OUTLOOK ON WESTER ROSS the website of Jeremy Fenton
Living in an area of such natural beauty, especially when one does not have to work for a living, may stimulate deep thoughts! The contrast between a peaceful life and the troubles of the world beyond may do the same.
What should we believe?
Everyone has ideas about “Life, the Universe and Everything”. Perhaps most of these ideas are not carefully thought out, but picked up from family, friends, media, etc. Many will be a vague atheism based on the idea that science has made unnecessary any belief in God, and why does it matter anyway?
The answers are all to be found in the Christian faith, but are too often ignored or not understood. One problem is that Christianity tends to be dressed up in religious jargon and quaintly old-
Poetry can be useful for putting across ideas. You can download a small selection of poems on Christian themes here:
The sea becomes the sky as we slip silently
across blue clarity and chaotic cloudscapes,
our wake the only mirror-
until a dark shape darts beneath the boat,
slices the surface in a breath-
and we stare spellbound at the porpoise's mastery
of its own dense element. So two worlds meet:
we the watchers agape: as angels, say,
might gaze into the material universe
which we call home and wonder at our mastery
of our own dense element, experiences denied
to creatures of a greater air and light.
And we the watched: are we porpoises? or fish,
trapped unaware beneath the sea-
where sunbeams flicker faint and unexplained?
Oh, rather be a porpoise! Breathe life from
that other world, feel the Sun's warmth, and know
that we are made for more than this world gives.
It seemed the first morning of the earth, the birth
of light and life in land and sea and air.
The sun rose singing in a crystal sky,
teased briefly by a few young sun-
A buzzard's cry called wildness to the world,
a whisper of breeze rustled the trees from sleep,
The air was crisp with wide-
for alleluias. As I stopped to drink it in,
there passed a fellow prince of creation, a man
head down, oblivious, thumbs working at his messages:
perhaps urgent to tell abroad the glories of the day?
SOME SHORT POEMS on various themes.
These are selected from the booklet which you can download below, and were written for the Gairloch Writers’ Group or simply for my own entertainment.
Home late: the village lights below, a random sprinkle
of pinholes in the black, electric white and amber.
Close out the night with electric cosiness: light heat music...
Suddenly the house flashes into darkness, vanishes with
a startle of unelectric shock. Check the village:
it has abandoned us, or we it, and we are lost in space.
No: a car's lights search uncertainly invisible streets
and faint glows grow into windows: the village is back,
centuries back, a candled shadow of itself,
its bubble confidence burst, now a fragile settlement
edging an uncertain ocean, fearful
of the enclosing dark... of wolves... of Viking raids...
But as we candle ourselves and join the village,
we find a web of warm light woven between us all,
we are flicked back into the electric now, and each house
cold shoulders its neighbours, re-
Autumn is best. Not the brash youth of Spring,
nor Summer's frantic insect-
nor yet the chill of Winter's darkening:
all fade when seen in Autumn's golden light.
Now rowan berries richly weight the trees,
the bracken blazes, woods are touched with glory;
now nature, effort spent, can rest at ease,
and sunset's blessing closes each day's story.
For us when autumn comes and time's our own,
the golden years begin; then wisdom learned
turns toil to pleasure, noise to peace; seeds sown
long since now bear a crop of fruits well-
But woe to those who waste the days of gold
and unprepared face winter's deathly cold.
He wandered carefree as a cloud,
and came upon a pool of water,
and saw, for the first time,
Wondering he stopped and gazed,
and knew, for the first time,
the blessing and the curse of self-
Beneath the surface lay a little world.
Slaters and snails and scuttling shrimps
sheltered in algal groves.
On the muddy plains roamed
small beetles and tardigrade bears.
Like tiny knights in armour
caddis larvae clung to their stones.
Overhead water boatmen winged their way
and dragons sailed the sky.
but Narcissus saw only his own face,
heard only the echo of his own voice.
Trapped in the whirlpool of himself
Time marches on and March is back:
March, month of moody ambivalence,
the adolescent of the calendar,
poised on the equinoctial fence,
swaying on the seasonal see-
March it does not, but meanders,
trudging one day to a wintry dirge,
sprinting the next in a spring-
battlefield of the seasons, the Ides of the year.
But this Mars is a mere apprentice,
his war mercifully brief, the winner certain:
the rainbow after rain, the flowering of life,
the death of death, the victory of hope.
In this war the good clichés always win.
Time marches on and March is gone.
The March of the Months
First comes January, dashing hopefully into the year.
February strolls more slowly, grumbling, with no cause to cheer.
March attempts to march but, wind-
Happy April scampers as the growing year at last takes wing.
May flies, splashing all with light and colour (often water colour).
June struts proudly at the solstice summit. But the view grows duller...
Tired July just wanders idly, swatting flies and mopping sweat.
Sultry August saunters through the summer, stagnant, hot and wet.
