I had a dream when I was about seventeen in which the most beautiful music was playing. It was the song of the morning and I could not recall it when I woke up but I knew that song connected me to everything that lived. In the dream I was in my favourite place in the world, the river Tamar looking out towards Landulph and into Cornwall. The sun was bright, the Tamar Bridge and Brunel railway bridge were there, sturdy and strong.
But as in all the best and most memorable dreams, the landscape was both familiar and unfamiliar. The bridges stretched for miles and miles into the distance, and a train was standing still, not on the track, just on the hillside, packed with brightly dressed animals all wishing me well on my long journey ahead.
I was travelling far away, deep into the heart of the countryside, a long way from everyone and everywhere. I knew in my dream I was walking from one reality to another, one state to another and that I had to say goodbye to everything I thought I knew in order to make that journey. I was not afraid or excited, just peaceful. With the song in my head, the good wishes of the strange animals in my heart and the beauty of where I was going to guide me I was ready for what was to come. At the time of the dream, I believed I had glimpsed heaven.
That dream is what Wordsworth called a ‘mansion of the mind’ in his sublime poem Tintern Abbey. Mansions of the mind are interior places to visit when they are needed. They are to be recalled in loving detail and held in reverence. I visit my dream when I need to, when I am thinking about bridges, about transcendence, about the unfamiliar and the familiar. Once again today I tried to hear that music but it is gone, only the trace memory of it remains. And oddly, that is enough.
It’s Day 3 of Lent, post pancakes and ash and into the real business of the wilderness. I don’t do the ashing because of my position as sceptic and it would be hypocrisy to take part in rituals I am wrestling with.
I’ve been wrestling with the words of psalm 51,
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
and the whole notion of penitence. It’s not a comfortable place to be. The wrestling will go on for some time.
In my state of wilderness I am seeking what is mine to own and what I should leave for others. Some of this is clear, some is not.
I have this recurring image of deep darkness, the depth and darkness of the abyss and of standing in it. Far above my head is a light, just the faintest show of it. I can see no way to climb out of the abyss and I think of a ladder. One appears. But it is in fact not a ladder, it is a hand and it is within my reach. However, I am paralysed by the abyss and I cannot reach for that hand. Rather than disappearing, the hand remains and I feel in my heart that when I am ready, when I reach for it, it will assist me in my climb.
Today is the first day of Lent and for the second time in my life I am making a serious effort to use the forty days and nights to undertake a journey into the wilderness to gain greater insight into myself and my life. Last year I emerged with a powerful realisation of the significance the grieving process has to our existence and how important it is to not pathologise it but to simply live it.
This year, I walk into that inner wilderness much more self aware and with a greater understanding of the importance of inner journeying. To undertake it fearlessly and with commitment is the first challenge. My other challenge is to stand and face whatever comes and to look square at it unflinchingly.
During Advent I subscribed to the Church of England’s daily reflections and found them enormously helpful as the approach of Christmas became increasingly difficult to manage. I would describe myself as a devout sceptic, constantly interrogating faith and exploring spiritual matters with an open mind. I’ve subscribed to the church’s Lent reflections and on this the first day, the focus is on the light that always comes out of darkness.
Speaking of light, the one thing I always take into the dark of the psyche is a candle. Even if its light is low and flickering, its presence is reassuring and it is something to follow when the dark becomes threatening or overwhelming.
I am peaceful at the start of this process and full of optimism that whatever the outcome the process will have been worthwhile. If you are undertaking your own journey, then keep a light with you as you go and walk safely.
Woodland Stories, schools’ tour 2018
La Luna is two weeks into the spring tour, taking Woodland Stories into primary schools and working with Key Stage 1 children. This wonderful, creative partnership with the NE Lincs Music Hub is proving to be a truly joyous and lovely experience. We have received a warm welcome in every school and have enjoyed meeting teachers and children who have been unfailingly engaged and enthusiastic. We are looking forward to working with all of the schools at the Singing Festival in March. You can access the songs at this link, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzdtBfLER9AXHjPGPqhcjSQ/featured
The book with audio CD is available to buy direct from me for £12.50 inc p&p
On January 26th, the wonderful Helen Mort was our guest for a workshop with the Franklin College Young Voices and a reading at Riverhead Coffee. We had a truly fantastic day with Helen who was kind enough to give this feedback:
“I have rarely read in front of such an appreciative audience and felt so well-supported by the event organiser. La Luna events give a platform to emerging voices and to young people who might otherwise feel they are not heard. There’s a sense of democracy but also of high quality work being produced. These platforms are absolutely vital to the life of Grimsby and to reinforcing a sense of community.”
We have rarely been graced with such a warm, witty and engaging guest poet and we are delighted that Helen has agreed to come back for future events.
Thanks very much to poet and workshop leader Gordon Wilson who hosted the monthly poetry cafe on February 1st at Riverhead Coffee while I was out being a woodland warrior. The next cafe event is Thursday March 1st and I am looking forward to it already.
2017 was a phenomenal year in terms of the many things that La Luna achieved and now that January is almost past and several projects are up and running I am thinking about plans for the rest of the year and beyond.
This Friday, La Luna hosts Helen Mort at Riverhead Coffee in Grimsby and hot on the heels of that is our first Poetry Cafe gathering on Thursday 1st. This monthly meeting of writers is gathering momentum and has given me food for thought in terms of how to develop and add to it.
