Soul Musings


‘Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all’  ~ Emily Dickinson

Like everyone else, I’m now stuck at home and instead of writing my assignment or working on my book, I’m musing and writing this blog post. Maybe it’s my soul’s voice demanding expression. And if ever there was a time to realise the truth of the soul, it would be now. It is devastating that our current age mostly dismisses its reality, caught in the dominant worldview of materialism that says such a thing is merely an illusion or a function of the brain. It’s invisible and generally, modern people have little time for it, too busy looking outwards and distracted by the complexity of their lives, most especially during a crisis that sends us into a tailspin of panic. And today’s crisis is a tragedy. Which perhaps makes it the right time to reflect and shine a light on our enigmatic inner world that remains such a mystery.

It seems the simplest yet hardest thing to realise, something that speaks to us daily through dreams and intuitions, through art, music, poetry, philosophy, psychology, religion and nature, all things dismissed as irrelevant by modern, capitalist societies. But perhaps not. One thing I’ve been struck by during the past few days, is how much people are longing to read poetry or be outside in nature, now curtailed by the need to stay at home.

But who hasn’t had a dream that has left them shattered the next morning? Who hasn’t had an intuition that told them something was wrong? Where do such things come from? Most assume they come from the unconscious, but what is that? Is it in the mind? Is it in the body? It could be argued that it is the body that contains all our natural intelligence. After all, it is responsible for beating our heart, for releasing our hormones and keeping us in optimal homeostasis, all important things our surface consciousness pays little heed to until something goes wrong. It is not the ego that decides to grow our hair or work our thyroid gland or digestive system. I can’t recall ever having to puzzle how to do those things.

So why is it we decide to run our lives solely from that restricted ego mind? Is it not too narrow? Is it not too limited by the number of concepts we can understand and handle? Our ideas of ourselves tend to make us feel average or bad or very good and noble, but they’re all essentially surface ideas which barely touches on the reality of who we truly are. Do mere words make a difference? Does the word ‘love’ express anything of the emotion it’s meant to signify?

If we do happen to look deep and long enough, we may discover that we are being guided instead by a wholly autonomous action that doesn’t come from the conscious mind at all, despite how it might feel. It is independent of our will and acts as the voice of nature whispering to us through our quieter moments. It is the stuff of the world connecting us to everything, inspiring unity and yet, unique to all of us, giving us life, purpose and meaning. This isn’t conjecture or opinion; it is a fact that has been experienced by many people throughout the ages. Can they all be wrong? Perhaps not and perhaps listening to the voice of the soul is the very thing that helps keep us healthy. The world has tipped out of balance and every day it’s sending us a message.


photo of woman standing inside train holding on metal rail while looking outside

Photo by mentatdgt on

You wake on the train to see a seagull
hover in and out of view, a decaying boat
floundering in the estuary, upturned
like the curve of a rib cage, prehistoric bones
submerging beneath the tide.
You feel a fleeting moment of regret,
a tang of bitterness at a past barrelling
relentlessly through time and space,
into a future of what could have been,
of what might be, glimpses of reality
that push and break in waves against the heart.
You look across to a family sitting opposite,
to a mother cradling her sleeping son
close to her chest, a life so tiny, so fragile,
his body falling, rising again in harmony
with her breath. The steel tracks pass underneath
and through the window the world pours in,
the sea, that reflected turquoise glare,
wide, endless, deep.

I wrote this poem a few years ago now, when I was going through a personal experience of existential terror. I got through it with a renewed sense that life was precious and that we have to live every drop of it we can. The other message was to appreciate people – for all their problems, idiosyncrasies and weaknesses. We’re all vulnerable in the face of an often scary, frightening world and we need to support each other the best we can. Be kind and take care out there.


light heart clouds summer

Photo by Pixabay on

Driving along the road in the dark
until the dawn finds me gazing at the sky
watching the last few stars fading out,
loosening the moorings to those memories
that make this country girl part city-kid.
And I’m back amongst the chatter
of the starlings, the empty streets, that smell
I couldn’t place before of diesel mixed with sorrow.

Time dissolves, ebbs in waves, and all I can do
is wait and listen for the shapes to form
of whitewashed walls, hushed voices,
my father shouting from the kitchen window,

these shapes that slowly change and grow anew –

and I’ve come for her,
to write less fear into the girl outside
tracing daises down across her heartline.



I’ve grown up on this ocean, left school
at sixteen to join my father on his fishing boat,
sailing from harbour while night bled away
into the small hours of morning, the sea,
the whole expanse of it stretched out before us,
sleep still in my eyes, in my mind the fractured
remnants of a dream – all winter spent soaked
through, waves sometimes as high as buildings,
attempts at standing upright. You pay the price
with salt ground deep in your bones, seagulls
screaming through your brain. But I would never
change it, not for those days when dolphins
break the surface, or the bobbing heads of seals;
for summers of colour when the coastline
transforms, swimming with sun full on my back.
That’s when I take my youngest son
who at the prow shouts: ‘Daddy, daddy! Water.’


ash blaze bonfire burn

Photo by Pixabay on

What you’ve heard is true. I was in my garden when I first saw the man, standing right on this very spot. I’m always out here. The sea garden is the only thing that keeps me going now my wife has died. We’d been married thirty-three years before the cancer took her. When I wake up in the mornings, I still feel for her warm form on the other side of the bed. But now there’s just space; an emptiness. After the initial stab of pain, I come out and tend to the plants, filling the borders with the salt-spray roses and Himalayan Blue Poppies she loved. It’s nice when people like you stop to comment as you pass.

So, let me tell you about the man. He was standing up there on the crest of the hill overlooking the harbour. I didn’t make much of it at the time; after all, plenty of people walk that coastal path during the summer. But something about him made me pause and take a longer look. There he was, just a silhouette against the blue sky, looking out over the sea. But it was his hair that caught my eye. You see, it was on fire.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I can only describe what I saw. While I stood there staring, like you are at me right now, he turned away and burst into flames. What’s more, he never made a sound. I told the police what I’d seen when they came to investigate the charred remains. And like you, they were incredulous. But in the end, they had to accept it. No explanation was ever found. It seems the man had simply gone up through the force of his own energy.

The coastal path was closed for a while, and a few days later, the story appeared in the local gazette. Turns out the man had been a poet. A good one too; published and well respected. I bought a book of his poems, and have since concluded that he had no illusions about there being some sort of order in all this chaos, just like my wife didn’t at the end. That’s simply a rationalisation we all cling to. It’s what stops us from falling apart. It’s what stops us from catching fire.