Remembering Gary Snyder

foto©robculllen01102010.

Remembering Gary Snyder

I came in early

from working

on a day

I’d long planned

to cut back

over grown shrubs

in the garden.

But then the rains came

a grey mist at first

blowing steadily

from the west ridge

over the lee

of the Oak wood

I sat in the kitchen

The back door

had been open

most of the day

I watched rain falling

and recalled

for some reason

the first time

I’d read through

Regarding Wave.

Gusting winds

of a summer gale

blowing in off

the Irish Sea

swept through

the Birch

at the top of the garden.

Littering the soil

with its leaves

I live in a small house

in bad weather

the place 

takes on the feel

of a small ship

buffeted by high seas

swept by Westerlies.

©robculllen18032021

fotofoto©fionaculllen01102010.

Cuckoo Spit&Buttercups/Where snails go when its dark…

foto©robcullen19032021

Cuckoo spit on buttercups

She promised to pay a penny for each snail

not half expecting the bucketful

quickly brought back for her experiments

collected with a small boys enthusiasm

You could say our mother was not best pleased

to find the captives roaming in the night

leaving silver trails laced meanderings

on ceilings and bathroom walls

My sister showed me how to

stroke away cuckoo spit

with a blade of grass

to slowly delicately reveal

the bright green aphid

exposed in its lathering

spurtled white froth

she placed buttercups under my chin

to see whether the glow showed

I liked butter or not

it always did glow under my chin

she bought me frothy coffee as a treat

Older sisters are good like that.

©robcullen19032021

foto©robcullen19032021

I was born and raised in a former South Wales mining village in the Rhondda in the heart of the coal mining area. The mining complex of the Glamorgan Colliery had long been shut down, but the vast hulk and expanse of the colliery yard remained. A place that once had been the work place of four and a half thousand men and six pit shafts, was now left a brooding silence filled haunted shell. It was the place my grandfather and great grandfather worked. Although there were fewer working deep mines my parents were determined that this was not where their children would work -well two daughters couldn’t, so that left me. The message was clear the mines were not going to be my future. Though my dad probably struggled with the reality of a dreamy, artistic son whose only serious interest seemed to have been reading books, drawing and play. Nevertheless gaining an education was the primary goal.

with thanks to Rhondda Cynon Taff’s Library Photography Archive.

My parents lived through both inter-war depressions, the First World War and the Second World War. They met in 1930’s London. My mother had been found work as a young teenager as a maid in a bankers Chelsea Mansion. My father had left Ireland to find work in difficult times and experienced the racism towards Irish people — which was also thrown at Jewish and Black people. My father served for five long years, during which time he was listed as “Missing and presumed dead”. At wars end my fathers employment in London had been kept for him — but he moved to Wales. Finding work wasn’t easy but he got a job cutting grass outside BOAC’s engine plant on the promise that if a vacancy as a fitter came up he could apply for it. And that’s what eventually followed — a position as an engineering fitter and eventually as an inspector of the engines for air safety. So with this background I fully understood my fathers difficulty with a son’s artistic inclination and studying at Art Schools for five years.

During Art Teaching studies I was impressed by A S Neil’s statement that “Play is the work of children”. I came to understand that the concept could also be attributed to Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian educationalist and philosopher and creator of the Waldorf-Steiner system of schooling. Steiner schools often quote him saying, “Play is the work of childhood. When children play they are experiencing the world with their entire being…” But Montessori and Piaget could also lay claim to the concept as well as Frobel and Rousseau.

I think at the center of artistic and creative activity is “play”. Artists and creatives have retained a plasticity in their thinking processes — something that is generally lost for most people as adulthood looms, indeed it is often discouraged with the words “time to grow up”!

Throughout the lockdown I have had growing concern over the invasiveness in the child’s world by the extensive use of online teaching methods. I worry that the extensive use of computer technology has led to a generation of children who have little “independent” experience of the outside world. Adults seemed to increasingly invade the child’s world with technology and increasing supervision. The old bogeys of “stranger danger” and the risk of being groomed by paedophiles (pedophiles) on the internet has led to a heavy price being paid in exchange for protection. Is this an exaggeration?

My memory of my childhood and well into my teenage years was an extended period of play. As young children the street was our play ground. There were generally very few cars in the 50’s, there were only two cars in our street which would miraculously disappear taking their owners off to a workplace. For the entire day the street was our paradise; as teenagers, the mountainside immediately beyond the village was the place we explored, sometimes being away from our homes for the entire day. No one seemed to worry much about our disappearances — we’d turn up for meals, and then back out to play in the darkness of the street.

Iona & Peter Opie’s book “Children’s games in street & playground” (1969) opens with the following commentary:

“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the street therof.”

Zachariah, viii. 5

“When children play in the street they not only avail themselves of one of the oldest play-places in the world, they engage in some of the oldest and most interesting games, for they are games tested and confirmed by centuries of children, who have played them and passed them on, as children continue to do so, without reference to print, parliament, or adult propriety.”

Observing as an older adult children playing in the local park, supervised by adults, all with one eye on the blue screened mobile in their hands; or when I listen to my wife a Steiner Arts & Craft teacher coming to terms with the difficulty presented by online teaching — I grieve that children are losing something which is of crucial importance to childhood development and the mental health of the adult that child will become. Play and games not overlooked by adults.

“A true game is one that frees the spirit. It allows of no cares but those fictitious ones engendered by the game itself”. Iona Opie.

©robcullen19032021