On Being a Bad Woman


Shame is a feminist issue. Brené Brown, the social worker academic who researches shame, has said in various written and video sources, that shame does seem to narrow down to certain gender categories. With men it seems to centre around being seen to be not in control. With women, the shame is about imperfections. And let’s face it, the multitude of mixed messages about womanhood and femininity are land mines we step on daily. It is exhausting trying to uphold perfection when the goal posts are constantly moving and competing on both sides at times!

As I prepare for guests to arrive I am walking the Slut Walk of House Beautiful & Hygiene Shame. Most of my friends accept that country living, two dogs, three cats and a husband whose mother preferred to read than clean house (bless her!) and therefore is blind to dustbunnies, is just how it is in our home. There are many more exciting, life enhancing things to do than wash the cobwebs from the kitchen cupboards.

But let the prospect of ‘company’ be on the horizon and I am crippled with shame over my the general level of slovenlyness. We are not rich enough to outsource cleaning. Also, some vestigial German hausfrau DNA is horrified at that prospect. I tell myself I should do better. The feminist in me tells myself not to care. Then I feel guilty for caring. Or ashamed, if I allow my mind to make it toxic, for both caring and being a House Slut.

Fortunately, these attacks pass and I just nibble away at the tasks, often a shelf and drawer at a time. And, let’s face it, if I am going to obey some rubric of femininity I will obviously opt to bake a cake, rather than sweep the floor daily.  Because, you know, the byproduct is CAKE! I can enjoy it and also watch others enjoy eating it. There is a higher ratio of satisfaction even when you have a day of bad cake karma.

Women are hard on themselves. And, as Elena Ferrante pointed out in last Saturday’s Guardian, women can be hard on each other. “Not only is female power suffocated, but also, for the sake of peace and quiet, we suffocate ourselves.” Which may have been at the root of my wanting to photograph the interior of my newly resplendent, sparkling and hygienic fridge to have my friend Jo show her 91 year old mother.  I quelled that impulse. But just note that I am still preening myself publicly.

So, after throwing in a load of laundry, I penned this as my weekly poem exercise.

Being a Bad Woman

Undoubtably, she will come to a bad end

Desperado housewife, bandit, the less loved

Desperation being the operative word

For the one with nerve

For the one who got her maths wrong

In so many ways over so many months and days


She is the one with the gimlet eye

Peering over her vodka stinger

Stink eye glare, the shoulder shrug devil may care

The one with the iron jaw

Who won’t take it on the chin

The one who relaxes the rictus grin


She is the one

Who can’t do the dance on stilts

She is the one

Who can’t paint on a face anymore

She is the one

Who is all  “too much”


Once, she was the leggy little girl

Who saw nudity

And has since dispensed

With clothing

And power dressing



She is hairy and fanged

The bitch on heat and permanent virgin

The handmaid, the house angel

She is Mary

She is Lilith

She is mitochondrial Eve


She is this everything and all

Or nothing. But now

She is done with being

Woman – Professional Version point

An infinity of naughts since

In this world, goodness has no just desserts


Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Image by ArtsyBee found on Pixabay






The Blessing of Boredom


In a recent email from my brother, he pointed out that in a survey by Business Insider magazine, the town I was raised in Pennsylvania was rated ‘most boring’ in the state. Which started a train of reflection how my own youth in the most boring city in Pennsylvania may well have been the making of me.  Also, that boredom is probably an unheard of luxury for most kids today who have a highly structured schedule and lots of electronic devices for instant distraction. But perhaps boredom is the cradle of creativity.

Meanwhile, as a pre-schooler I can remember lying  face down on the patio watching an ant build its hill. No fan of heat or brilliant sunshine, I spent hours of summer holidays in the air-conditioned public library, just moseying around the stacks. I could walk there and back, having a very vivid fantasy life going on in my head. It was in Berwick that I perfected the art of doing nothing much.  This also taught me how to become still so that something could be created. Boredom bred in me a self-sufficiency. It also bred in me an interior life that was full of curiosity and observation.

In retrospect, living in the most boring town in Pennsylvania also provided a buffer from the very real, chaotic world of 1960s USA. By the time I was eleven,  my father had died, his contemporary President John F. Kennedy had been assasinated, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. There were riots and a jungle war on television after supper every night. People just kept disappearing or being disappeared. The maelstrom went on (mostly) outside. Meanwhile, the hum-drum routine went on.