Livelier September dances merrily and shares the stage
with October: older, wiser, cooler now in middle age.
November trudges, silent, sullen, suffering from slow starvation.
December crawls, only alive through artificial respiration.
Swords and Ploughshares
Poppies grew in Flanders fields
as if there was not blood enough:
nature's innocent mockery of madness,
of the plague of rage which blew red
across the continent;
or maybe nature agonising for humanity,
sweating, like Christ in Gethsemane garden,
drops of blood.
Happier the world
if Flanders had been a garden indeed
where men dug flowerbeds not trenches
and battled only weeds,
if the blind guides who led the world into despair
had spent their ambition
caring for a little plot of land,
nurturing poppies on compost,
not on the flesh of men.
So what is this poem about? Not just about Gairloch’s porpoises, clearly. Allegory or parable may be more valuable than straight theology because they make the reader think. A porpoise is, in a way, amphibious: living in water but breathing air. Humans are intended to be the same, but in material and spiritual terms. And the Sun is God, of course.
It knows how to rain here.
The minimalist music of the mist
drops a steady drizzle
of drenching predictability.
Symphonic showers arrive
in wetting wind-
the steady pelting of the adagio,
a sunny scherzo tunefully rainbowed,
the allegro's refreshing sparkle.
And then come the operatic rains,
opening all the stops of the sky:
from a classical continuo
of splashing chords
to a Wagnerian deluge,
the twilight of the gods.
Rain here knows all the notes.
A sort of pictorial occasional blog can be found by pressing the black button…
"Beauty is God's hand-
The book opens with a bang
as reality explodes into existence.
Chaos is quickly written into order,
letters are shuffled into words,
and the grammar of the universe is born.
The author's hand is revealed
(he can not help it)
in the elegance of elements,
in the necessary intricacy of forces,
in the mystical power of numbers,
in the life and bountiful death of stars.
Into the epic immensity of the setting
another chapter brings the lyric beauty
of one particular world:
a world so blessed by circumstance,
so positioned, protected, provided,
that almost one might accuse the author
Here is a masterwork of calligraphy,
extravagant in detail, lavish in variety:
an abundance of newly-
a richness of adjectives,
an exuberance of verbs.
The author's hand is revealed on every page
(he can not help it)
by the beauty of his phrasing
in all things seen and unseen,
great and small,
useful and useless.
The writer writes. But who is to read the book?
By a bold stroke, when the time comes,
he writes readers into the story, characters
blessed with consciousness of their author.
Yet more daring, he makes them free
to change the book for good or ill.
So our own chapter begins. Too soon
our scribble overwrites the author's script,
our pride and greed make havoc of the plot.
All hope of a happy ending seems lost.
Is it possible that the author
might write into the book
and offer us a way out?
The Beaufort Scale
Force One, Light Air. Small ripples on the sea,
and little sign of movement in a tree.
Unfortunately midges can fly free.
Force Two, Light Breeze. You'll feel it on your skin;
the leaves may rustle, and small waves begin.
If dry, a perfect day for walking in.
Force Three, a Gentle Breeze. Waves show some white,
and smaller twigs may tremble with delight.
It's just the time to go and fly a kite.
Force Four, a Moderate Breeze. Small branches sway,
and in the waves the first white horses play.
Take windproof clothing if you're out today.
Force Five, Fresh Breeze. The smaller trees may lean,
white horses multiply, some spray is seen.
Exciting sailing if you're really keen.
Force Six, Strong Breeze. Now larger branches shake,
and sea spray starts to fly as wave tops break.
You're taking your umbrella? — bad mistake.
Force Seven, Near Gale. Whole trees are set in motion,
the waves grow higher, white lines streak the ocean.
Force Eight, a Gale. Some twigs break off and fly,
the waves with breaking crests are rough and high,
and clouds are scurrying across the sky.
Force Nine, Strong Gale, tears branches off their tree,
and airborne spray may make it hard to see.
So wood or water's not the place to be.
Force Ten, a Storm, and trees uprooted fall;
the sea is white with breakers over all.
Don't try to walk — it's easier to crawl.
Eleven, Violent Storm, may tear off tiles,
and windblown foam obscures the sea for miles.
The ferry's cancelled to the outer isles.
Force Twelve, a Hurricane. Just stay inside:
huge waves, and flying debris far and wide.
In such a wind all you can do is hide.
A muttering in the sky,
as if the clouds are gossiping.
Puzzlement, then "the geese! the geese!"
Ignoring us they arrow across the air,
intent on travel from A to C
and we at B, gazing in envy.
Theirs is a democracy which works,
all agreeing on one direction, one speed.
leadership shared, criticism allowed.
Ignoring us they chatter on their way,
and I search for a simile.
A gaggle of children at play,
absorbed in their un-
A coachful of tourists from another land,
failing to scratch our surface.
No — wild geese deserve better
as they skein the sky.
A flight of angels,
sweeping a new season across the world.
It must be autumn.