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Richard Longstaff: Beyond Watford - disability arts online
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The nature of thought / 25 March 2014

It was the darkest period of my life. Without knowing it I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown. 1996 was an awful year and things just seemed to be going from bad to worse. Well that was how it felt to me.

Thankfully I had a good GP. At one appointment he looked through the endless list of medication. “You know Richard this is no good. All these pills are getting you and me nowhere. You need to do this without all this medication. The best way to heal your mind is to get out of the house and into the countryside.” I was a little amazed by his statement. I told him I didn't have transport. “Walk, the countryside is right there, a mile from your home. Walk and you see what will happen, take my word for it.”

After a couple of days I took him at his word. Off I went, no aim, purpose, just one foot in front of the other. Mile after mile. My wife would see me leave the house at nine in the morning and return at seven at night, exhausted but alive. My mind, the depression began to drift, to leave me alone. My sleep and moods changed, I ate. I would listen to the sounds of the birds. I began to study butterflies closely for the first time. Every day, every step seemed to improve my mental health. Within six months I was off of medication and within a year back at work.

Many of us know the power of the natural world. We know how to improve our well being. But how many of us look closely at the wild world that is all around us? The poem, Brimstone is the story of the first of our British butterflies to take to the wing. I have seen this gem in flight on New years day. It is that early. I wanted you, the reader, to get a sense of just how powerful the sight of such a creature can be after months of cold and wet days. How our spirits can be so lifted by such a tiny and beautiful creature.

The poem took me twenty minutes to write. A sunny morning sat by the window seemed to bring each of the words to my mind so quickly that I found it hard to believe I had written it. I was as amazed at my writing as I was at seeing the Brimstone.

So look closely on your wild travels for this beauty. See how your spirit is raised by it. Try if you can to read this poem on a bright sunny morning and hopefully it will lift you for the rest of the day. 

From somewhere up North, love, peace and poetry to all. Richard.

The Brimstone

The Brimstone is the first, drifting, bursting
Into awkward flight,
Yellow wings, confetti of Spring
Dazzling the eye that for so long has carried
The cataract of Winter.
Enthusing and encouraging us to see

Beyond the drabness, the still damp leaf
Litter of yesterdays storms.
A glimpse of what is to come, face warm
In a jar of sunshine,
Ever increasing height of dogs mercury
And purple loosestrife, shading out

The fungi and blackness of rot, building
New towers of life.
On the wings go, roll and sway beneath
The old bridge to the half fallen wall,
The tip, tap drippings of receding dew
Call the rhythm of flight.

Like the fluttering of a new born heart. The
Sleep of Winter thrown away,
Then gone, brief fall of spirit before what
The Brimstone has left is discovered.
Spring slipping across the land without a
Sound.

 © Richard Longstaff