Not unlike some protagonists in the Thornton Wilder play ‘Our Town’, I wanted out of my boring town. I dreamt of foreign parts – not Paris, but England, and then Ireland issued a siren call. But now, living once again in a place where not a lot happens, I can see how boredom played its part as both stabilizer and instigator.

I was with a group of friends today and we were posed with the question of how we accessed our inner wizard. Where does that magic come from? And instantly, I knew that for me it comes from doing a lot of ‘nothing’. I sited staring out of windows. I referenced Michael Hardings’ memoir ‘Staring at Lakes.’ Poet Billy Collins is alleged to have said that writing poetry takes all day just looking out from your desk into space. Or maybe at the tree outside the office.  I mentioned the deep peace of meditative plain knitting. It is not so much emptying the mind as stilling it. And then you enter that zone where you are not the doing, the doing is using you. In that moment there can be creation. But you are certainly not ‘doing’ the creating.

In which case, then perhaps if we want more workers to ‘think outside of the box’ then we should foster a healthy level of boredom? Mooching. Maundering. Noodling over an idea without really thinking about it. Then something comes through you. It is not about you. You just become the instrument for creation.

And that is the real blessing of boredom.

Haiku Poetree Walk


My blog schedule is a bit disrupted. But you try leading four workshops within seven days and nursing sciatica on the ‘off ‘ days! I did actually draft this blog twice, but each time the iPad crashed and I lost the draft.  But maybe the universe was telling me I needed some crash time of my own! Third time lucky on the trusty steam laptop. And besides, in the interim one of the haiku walk workshop participants sent me some lovely images and haiku she wrote on the day. Morag Donald has kindly given me permission to share them with you here. (But you might also want to visit her WordPress blog over at Morag Donald Reiki Master & Teacher).

It was Irish Tree week last week and the snow and sleet earlier on had yielded to mist and soft rain and a practically balmy 6C! Those of us living in Fermanagh and Cavan, the lakeland counties in Ireland, are well equipped to deal with most weather eventualities. So my band of hardy haiku poetree walkers arrived well dressed for the occasion.

haiku poetree walkers

Ready to ginko down Claddagh Glen at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre


We met at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark Visitor Centre. Many of you know I am also a local Geopark Guide. And in March 2018, that has roared in like a lion, I am being intrepid enough to host two outdoor poetry events in Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. This first, with a haiku walk down lush Claddagh Glen, was an appropriate venue for celebrating all things arborial in Irish Tree Week.

Irish Tree Week

Lush moss, lichen and fern make Claddagh Glen an evergreen year round walk

And here is the haiku that Morag wrote, inspired during the walk.

haiku Claddagh Glen

Wood elf Copyright 2018 Morag Donald

Along with a tiny notebook, a camera of some sort is often a boon for a haiku walk anywhere.

haiku walk notebook

A tiny notebook like this A7 one with a waterproof cover can be useful on haiku walks. Fits in a pocket. I also recommend fingerless glove!

Haiku celebrates our natural heritage, as well as our relationship with nature. No more than seventeen syllables, the traditional  Japanese poetry form is often seen in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. But in English that can sometimes feel a bit stilted, so the format has altered somewhat. A seasonal word to anchor the reader in the wheel of the year is also traditional.

As we drove up over Marlbank to Marble Arch Caves Centre, I composed a haiku of my own

Gorse flowers blaze bright

Through the mist and the mizzle

Spring creeps on soft feet


haiku poetree walk

Mist over Marlbank, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

Although on our haiku walk down the glen it wasn’t sheep we spotted, but some rather splendid antlers on feral goats. They were both too shy and too quick to take a reasonable photo, but here is a haiku snapshot.

haiku by Morag Donald

Copyright 2018 Morag Donald Haiku inspired by wild goats on our haiku walk in Claddagh Glen, Marble Arch Caves


It is true that aroma of goat announced their presence on the opposite bank of the Claddagh River.  My own jotting at the time:

River’s negative ions

Feral goat sweat wafts across

Go wild!

And my! The way they were scrambling along a thirty-five degree angle was an impressive sight. Sure-footed is no exageration. They were practically balletic!



