin. Used with the permission of PM Press.


September 2021


Searching for this month’s poems I was also looking for some new voices to read them.  As I looked I stumbled on two powerful poems to share.


Japanese Maple was Clive James’ farewell poem.  Based on a hope that he would live to see the Maple Tree, his daughter planted, turn red; James writes of accepting he is about to die and in this acceptance life around him feels more vibrant.


Japanese Maple

Clive James

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.

So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

From Clive James' Sentenced To Life


[recording of Clive James, himself reading, from Youtube]


Then I came across Rudyard Kipling’s My Boy Jack – written after the loss of his only son, in the First World War.  My thoughts turn to all those parents who lost Children in Afghanistan, who are now reliving the loss and trying to make sense of what it was all for, while other parents fear for their children’s future.  Closer to home, Parents at the hospice have been saying goodbye to their child and trying to make sense of how this could happen, why it is their child that has to die.  This month, our thoughts are with all parents who mourn the loss of their child and those parents saying goodbye to their family as they reach the end of their life.



My Boy Jack (1915)

Rudyard Kipling


“Have you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has anyone else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!


My Boy Jack – Read by Ralph Fiennes


August 2021 

As we emerged from lockdown rules to “freedom day” I was struck by how few people were feeling a sense of freedom.  With cases rising and people being “pinged” everywhere, there seemed to be an air of uncertainty, even anxiety with many feeling a shift towards individual responsibility, rather than the shared collective good.  Then came the news of floods and fires and a sense of hopelessness pervaded.  It is so easy in this climate for fear and anxiety to overwhelm, leaving us feeling paralysed and unable to take the next step. 

So, I went in search of a poet who could, inspire us, remind us of the, often unseen, harmony of the universe. A universe that binds us all together and reminds us that all we are facing is transient, part of a much bigger, incomprehensible plan.  When we come to know this to be true, everything settles, it is all ok, even when it isn’t.  Native American poet Joy Harjo reminds me that my job is to be open and to know the power of kindness.  We are all connected, there is no “us and them”, no conflict with nature.  We are all part of the whole, we come from the earth and go back to the earth. 



Joy Harjo - 1951-


  • Joy Harjo was appointed the new United States poet laureate in 2019. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951, Harjo is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. She is the author of several books of poetry, including An American Sunrise, which is forthcoming from W. W. Norton in 2019, and Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015). She is a current Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Once the World Was Perfect

Joy Harjo 

Once the World was Perfect.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.

Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts
Jumped through—
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life—
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time—
To now, into this morning light to you.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.



Joy Harjo

Remember.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.

"Remember." Copyright ©1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo.


For Keeps

Joy Harjo

For Keeps from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? they ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.                     

Reprinted from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. 


July 2021


This month sees our annual Floating Bye event.  Normally hosted on Instow Beach, it is an opportunity for us to come together to remember loved ones we have lost.   This year we will again be streaming the event online at 6pm on July 25th.  We hope you can join us for a chance to think about those family members and friends we miss.


With this in mind this month’s poems share the themes of Floating Bye, the first “A Ship Sailed” by Henry Van Dyke was written as a metaphor for dying, to comfort those left behind.  The second was written by our very own Miranda Broadhead and premiered in last year’s Floating Bye Service.  Written during lockdown Miranda poignantly captures the everyday things we miss when we are separated from someone we love.


A Ship Sails from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


A Ship Sails

By Henry Van Dyke


I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
' There she goes! '

Gone where?

Gone from my sight... that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
' There she goes! '
there are other eyes watching her coming...
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout...

' Here she comes! '
And that is dying.




Missing You in Lockdown.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


Missing you in lockdown

By Miranda Broadhead



If I was there, I’d ask you how many pieces of toast you would like

And if you still wanted mayonnaise on them


I’d water the flowers in the courtyard

And tell myself not to raise my eyes heavenwards when you say something irritating

It’s not nice.


I’d lean over the paper with you as you pointed to something

You think would interest me

And repeat ten times a day

No, you can’t come in the bathroom – let me wee in peace.


I’d brush past you and touch you

A thousand times a day,

-           casually, in passing,

As though it were the most ordinary thing in the world

Slumping next to you on the sofa,

Touching your arm in the car to draw your attention to some beauty I know you’d love

Handing the crossword over to you (reluctantly) when I can’t finish it


I’d kiss you goodnight

Then talk some more

Then kiss you goodnight again


If you were here now,

I would do those things, too

But know they are a feast.



