Educator Soul Land by Natalia Clarke engages the reader through lovely language and imagery. I’m looking forward to showing several of these lines to my students as mentor texts to inspire their own writing!
Claire M. So beautiful. It really takes a special poetry book to maintain my interest and this one did. Gentle yet powerful. Highly recommended for poetry fans, and those who are open to new things.
Katie M. This was such a lovely poetry collection. It was different from others I’ve read before. It showed a deep and personal connection to Scotland, the heritage, and the culture. I normally read poetry to relate to what is being said. This was rather hard for me to connect to since I have no connection at all to Scotland. Regardless, it was very beautiful. I loved what I read and wish it was longer.
Wulfie N. This collection was incredibly unique. It painted a beautiful picture with its words, and I fell in love with every single one of them.
DeAnn H. This poetry collection really was a love letter to Scotland and how the author feels about Scotland. There was some beautiful imagery and wonderful phrases that painted a picture of the wildness and beauty of Scotland. I did really enjoy the poems and language, but wished it was a little longer. I would have loved to read more since I did feel it was a bit short. Still, a lot of the images inspired by her words were wonderful and definitely make you feel like you can see the landscape she’s describing.
An open view as far as an eye can see. I can feel beyond that. For the first time in many years the picture is complete with every mountain sketch, rock, shoreline and a bird in the sky in full view. The sun is high yet gentle; blues and greens are in perfect harmony with a splash of purple and pink in corners and edges of the land. We are approaching. A castle stands proud above the cliffs overlooking a sheer drop. It is still here. I delight in much needed reassurance.
When a view opens up from the living room window it is vast. You can see and feel the mountains breathe into the sea and exhales come as waves and splashes that freshen everything up. Everything is injected with life. It is overwhelming trying to take it all in. It feels like I can’t decide if there’s too much air or not enough of it. It is as if I am possessed by raw instinct that makes me want to take my shoes off and run to the edge of the vista that sprawls open in front. The end of the earth is there. Senses are both sharpened and relaxed. It is intoxicating to a point of wanting never to sober up. Silence is otherworldly.
I sit at a long kitchen table surrounded by lush green landscape with rowan and gorse, ash and oak in faithful surround. Those trees know the land intimately, they know they belong here. I can’t take my eyes away from large windows in front of me, which makes it impossible to work. It takes a few days to be able to fit into this pristine environment and realise where I came from and where I am. The contrast is shockingly stark. It is a process of bedding in, acclimatising slowly and steady or you might just suffocate.
I decide to go for a walk, something I have been looking forward to for the whole year. It is all just as I left it last time. I find it reassuring and comforting. It is all here, still. When I am away I often wonder if things change when I am not there to see it, will it all still be there when I go back? Will I have another chance to live it? I never know. Every time I find it is just as I left it and it is a relief and something beyond beautiful and soothing to know it will outlive everyone and everything.
I walk along a path and silence wraps me up in a cloud of peace. It is palpable, ethereal like nothing else on earth for me, the most precious commodity and a gift. I cherish it with every land’s breath, every leaf movement and rain drop that make up the silent chorus that is nature being. My heart is in my mouth and I am deeply happy. There’s nothing else I need or want in that moment and if it was to be the last that would be a glorious end. I always feel that way here in those moments when there’s no past or future and the present is so perfect and complete that nothing else is needed or matters.
I continue on the path but not for long as I am a habitual off-the-path walker. I always need to go in where wild resides. I need to get close to it and it makes itself known by making scratches on my legs, sticking things to my clothes and dipping my feet in mud. I feel feral and ecstatic. Makes me feel I belong that little bit more. It is the unknown yet feels like home. I scramble up a wooded hill and it is like my own invisible circle – a place where magic is the law not just a possibility. It is all so simple and fresh. It is always there and doing its thing. It knows itself as much as anything on earth can ever know itself. This is a true nature of things. I want to be that way if only I never had to leave or having to do things or even think. Humans are limited through complicating things. It is never simple in our minds and we dwell in those self-imposed prisons without realising it, by habit, automatically. Awareness does not come easy to us and we are easily led into traps of our own lives.