This is their habitat – rock, river, trees. Claddagh Glen is one of my favourite walks. They have an expression ‘to shower my head.’ Which actually sounds more like ‘shar my hay-ed.’  Which translates as getting your mind clear. Whenever I see the  Cascade along the path I feel like I am showering my soul.

haiku poetree walk claddagh Glen

The Cascade waterfall in Claddagh Glen on our Haiku Poetree Walk during Irish Tree Week


Haiku walks – or ginko – are ideal opportunities to ‘shower your soul’.  The Japanese practice something that translates as ‘forest bathing’. A haiku walk in scenic splendour has a similar replenishing effect.  I will be planning more in 2018 in and around Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. If you would like to take part in one, please fill in the contact form below, letting me know when you will be in our part of Ireland.


Writing Spirit


Spiritual autobiography can take many forms. It does not always choose prose, or even a linear narrative. It can be about as slippery as that piece of tofu that is dodging around your plate. You can get the sauce into a spoon, or lick a chopstick, but that chunk of tofu can disintegrate right back onto your plate if you are not dexterous and quick. And then you go chasing it all over again. Such it is when it comes to writing about, not so much spiritual matters, but Spirit.

Put another way, spirit is Spirit, one of those words regarding divinity that is likely to offend the least.  Or it could refer to the fifth element in the medieval alchemists, who also called it quintessence (LOVELY word!). In the Chinese world view they thought of metal being the fifth essential element after fire, water, air and earth. So take your pick!

Quietly, in a closed group of trusted friends, we have been writing our way through the elements with respect to our spiritual autobiographies. This week the vote went to add the fifth element – ether (not in either the anaesthetic or alcoholic sense of the word). Or spirit. Or Spirit. Or metal.

Given that I have three workshops to run this week and a Risk Assessment walk to vet a walking route for Cavan Youth Arts Lab, I am a bit time famished. But I am also committed to writing a new poem each week to get in training for NaPoWriMo2018 from 1st of April. To learn more about the thirty poems in thirty days challenge, check out NaPoWriMo2018. So I am ‘doing the double’, using one exercise to fulfill two committments.

I am curious about word origins.  During the doodle that is often the shitty first draft, I got hooked on the origin of ‘scape’, as in landscape or seascape. And that opened all sorts of thematic horizons.




Somewhere else entirely

with completely porous boundaries

where the indoor and the outdoor escape

the doors slide free into another kind of scape

one without bleating goat,

the sort to have a stake for the Puck King


Watching now from my window I see

trees. There are also weeds.

A blue tit taps at the glass and then…

There. It opens. I step out.

The edges have all dissolved

inside me


The outside me

matters not at all. To be sure,

I have been swallowed whole

like a communion host

that does not linger

sticking to the roof of the  mouth


The scape always hands you

your royal prerogative

Ornamented land

Jewelled tide into the timeless

As slim as a feather’s shaft

As fine as an insect’s antenna


© Bee Smith 2018


Poetry Events in the Geopark


It is rare to mix poetry events with the great outdoors. Much less in March! Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark sites- the splendour of Claddagh Glen, Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh, and Cavan Burren Park, Blacklion, County Cavan – offers two such unique outdoor poetry events. Irish Tree Week and World Poetry Day are the reasons we just have to go forth and create poetry.

But allow me to give you a personal preview on both events in this video.

haiku, MarbleArchCavesGlobalGeopark

Haiku and More, March in the Geopark

Despite the wind and snow, this weekend marked the beginning of Irish National Tree Week, which is actually ten days celebration of the great oxygenators of our biosphere. To do my bit, I am leading a unique Haiku Poetree Walk at a Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark site. So next Saturday, please join me and get hooked on the haiku habit at Claddagh Glen. We will meet at 11am, Saturday, March 10th for a two hour walking in the spirit of a traditional ginko. For full details and updates, click on the Facebook event link below:

Geopark Haiku PoeTree Walk

Haiku is an ancient Japanese poetry form – seventeen syllables, three lines, no rhyme. It takes nature as it’s great theme. In a Geopark, we have nature is a huge presence.

Haiku  Geopark

Just one word of caution. Haiku can become habit forming!

But in a good – even healthful – way.

The second event marks UNESCO World Poetry Day, which comes around every year on March 21st.  Geoparks are a UNESCO designation, so it seemed an ideal opporunity to marry two of my passions – Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and poetry. On the St. Patrick’s Bank Holiday Monday, March 19th, I will be reading poems that take direct inspiration from Geopark sites at Cavan Burren Park.