June 2021


Let Evening Come     Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.


Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.


Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.


Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.


To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.


Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.


No Night Without You

By Helen Steiner Rice

There is no night without a dawning
No winter without a spring
And beyond the dark horizon
Our hearts will once more sing…
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away
Out of a restless, care worn world
Into a brighter day.



One Art

  By Elizabeth Bishop  More Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost, that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.




May 2021

In May we feature three poems of Mary Oliver, renowned for capturing the spirit of life, death and everything in between, she has become a favourite amongst poetry readers.

In “Hurricane” Oliver offers a metaphor for survival and regrowth after hardship and loss.


Hurricane.mp4 from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


HURRICANE    By Mary Oliver

(A Thousand Mornings  ISBN 978-1-4721-5376-0)

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
 But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.


“Wild Geese” is a soothing reminder to connect yourself to nature, even when it feels like the world is falling down around you. 


Wild Geese from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.


“Wild Geese”  by Mary Oliver

( Wild Geese Selected Poems  ISBN 13: 9781852246280)


You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


This third poem, manages to convey the depths of grief, whilst offering hope in the simplest of stanzas.

“The Uses of Sorrow”

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me

a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.



April 2021

This month we feature two poems by Irish, Poet, Author and Priest John O’Donohue (1 January 1956 – 4 January 2008). He was a native Irish speaker, and as an author is best known for popularising Celtic spirituality.  He authored several books, including Anam Ċara, Beauty, and To Bless the space between Us, a collection of blessings published posthumously after his death in 2008.


In a recent conversation with someone bereaved, I was struck by how articulately they described the depth of their loss and how it seemed impossible that anyone else could truly understand how it felt. “Even those who had loved and lost him too, can’t share this grief as they didn’t share his life as I did”.  There is something in the lines of John O’Donohue that recognises this sense of intense loneliness in grief, and yet he gives us hope that in the end we reconnect with our love when we come to understand we still carry them within us.



For Grief          John O'Donohue


When you lose someone you love,

Your life becomes strange,

The ground beneath you becomes fragile,

Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;

And some dead echo drags your voice down

Where words have no confidence

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;

And though this loss has wounded others too,

No one knows what has been taken from you

When the silence of absence deepens.


Flickers of guilt kindle regret

For all that was left unsaid or undone.


There are days when you wake up happy;

Again inside the fullness of life,

Until the moment breaks

And you are thrown back

Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,

You are able to function well

Until in the middle of work or encounter,

Suddenly with no warning,

You are ambushed by grief.


It becomes hard to trust yourself.

All you can depend on now is that

Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way

And will find the right time

To pull and pull the rope of grief

Until that coiled hill of tears

Has reduced to its last drop.


Gradually, you will learn acquaintance

With the invisible form of your departed;

And when the work of grief is done,

The wound of loss will heal

And you will have learned

To wean your eyes

From that gap in the air

And be able to enter the hearth

In your soul where your loved one

Has awaited your return

All the time.


In “To Bless the space between Us” John describes the gift of blessings; “The word Blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable.”

He offers a blessing for those in pain and grief:


by John O’Donohue


On the day when

The weight deadens

On your shoulders

And you stumble,

May the clay dance

To balance you.

And when your eyes

Freeze behind

The grey window

And the ghost of loss

Gets into you,

May a flock of colours,

Indigo, red, green

And azure blue,

Come to awaken in you

A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays

In the currach of thought

And a stain of ocean

Blackens beneath you,

May there come across the waters

A path of yellow moonlight

To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

May the clarity of light be yours,

May the fluency of the ocean be yours,

May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow

Wind work these words

Of love around you,

An invisible cloak

To mind your life






I chose the poems for this month's pages a couple of weeks ago (it takes a little while to get them recorded and uploaded to the site).  They both speak of the need to understand the darkness and the sorrow before we can experience the light and the joy.  How we must look within to find our happiness rather than seeking it out there with others. 

However as I sit here in sunshine on this the first day of March, with a real sense of Spring in the air and  a tentative plan for our way out of Lockdown,  I feel a sense of hope and renewal, so forgive me if I sneak one more poem in this month;  As we start to hope and plan for the months ahead of us, possibly feeling anxious about what the changes may mean,  here is a blessing For A New Beginning by John O'Donohue (There will be more from him next month).



In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the grey promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.



