Silence in the nature reserve

And a happy new year to you all! I think it’s still all right to say that, but this has been my theme recently… just a little too late!

We spent the weekend after the new year in the middle of silence. It was beautiful. I’d been wanting to stay at the Elmley Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey for some time, and it was everything I dreamed of.

We took the little but beautiful Salt Box, which contains a bed, kitchen and bathroom but more importantly this view when we woke up in the morning….

We didn’t take advantage of the outdoor shower – surprisingly! But we did spend time reading, thinking and walking. I made a list of all the gardens I’ve visited this year and haven’t shared with you here, so – again late to the party – I’ll be catching up with them soon.

But in the meantime, enjoy this video taken just outside our little cabin before I sat down to write…


Which made me think of this poem, Silence by Billy Collins. Here’s an extract:

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night
like snow falling in the darkness of the house—

Making Patterns in Vietnam – a prose poem and a song

To being with it was the uniformity that gets you. You feel as if the patterns on the hillside were reflecting and softening the patterns inside you. Like walking the labyrinth, you are being settled by the landscape.


Dig your fingers in earth for five minutes has the same chemical benefits as taking a Prozac pill – you’ve repeated this fact so often who cares if a word here and there has fallen off, the meaning of the sentence remains unaltered, and that’s when you notice that the rice fields are of course all different.



Looking closely, you see the circles and whorls, necessity shaping distinct personalities until you feel you could recognise each rice farmer if you met them. As you walk on you make a game of it,


let your eyes drift before focusing intensely on one spot.



Inside the barriers to begin with, but then at the walls themselves. Were they made by hand? How did they hold firm?


And isn’t this what you are trying to do – to build walls around yourself just so you can stand up. Only close up becoming distinct, recognisable? But get too close, and you miss the true miracle. How, despite everything, you’re still clinging on. One of many, a small part of the pattern. You walk on. And on.


And now here’s a treat. A Vietnamese friend let me record him playing a traditional Black Hmong song on a leaf just for you…