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Poetry Rule No 2. Establish a good relationship with a stationery supplier

I, The Tree

It is afternoon
soon to be evening
as I wait for her to return
from the business of her day

I always wait for her
and hope she never goes away

I am reaching, always reaching
into the garden she has tended
for many lonely years

I know that she knows I look out for her
and would love to wipe away her tears

But the fingers of my hands are too hard
bent and curled

The best I can do is to soften her sorrow
with the surprise of spring
and after the cold white of winter
the promise of a green and bright tomorrow

Summer comes
a time I love to share
with her
and the garden

She – stooped –
digging and weeding
me with arms outstretched
in full and joyous glory once again
her in her own way
also feeding

Together we grow
each through our seasons

Every year I provide a carpet for her feet
she thanks me from her heart
I feel
and looks out for me
the Tree
hoping I will never go away

I know
with all the branches of my being
I never will

2017 & 2021

Poetry Rule No. 3 Establish (and maintain) good relationships with other suppliers – providing the bases are reciprocal

Red

Red was the colour
of your jacket
on the chair –
with slender, tender fingers
curled around a tumbler –
as you waited for me there
on our first date

Red was the colour of my jacket too
there was something about you –
the mark on your cheek
the way you held your head –
it wasn’t love at first sight
but I was happy for it to be
something else
instead

Since then our jackets
have become
a pair –
your slender, tender fingers
hold me now
in bed –
but I’ll always remember
our first date
when you and I
both wore
red

2017 & 2021

Leftovers soup

Cooking with leftovers isn’t a new concept, but it’s an important one.

I’m interested in reducing waste of all kinds. Reducing food waste in my own kitchen is something that I can and like to do.

My partner and I have different views about ‘waste’ when it comes to food.  When I was living on my own – which I was for some time before we met – I used to cook batches of food and either eat it for days on end until it was gone, or eat some and freeze some.

He, on the other hand, thinks that if he leaves something in a pan it’s going to ‘go to waste’ and therefore feels obliged to eat it (well, that’s his story!).

Anyway, because we both need to watch our weight, I’ve had to rethink my approach to batches and think more in portions. Apart from when I’m cooking soup.

It’s hard to overeat soup, by nature of it’s liquid bulk. And even if – when – we eat generous portions, the calorific value is relatively low (unless it’s laden with cheese, croutons, dumplings … but they’re another story).

At the weekend we indulged in roast leg of lamb with a herb crust, complete with jabron potatoes, sugar snap peas and Savoy cabbage. It was a great combination (with gravy, of course), followed by magic lemon pudding (I’d been massively remiss in not having made this for over forty years) and ice cream (delish).

So, there were a few sugar snap peas and some cabbage left, plus some sticks of celery and a couple of peppers which were ‘on their way out’ but got thrown in.

Added stock, a few splashes of things here and there (my secret) and, once cooked, liquidised.

The result was tasty, healthy, ‘slurp worthy’ soup that tasted so much better than anything out of a can.

Each batch of leftover soup is unique; once it’s gone, it’s gone. But it’s great just to conjure something up from odd bits and pieces, instead of throwing them out.      

Rule No. 20 Enjoy the process

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

Well-pruned roses

The pathways of my mind
Are not defined
Just like well-pruned roses
They shoot and sprout
In all sorts of places
At paces I know nothing about

The slate chippings in my garden
Are sharp and grey
They lay flat and easy
In the spaces that I make
Not knowing why
Or how long it will take

Praying to the sky
Leaves turn green and fall
Orange, yellow, gold
Flowers unfold
Well-pruned roses
Always turn out best
Until it’s time to weed again
And then it’s time to rest

Places that I know nothing about
Spaces that I make
The garden of my mind is growing
Like a well-pruned rose
That buds and blooms
Before it goes

Eventually the birds will come
To sing their song
In the garden of my well-pruned mind
Where they belong

2015

Spring

The cold, folded steel
of your handles
fit precisely into my palm
where they belong

Thumb finds familiar catch
that slips silently to one side
releasing the spring
opening your blades
for action

You are my weapon of choice
as together we cut and thrust our way
to the possibility of new growth

Season after season
we have fought fibrous flesh
of one kind or another
but today I use you
for a different reason

With a delicate snip and trim and dip
down each cutting goes into the dark holes
I have prepared for them
ready to take root
if they choose

I don’t want to lose them
or you, as I sometimes do
in places that escape me

Then, as your dull grey surface
greets me once again
I know we will go on
you with your blades
and me with my hands
to create many pots of cuttings
and piles of thorns
amongst the blossoms.

© Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker 2017

Exercise and mental health: overcoming barriers

The health benefits of exercise are well recognised.

Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep and feel better.

Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.

“I get a huge buzz from my rock ’n’ roll class. Hours later, my legs ache, but I’m still smiling.”


Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. Walks in the park, gardening or housework can also keep you active.

Experts say most people should do about 30 minutes’ exercise at least five days a week.

Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.

[Source: 2. Keep active | Mental Health Foundation]

We all know this and are likely to have had direct experience of these benefits. 

Why, then, can it still be so difficult to find the motivation to exercise?

It’s an issue that I’ve struggled with all my life, experiencing barriers associated with body image when I was younger.  I knew swimming was good exercise but would only ever go to a swimming pool or wear a swimsuit on a beach if I’d starved myself to be thin enough to feel able to do that. And even then, I felt morbidly self-conscious about how I looked.  It took a long time and a lot of working through masses amount of personal ‘stuff’ before I could stop worrying and start enjoying swimming. My partner and I even go wild swimming now, and it feels wonderful.

I tried jogging, but always found it so hard to build myself up to a regular routine. Lacking in willpower and discipline some people might say.  Struggling with severe depression, anxiety and low self-esteem was the real reason.  I’ve continued to struggle ever since, but have also never given up. Now 65, I’ve been doing on-line exercise classes, including yoga and pilates during lockdown.  Last summer we did some cycling around our local lanes.  We still both find that it’s an effort to go out, sometimes, but give each other a push and/or moral support when we need it.  Whatever it takes. 

What’s the alternative?  An inactive old age with all the complications that brings?

I’ve always found it difficult to go to a gym or to exercise classes after work. Just getting through a day involved such a major effort for me.  So I looked for ways to combine exercise into my daily routine.  Cycling to work meant that I often turned up looking like a drowned rat, but it did help.

Even so, I continued to struggle with depression, and continued to find it hard to motivate myself to exercise enough to help it lift on anything more than a temporary basis.  I felt like the only way I could sustain the ‘lift’ would be to train as if I was an Olympic athlete.  I have neither the physique nor the talent to be anything remotely akin to athletic and, like most people, have had to commit a significant amount of my time to earning a living and keeping up with the usual day to day domestic activities.

There were times as well when I felt that the more I exercised, the deeper my depression went, after the initial ‘buzz’ fell away. 

I continued to have to do a lot of work to try and shift it, with exercise being one of a number of tools and techniques that I’ve tried and tested over the years.  It has been, and continues to be, a lifetime endeavour.  I think that this is in part because of the way emotions are stored in the body, a matter which has been increasingly recognised and written about including the following article by Sean Grover (2018):

For years, I’ve made a study of where people tend to store their unwanted emotions. Certainly, not all body aches or illnesses are psychosomatic. However, as I studied people’s bodily reactions to stress, recurring patterns emerged.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Repression

Fear is the driving force behind repression, and is frequently rooted in your past. Repression is often necessary, particularly when you feel overwhelmed or experience trauma. But an overdependence on repression fuels psychosomatic symptoms and self-destructive patterns.

[Source:Where Do You Store Stress in Your Body? Top 10 Secret Areas | Psychology Today]

In his article in Psychology Today, Sean Grover goes on to identify the ‘Top 10 Tension Areas for Unwanted Feelings’ as:

1.Lower Back: Anger
2. Stomach & Intestines: Fear
3. Heart & Chest: Hurt
4. Headache: Loss of control
5. Neck/Shoulder Tension: Burdens
6. Fatigue: Resentments
7. Numbness: Trauma
8. Breathing Difficulties: Anxiety
9. Voice & Throat Problems: Oppression
10. Insomnia: Loss of self

I find this interesting and helpful, relating these areas to recent and past experiences.

I did a lot of work on repressed anger at one point, including going to a workshop where I was encouraged to take a lot of it out on a punch bag.  The physicality of the release at the time was phenomenal (although I did go into a kind of ‘toxic shock’ afterwards, so I would not recommend anyone trying this approach without a very strong support network around them).

Some years later, experiencing stress at work, I searched out volunteering opportunities, finding an outlet by doing trail maintenance work where I could break big rocks into smaller rocks to make hardcore with a sledgehammer.  I came back refreshed and invigorated. Although the effects did wear off after a while, I have so far – touch wood – not suffered from lower back problems.

Fatigue and resentments strike a chord with me – I’m so good at hanging on to them, no wonder I feel tired all the time!