From his books 'To Bless the Space Between Us' (US) / Benedictus (Europe)

Ordering Info:




Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye 

 Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher, believed to have lived in the 6th Century BC, although he may also have been entirely mythical.  He is credited with writing the sacred text  Tao Te Ching.  His philosophy and teaching has been passed down and embellished for over two thousand years and forms the basis of Daoism (Also translated as Taoism.)


“There is a story about the three great Asian spiritual leaders (Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Buddha). All were meant to have tasted vinegar. Confucius found it sour, much like he found the world full of degenerate people, and Buddha found it bitter, much like he found the world to be full of suffering. But Lao Tzu found the world sweet. This is telling, because Lao Tzu’s philosophy tends to look at the apparent discord in the world and see an underlying harmony guided by something called the ‘Dao’.”



This poem brings us back to the simplicity of the Daoist message that all we need can be found, here, now, within.

Always we hope

someone else has the answer

Some other place will be better,

some other time

It will all turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer.

No other place will be better,

and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being you have the answer;

you know who you are and what you want.

There is no need

to run outside

for better seeing.

Nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at

The center of your being;

for the more you leave it

the less you learn.

Search your heart

and see

the way to do is to be.         LAO TZU, translator unknown



After the long month of January we look hopefully for the first signs of Spring, and cherish the few more minutes of light  in the sky, daily.

This month we have two different poems, one acknowledging how we can be swept up in all the "doing" and "stuff" and miss the chance to stop and simply "be", Dear You.  The other reflects on facing our own death, and what is our part in this vast existence?  Introduced by Maria Popova

“ The astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson (January 2, 1960–May 19, 1999) was twenty-nine when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma — a blood cancer that typically invades people in their sixties and seventies. Throughout the bodily brutality of the treatment, throughout the haunting uncertainty of life in remission, she met reality on its own terms — reality creaturely and cosmic, terms chance-dealt by impartial laws — and made of that terrifying meeting something uncommonly beautiful.
When she returned her atoms to the universe, not yet forty, Elson bequeathed to this world 56 scientific papers and a slender, stunning book of poetry titled A Responsibility to Awe — verses spare and sublime, drawn from a consciousness… life-affirming the way only the most intimate contact with death — which means with nature — can be.”
“We are all navigating an external world — but only through the prism of our own minds, our own subjective experience… The majesty of the universe is only ever conjured up in the mind.” - Rebecca Elson


Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars. Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.
Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:
No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.
And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:
To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

By Kaveri Patel

Dear you,
You who always have
so many things to do
so many places to be
your mind spinning like
fan blades at high speed
each moment always a blur
because you’re never still.
I know you’re tired.
I also know it’s not your fault.
The constant brain-buzz is like
a swarm of bees threatening
to sting if you close your eyes.
You’ve forgotten something again.
You need to prepare for that or else.
You should have done that differently.
What if you closed your eyes?
Would the world fall
apart without you?
Or would your mind
become the open sky
flock of thoughts
flying across the sunrise
as you just watched and smiled. 


This month we feature two poems by the same poet, Danna Faulds, who credits her practice of meditation for the gift of her creative voice. 



BREATH OF LIFE By Danna Faulds


I breathe in All That Is-
Awareness expanding
to take everything in,
as if my heart beats
the world into being.
From the unnamed vastness beneath the mind,
I breathe my way into wholeness and healing.
Inhalation. Exhalation.
Each Breath a “yes,”
and a letting go, a journey, and a coming home.



BIRTHRIGHT By Danna Faulds


Despite illness of body or mind, in spite of blinding despair or habitual belief, who you are is whole.

Let nothing keep you separate from the truth.

The soul, illumined from within, longs to be known for what it is.

Undying, untouched by fire or the storms of life,

there is a place inside where stillness and abiding peace reside.

You can ride the breath to go there.

Despite doubt or hopeless turns of mind, you are not broken.

Spirit surrounds, embraces, fills you from the inside out.

Release everything that isn’t your true nature.

What’s left, the fullness, light and shadow, claim all that as your birthright




As we reach the deepest part of winter, it may not be the obvious choice to find a poem about being in nature, but even if we are going out less, maybe we can close our eyes and remember the feeling of being among the trees, in open fields or overlooking the sea, wherever you find stillness and peace.  Here's Wendell Berry's meditative response to nature.


 A Timbered Choir         by Wendell Berry

(an excerpt) 

 I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.


Wendell Berry has written many poems that communicate his deep love for the natural world, and the solace he finds there. In this poem he describes what happens when he ‘goes among trees’, which is not so different from what happens when we are mindful or take time to meditate.

