Robert Bly

So much happens when no one is watching,

perhaps because no one is watching


 Robert Bly ~ ‘Iron John


I take a walk in Richmond park in the early hours – before the cars have left their mark of human disregard – and in this unwatched space I feel the sentience of trees and grass and birds. In their sight I feel held in significance.

When no one is watching the earth turns.  She drops her bounty quietly like dew onto the lawns of our lives, without clamour for recognition or reward. She carries us for nothing.

When no one is watching night creatures open up the darkness with their sniffing and a billion drops of water cross over our heads in unrepeatable patterns of cloud and sky. 

When no one is watching my inner world turns.  A billion unrepeatable soul skies cross within me.

I suffer the ‘no-one watching’. But in nature I am regarded. There is a knowing and being known. I walk along the river Wharfe and feel seen (‘rounding her bend and suddenly I’m there / A moment of light meeting water and air‘).

Translating the Indian Poet Kabir Robert Bly* reminds us that we are never truly out of sight, never orphaned:

We sense there is some sort of spirit that loves

birds and the animals and the ants

Perhaps the same one who gave you radiance in your mother’s womb

Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now ?

The truth is you turned away yourself

And decided to go into the dark alone


Increasingly we are being sold a version of what it means to be human which is ‘turned away’. The natural abundance of our internal landscape is replaced by an abstracted desert of algorithms and imojies,  jargon and headlines, screens and soundbites. We feel somehow orphaned – cut off, stripped bare and empty. Our desert hunger is then filled (at great cost) through consumption and addiction.   

For many years I felt myself to be wandering ‘into the dark alone’. Now I go in search of the ‘unwatched life’ of which Bly speaks. I seek out the fragments and the margins, the fleeting and the forgotten. I am an explorer of landscapes inner and outer which mirror one another. Held between them I recover the full breadth of who I am. I feel remembered and significant.

I count the stars and allow them to be counted in me.


* Robert Bly’s books of poetry include The Night Abraham Called To The Stars.  He has received the National Book Award for Poetry and two Guggenheims.