So, while I’ve done a lot of work on myself to get to this point, and to feel largely positive about the position I’m in, there’s still a lot to do.

It’s often the enormity – or perceived enormity of the challenge – that puts us off dealing with it, which leads to repression, which leads to depression….

It’s all about the next step, and the one after that …

There are no easy answers or quick fix solutions, especially when difficulties are deep-rooted.  I just keep reminding myself that it’s all about the next step. And the one after that. And the one after that.  It does get easier.  Miraculously – it feels to me – my steps feel a lot lighter, at the age I’m at now, than they did when I was young, all those years ago! Something must be working, somehow. Barriers can be overcome. It’s not easy, but it’s worth working at it, bit by bit.

Poetry Rule No. 1 Do your own filing

The Lever Arch File

A lever arch file
is a beautiful thing,
made of cardboard
and shiny metal,
designed to hold papers in place
with a lever and a spring.

You can have an A-Z index
or a dating system,
nothing left to chance,
records retrieved, at a glance.

There is something so safe and satisfying
about the lever arch file
that now sits in a pile
in landfill
or burnt on a bonfire
where the smoke goes up
into the clouds.

Now we have digital data,
tags and the like,
are archives really a thing of the past?

Searches draw blanks,
seem random at best
will our technological filing systems
really stand the test,
like the lever arch file did,
once upon a time?

© Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker 22 January 2021

The Pie Poem

This poem was inspired by my partner’s love of pies generally and one in particular, The Famous Cow Pie at the George Hotel in Keswick. http://georgehotelkeswick.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/The-George-Evening-Menu-18.09.20.pdf.

However, even though he helped me to write the poem, I’m only crediting him with eating the pie, unless he wants to eat his words. Ha!

The perfect pie

The perfect pie
is sensationally satisfying
oozing with succulent
gorgeous, gravy goodness
as the nostril-caressing aroma
emanating from its slab-like form
stimulates the anticipation
of marvellous meatiness
turning into an explosion of flavour
the savouring of which
makes the world immediately
a better place –
perfection
on a plate.

Washing Up

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

One of the few things I remember from school is ‘The Order of Washing Up’:

Glasses first, clean and bright
knives and forks come next
plates follow on until they’re done
the saucepans finally too
I’ve washed up many times and yet
the order still comes through

Washing up is not a chore
it’s a time to stand and think
of soap and suds and water
and all things in my sink

I hope my pile of washing up
is there for me each day
I never dry, just let it drain
and then I put it all away.

January 2020

Being 65

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

In one sense, this post should just be entitled ‘Being’, because age is irrelevant.

I interact with the world essentially as a being, and don’t need a label.

On the other hand, I do have history, and the ways that I have worked through that history impact on the way that I interact with the world – and other beings in it – on a daily basis.

It isn’t always easy to put the past behind us, especially when heavily loaded with emotions associated with trauma and grief.

Accepting things that I cannot change has been a hard life lesson to learn for me, helped by meditation, affirmations, and Buddhist teachings (including one in particular by Gen Togden of the Kadampa tradition).

Not having had children is a major regret. Raising this as an issue with a therapist recently, still needing to work it through, I was met with a profoundly uncompassionate response: “So you decided not to have them then, did you?”

At one level, she was right. I made choices – decisions – that led to me being in a state of extreme mental and emotional turmoil in my late 30s and 40s. Decisions that I made as a struggling, vulnerable young woman in my 20s were mine, and I was an adult. But should I really have had to pay such a high price in later life?

Shit does happen though, and doesn’t discriminate. Thankfully, I have had previous experiences with other counsellors/therapists who’ve approached my distress with humanity and empathy.

Even so, some things take a long time to work through. Some ‘stuff’ from the past has just come up that I thought I’d put behind me, or at least wanted to. It doesn’t always work like that though, and I’m sure my brain dredged it up now because I hadn’t properly dealt with it previously.

Now I’m in a much better place than I have ever been before, living with a kind, loving, supportive, funny partner. Being 65 is a starting point for me, and it’s never too late.

If I can send out a message to anyone who’s going through personal difficulties – whether recently experienced or long-term endured – it is to say: “Don’t give up.”

We don’t always know what we’re made of until our backs are to the wall, especially if we’ve oriented towards ‘flight’ rather than ‘fight’ in early years.

Fighting for survival is a primary motivator and there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you can’t see it for yourself, let someone else – a friend – see it and hold it for you until you can.

I’m only 65, and I’ve got all my life ahead of me. So have you.