We sit down, we make peace with not attending to any of the things on our to-do list and our mind settles. And then, sooner or later, often stuff surfaces that we hadn’t attended to yet – ‘what I am afraid of comes’. Some unexpected feeling, an uncomfortable thought, sensations that we'd rather not experience… followed by that momentary impulse to get up and do something ‘useful’, the temptation to get lost in thought or drift off. But for me, when I manage to stay, to ‘live for a while in its sight’, something shifts or changes. 

What does this poem touch upon for you?  Do you have a fear you are avoiding?


This is the second time we have featured Rūmī, in full Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, the thirteenth century Sufi mystic and poet.  He is possibly most known for his lyrics and for his didactic epic Mas̄navī-yi Maʿnavī (“Spiritual Couplets”), which widely influenced mystical thought and literature throughout the Muslim world.   However the mystical theologian, author, and teacher became a global phenomenon during the twentieth century, as Europeans and Americans discovered his work.  The simplicity of his verse giving we the reader, pause for contemplation in our search for peace and harmony.


This simple stanza feels very apt for right now.  It invites us to come together; at a time when the world appears to be paying more attention to our differences than to what we share in common; perhaps this month we can come together spiritually, if not physically.


I'll Meet You there, by Rumi ...

You may like to revisit The Guesthouse by Rumi, on this page.


A mindful poem today...

Awareness    By John Austin

her gaze is so constant,
our every move
with such affection,
a ceaseless vigil
without condition
or agenda,
unrelenting in her
There is endless room in
the heart of this lover,
infinite space for whatever
foolishness we may
toss her way.
But she is also
crafty, this one-
a thief who will steal away
everything we ever cherished,
all our beliefs,
all our ideas,
all our philosophies,
until nothing is left
but her shimmering
this simple love
for what is.


Well, Autumn is upon us and the nights are drawing in, it's enough to make us all feel like hibernating.  So today we are sharing a poem that makes us want to go out and have fun, live every moment. At the same time, this poet's reflection points out how we are prone to play it safe; so let's not be hard on ourselves for all the times we've missed the moment.  Just remember there are always moments ahead, that we can choose to fully experience.

If I Had My Life to Live Over from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.

If I had my life to live over,
I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I'm one of those people who live
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.
Oh, I've had my moments,
And if I had it to do over again,
I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.
- By Nadine Stair (aged 85)


This week's poem feels familiar, the adults give their attention to a world they can control, in the form of a puzzle, where there is a place for every piece, "backs turned for a few hours to a world that is crumbling..."while youth is "impatient with her blossoming". 

Have you ever simply wanted to focus all your attention here, on a game, a film, a book, a poem; where it's simple and you know what it is and what to do, rather than continue looking at all the difficulty around you? Is it wrong to take a break? or do we see the world with new perspective when we stop looking directly at the problem and move our focus to the periphery?

Break from NorthDevonHospice on Vimeo.

Break        Dorianne Laux

We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.


In this week's poem,  Danna Faulds Allow, the poet asks us to pay attention to our attempt to control the course of nature and the course of our lives. 
At a time when we are being asked to notice the impact humans are having on the world whilst at the same time feeling at the mercy of nature, in the form of a virus, how would it be to simply let go of our attempts to control?

Allow         By Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes

By Roger Keyes

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

In this week's poem Mary Oliver challenges how we rewrite the world to be more palatable.  Do we avoid looking at the difficulty of life? or feel obliged to make things prettier? How would it be to accept and embrace it all?

Singapore       By Mary Oliver

In Singapore, in the airport,
a darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women’s restroom, one compartment stood open.
A woman knelt there, washing something in the white bowl.
Disgust argued in my stomach
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket.
A poem should always have birds in it.
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings.
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain rising and falling.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and neither could win.
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this?
Everybody needs a job.
Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch her as she stares down at her labor, which is dull enough.
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays, as big as hubcaps, with a blue rag.
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing.
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.
I don’t doubt for a moment that she loves her life.
And I want her to rise up from the crust and the slop and fly down to the river.
This probably won’t happen.
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?
Of course, it isn’t.
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
the way her smile was only for my sake; I mean
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.


Between the Lines Poetry Archive

Between The Lines - Past Poems

The Peace of Wild Things - Wendell Berry: Sea Glass - Bernadette Knoll: Warning - Jenny Joseph