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Bethany Dawson

Author // Writer // Editor


December 9, 2020


Upstream is an offering of essays that map the landscape as I see it. Subscribers get full access to my work. If you are already a member, please login below.

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One of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of this season is to be present. I love Pádraig Ó Tuama’s work on the ways in which we can find shelter in the world by acknowledging where we are in all of its complexity.

“To greet sorrow today does not mean that sorrow will be there tomorrow. Happiness comes too, and grief, and tiredness, disappointment, surprise and energy. Chaos and fulfilment will be named as well as delight and despair. This is the truth of being here, wherever here is today. It may not be permanent but it is here. I will probably leave here, and I will probably return. To deny here is to harrow the heart. Hello to here.” – Pádraig Ó Tuama, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

In an effort to make my peace with the present, I turned to poetry. I am not a poet, however, there are times I need a container for my words that holds most of them back. This is an act of restraint, discipline and precision. It allows me to say ‘Hello’ to here but also recognise my longing to leave.

Perhaps you might enjoy whittling your current context into words. Like a true writer of fiction, I began by holding nothing back from the page. I named all of the things I find in our current exile. Then, I shaped it into something that communicates the ‘truth of being here’. This is my offering:


The bare bones of winter are starting to show.

We are numb, the cold seeps through the walls and

sulks in the hallway.

Here, between motorway and the A1,

we walk the muddy back roads while winter wheat greens.

I cannot stop looking:

rook-black clouds, conifer stumps, fields ploughed into submission.

A war zone; God’s own country.

If it were not for the thrush, her quick black eye, her persistence –

If it were not for the redwing in the holly, or a bright spark of fire crest –

If it were not for beech fire and the last quivering aspen,

the blunt thumb of bolete,

and the winnowing snipe –

If it were not for them.

How can you pay attention to where you are and tell the story with respectful restraint? I would love to know, if a poem evolves.

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