A Woodland Story is proving popular with children and teachers and although we’re only at the beginning of the schools tour, we are already seeing what a joyous and engaging piece of work it is. It’s great to go into schools with an excellent ensemble to deliver work that is so appreciated.
Great Grimsby Community Choir goes from strength to strength and deserves the support and positivity it receives. We have interesting concerts in the pipeline and lots of plans for workshops, collaborations and events across the year.
I am looking forward to two further Fish Tales gigs in June and more work with Pat McCarthy and Alan Barnes – work that is already in the process of being created.
La Luna projects and the work I undertake as a writer and performer are lifeblood to me. I love what I do and am lucky to be in a position of having access to creative opportunities with some outstanding artists. I am optimistic about 2018 and to looking ahead to some wonderful work. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and for that continuing support. The days are getting longer and there is always light.
Today the new book launched at a teacher training session for Key Stage 1 teachers. A Woodland Story is a co-authored publication. Pat McCarthy and I devised the story and the themes for the six original songs and then with ideas and input from Matt Gray and Hetty McCarthy and artwork from Sophie Ashton we’ve produced a book, CD and Youtube channel. Although the work is aimed at schools the book is suitable for reading and enjoying with young children in the home or other settings.
The book is available to buy directly from La Luna and I am now taking orders. Books and CDs will be posted on receipt of payment. Please contact me via a private message to arrange a purchase.
We are now looking forward to the schools’ tour and to delivering the workshop based on the book in twenty-two schools. It’s going to be great fun. The schools’ project culminates in the Key Stage 1 Singing Festival at Grimsby Auditorium in March when all the children involved will have the opportunity to perform the songs with a live band and professional conductor.
La Luna is thrilled to be working with the NEL Music Hub as a partner on this project which is supported with funding from Arts Council England.
Although I am more airy than fiery I find myself increasingly drawn to fire and its properties. Having an open fire in my current home gives me the opportunity to rekindle my relationship with this core element. I enjoy the ritual of sweeping out the hearth in preparation for building a good fire.
I build with paper, kindling, small logs and firelighters, if there is resistance, letting heat build gradually, watching with patience and care as my grate becomes a small furnace.
The dark dankness of this January week has given me the impetus to focus on fire and on using it not just for warmth and comfort but also to stir deep memory while simultaneously burning away that which is past.
Tonight the fire burns with serious intensity. Remnants of Christmas crumble to ash and will go out tomorrow into a pile at the bottom of the garden in readiness for mixing in with compost for the garden later in the season.
Watching the glowing and splitting veins of coal I remember winter nights with my grandma, watching her fire burn low and imagining myself a creature of fire, able to walk through the crumbling walls of red and orange coal, a fire city full of fire people.
The flames and heat are reassuring to me. I can conjure my grandma’s face, her warm eyes, the coo of her Devonshire voice and all the furrows on my brow smooth, my heart eases and I feel safe.
The flames consume the last ghosts of Christmas along with pieces of the past year of which I need to be rid.
To the power of the fire I give up old hurts, wounds and worries and let the flames take it all. Fire is older and more powerful than me, before and after me and my time on this good green earth. I am grateful to the fire and as it burns itself out I breathe out into its heart and feel something dislodge from my heart and surrender itself. It feels peaceful and good.
Happy New Year to everyone. Here’s the link to the broadcast of Fish Tales from the Herts Jazz Festival. It’s available until about 22nd January on the BBC iPlayer.
Here’s a review from Jazz Rag of the performance at the festival:
One programmed concert of new music at many a festival these days is the latest suite by Alan Barnes, usually for an all-star octet. This year it’s Fish Tales, music and poems based on the Grimsby fishing industry. I often wonder how precisely thematically based jazz suites relate to their subject matter, but in this case the correspondence between the music and Josie Moon’s words is pretty close, from the rowdy fun of Three Day Millionaires to the street parade sounds of Homecoming, even Dave Green’s bubbling bass solo for The Drowning Man. Moon’s poetry covers the domestic, the documentary and the supernatural, her explanations are clear and her readings dramatic. Alan Barnes’ writing makes particular use of the versatility of his threeman reed section (some lovely writing for two clarinets and bass clarinet) and, with top-class soloists throughout the band, Mark Nightingale and Robert Fowler made a particularly strong impression.
To those who have
been kind and fair,
To those who have
stood strong, stood firm,
To those who have
lent teeth and claws,
Thank you to those
who have seen and heard,
walked shoulder to shoulder,
hand in hand,
never veering from veracity
in the challenges of this year.
To those who have not
meddled and maligned,
To those who have not
indulged malevolent spite,
Thank you to those
not party to the mob,
not baying for blood,
not casting stones,
not spitting venom,
when others invite you to.
casters of stones,
pitchfork and torch bearers,
to you I say thank you.
Because I see you.
Because I know you.
You are darkness visible
and exactly where I want you.
This is just a very brief post to say thank you to everyone who has dropped by the site this year and supported me and my work. It’s not been the easiest of years but it has been easier to focus on the positives and the wonderful opportunities I have enjoyed rather than on the travails.
And so I do wish you and your beloveds a really lovely Christmas, however you spend it. It can be a tough time for many so spare a thought for those who’ve got trouble and give them some time if you’re able. My heart goes with those who carry hard losses this year.
So look to the light dear fellow humans on this beautiful blue planet of ours and be peaceful.
Josie out xxx