“Earth Writing” is a compilation of poems inspired by the landscape of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Last summer I wrote here about the Cavan Arts/Creative Ireland project “Ancient and Wild”, which brought together artists from all kinds of disciplines to create work inspired by the Geopark’s distinctive landscape and heritage. If you look at other blogs listed under the ‘Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark’ category from last summer and autumn, you will see some of the sites we visited as a group. A day out included a visit to Cavan Burren Park and Claddagh Glen, two of my very favourite soul-stirring sites of the many magnificent ones dotted along the Fermanagh and Cavan boundary. For more information, click on the Facebook event link below:

World Poetry Day Cavan Burren Walk

Wrap up well! Fingerless gloves might be useful on the haiku writing walk. Homemade cake will be provided.


True North


This week’s main event for Britain and Ireland has been the Siberian weather front being characterised as #BeastFromTheEast. It seemed all a bit of a hum to us in the west of Ireland. On Wednesday morning it was indeed very cold, but sunny and dry. I chatted with the Foróige coordinator of our Cavan Youth Arts Lab session about whether we should cancel for that evening, having noticed a trend for early cancellations.West Cavan schools were open. There was none of this snow and ice from yellow to orange alerts the Met Eíreann was on about. We joked about those soft Dubliners who didn’t know how to cope with a bit of weather. By lunchtime it was clear that the #BeastFromtheEast was heading straight for the Atlantic, stopping by us on its way. The entire of the Republic of Ireland was on red alert.

Yet the snow that has arrived is, unusually for us, dry powder. So our lane, under normal freezes an ice rink, is passable. We were able to drive on empty roads across the border to fetch some parcels from the Parcel Motel along with milk, eggs, bread and spuds. Being cautious, I ventured out with my walking stick, but it really was redundant.

The wind, however, is cruel. The pets are sensible to the biting cold and only stay out long enough to answer the call of nature. Or, in Ellie’s case, to make a snow angel before dashing back indoors. The dogs enjoyed the change of venue with the car ride to the shop though.

So Friday arrives and it is time to address writing my weekly poem. I was helped by the timely arrival of an email fromVisualVerse, which offers a pictorial prompt along with the challenge to write between 50-500 words within an hour. So I rattled off a submission. Which was a good five finger poetry writing exercise. But then there is the evidence of my training for NaPoWriMo2018 here to consider. So, with the #BeastFromTheEast as muse, this is my weekly offering.

True North

A wind to make your jaws ache

Rictus grinning into gale

A wind to cut through you

Making you wish chain mail could be thermal 

A wind to sear the snowdrops

Droop the daffs and immature aconite

A wind to sting a false Spring

February playing us will crush the rest of the year

A wind of dips and flake drops

Of polar ice cap taking its hat off

Copyright Bee Smith 2018

Soul Journeys


Writing is a vocation. But so, too, is workshop facilitation; it is not so much teaching, as inviting people to play with you. The added bonus is that you make up the game. I have led many creative writing workshops to all age groups, all men, all women and mixed groups. I’ve led workshops in libraries, community resource centres, a room above a tourist office, at a Buddhist centre, in hospitals, a yurt, and prison. But what may prove my most popular offering defies the conventional creative writing tag. Yesterday, I guided twelve brave souls through a writing process I call Soul Journeys: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography.  I have taught material on this subject many times, within varying time slots. But what keeps getting affirmed is that people want to explore their own story of soul growth.

I am grateful that the group I met with yesterday wants to continue working with the material the workshop prompts revealed for them. I am also grateful that the individuals trusted me to guide them and trusted their fellow participants to share the process  of examining their soul’s storylines. In a safely held environmemt where trust flourishes, often the themes and plot twists of a lifetime become clear. By framing a indivual story within universal archetypes, one’s own heroism shines.

While early Quakers like John Woolman faithfully recorded their experience of The Light in journals, there are many approaches to convey and frame our spiritual sojourns on planet earth.  But because we are often ‘in the messy middle'( to borrow a phrase from Brené Brown), we may think that our spiritual life needs to look something like this to be worthy of interrogating and sharing with others.

Soul journey


When actually, a soul journey is much more like this.  A Life lived passionately and authentically is likely to have a bit of chaos and mess. It probably looks a bit more like this:

Soul journey

If you would be interested in a Soul Journey  writing workshop in your locality, contact me at dowrabeesmith@gmail.com.

Featured image was taken from a photo by Jane Gilgun and then app’ed by PhotoLab.