‘All sky and geometry’

Field and gate

Soon we will have been in Lincolnshire a year. Autumn is moving into winter and the landscape is beginning to look bright and spare and empty as it did on my very first walks here.

I found the phrase ‘all sky and geometry,’ describing the fenland landscape, quoted from the poet John Clare on the Woodlands Farm website. Now I have found Clare’s collected works among my partner’s books and am reading his nature poetry for the first time. I love ‘all sky and geometry;’ it exactly describes the abstract art that I find around me, especially at this time of year (see this old post).

Today was cold but beautiful and I walked on Great Hale Fen, with low, slanting afternoon sun gilding the ploughed fields; I walked along Car Dyke, the drainage ditch dug by the Romans and then past the windmill and the station on my way home to Heckington.

The photos here, with their straight lines and angles, are ones which make me think of geometry, as well as art. Many of the lines are man-made: the railway, electricity cables, drainage ditches and field boundaries. But always, all around there is that flat-line of a horizon, earth meeting sky, outside us and beyond our reach.

The folk group, LAU play a piece called Horizontigo, a response to the fenland landscape by musician Kris Drever, who comes from Orkney. Here they are playing it. I love the title: and wonder if Horizontigo is what a friend was suffering from when she said all my blog photos of flat landscapes were making her dizzy (see Flat vs bumpy post).

More of the photos from my walk are on the Facebook page. Do pay it a visit and ‘Like’ it if you haven’t already.

And for more on John Clare and his poetry, see these recent pieces by George Monbiot and Andrew Motion:

Line to Boston

Dances with daffodils

single daffodil

And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils

After writing my host of golden daffodils’ post, I looked up Wordsworth’s poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud, where the daffodil reference comes from. Click on the link above to see the poem – on the Poetry Foundation’s website – if you don’t know it.

I’m not sure if I have ever read the whole poem before. It is so familiar that it’s hard to read it without being tripped up by famous phrases. But I was struck by the last two lines (see above) and the image of the poet remembering the beauty of the mass of flowers after the event.

It has left me thinking about how, when so many of us lead such indoor lives, we hold on to that lift of the spirits that being outside in nature can give us.

There are two parts of this for me. The first is remembering how good the outdoors, open space and nature are for me, so I remember to spend more time there and not let myself get trapped in the house. And the second, perhaps more challenging, is how to bring the daffodils, the trees and waves back inside with us, keeping the dance and the freedom in our hearts even when we cannot see the light.


breathing ice for air,
stalks bleached bone white,
earth hard as iron.

below, seeds dream of life,
in darkness
until light’s return.

doorway of the year, two-faced,
where past meets future,
death meets birth

and like a mother,
bearing hope,
out of darkness light returns.

I won’t be making a habit of putting poems on here, as I write very few, but decided to take the risk of putting up this one which came back to my mind when thinking about winter, the dead time of the year, the turn of the year and so on.

The words first came into my head while walking on Chorlton meadows in the early days of January 2010. It was the first of those very cold winters and we had temperatures of minus 18 in Manchester. The ground was hard as iron and all colour bleached from the landscape – beautiful, but bleak indeed for birds and animals looking for food and shelter.

I remember we were going down to our allotment twice each day because the water for the chickens kept freezing over. Each morning it was hard work opening the big metal gates at the site and trying to unlock frozen padlocks; and I used to think how crazy we were to be keeping chickens as a hobby at an allotment, pretending to be smallholders. And then I used to think how much I would like to live in the country so I could have the chickens in the back garden.

At the same time it was magical to be there early in the morning in all that cold and quiet; seeing if anyone else had been down and left footprints on the snowy paths; finding a spider’s web strung on the allotment gates, jewelled with ice.

And I was thinking of my mother when I wrote the poem as her birthday is in January.