I wrap my arms around a silver birch, wet and earth-smelling. Its smooth bark is like a touch of a loved one. My grandmother comes to mind and memories of walking in silver birch forests in my childhood flood in. Every touch here means something, every smell is a reminder how entwined I am with nature in my body and spirit. I lose track of time. There is no time here, only life, only what you see and feel.
I am having to drag myself out back on to the path. Deer to my left startled and frozen as they pick up my scent. They look right at me before fleeting. I smile. Clean air hits every inch of my body and I could almost be floating I feel so uplifted as happiness spreads through me. I let my hair loose and stand catching every bit of the breeze that is sweet and the most soothing thing I could ask for. I stand still for a minute hungry for more, taking each breath and there’s more coming. I can’t get enough. It is never enough.
I get moving again and come across some cottages by a loch-side. I always wonder what it must be like to live in such a place. I used to get envious to a point of passing out but since have learnt a lot more. At this point I am under no illusion that life here is easy. My initial idealised vision has truly been grounded in reality of life on an island, in a land so wild, raw and free that one has to work at belonging. Every cottage makes me think and wonder of a possibility of a compromise. It is a symbol of a relationship between a human and nature. It offers a possibility of finding out if one is brave enough.
Stroking a thick coat of a highland coo I touch something primal. Animals bring a sense of kinship to my instinctual animalistic self. I am in love every time I touch an animal. They are warm, looking right at me with their black eyes and there is a connection no doubt. A lot can be learnt from the beasts of that land. Birds of pray are everywhere here, they are noisy one minute and gliding silently the next, barely there.
Time to turn back. I am so happy, utterly at peace and content. My body feels satisfied like it’s had the most nourishing meal. Nothing else needed. Nothing needs to be added or taken away. It is complete. I am whole.
I can hear her calling. Hardly there like a whisper it is carried by gentle wind. There is no force or vigour in that call, just a brush on my being making awareness known that she is waiting, she is there. There is comfort in knowing somewhere hundreds of miles away there is a place that exists and willing to accept you just as you are. It comes as a song, as the land sings in tunes that can be heard amidst its beauty. Every time I am alone in the wilderness, particularly near water, the song comes alive on my lips. It is such a natural feeling that I can’t help but pick up a tune and carry it through the land. It is an act of participation in the land’s dreaming, in its being state just as it is. I feel belonging in a way I can’t explain. It is a modest, humble way of being present; behaving in a way that does not possess, disturb or claim any rights to it and that is how the land wants it. It opens up in ways unexpected revealing the simplest, but the most stunning corners of its soul, be it in a rain drop on a blade of grass or a blanket of mist over loch in early hours. It is truly feminine on the whole, I feel, particularly in certain places. It is so on the Isle of Mull where I am going. There is no rush or anything planned, it is in the flow of any given day that the land is there for me to participate in and there is so much to discover through being with her.
It can be overwhelming so I feel nervous once again as the day of reunion approaches. It is that feeling of meeting a lover, someone utterly dear to your heart that you’ve been separated from for a while. It is the feeling we are all familiar with when we finally step into their embrace and it is both ecstatic and overwhelming and it takes time to ground in being together in the same place. I never know what to expect and try hard not to have any ideas preconceived by past experiences. My mind creates these states due to nervousness within me, which is completely natural. It is hard not to rush into feeling either and get swept away with it before the journey even begins, but again, that is also natural when going to a place that although non-human is animate to me in every sense. It has a distinct smell to me and it sounds in a particular way. Visual alone is all consuming and touching its skin being it stones, moss, heather or a surface of a loch often threatens to swallow me up through overload of emotions. It is fully alive within me and it is no surprise containing it all within little old me is difficult, but year after year I go, I participate, I learn and will continue for as long as I hear the song distant, but loud within my heart.
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