Evocation by Sandra Horn

I thought of calling this blog ‘Unusual sexual encounters’ to try to attract a few more punters, but on reflection… 

It’s really about trying to capture a time in a particular place/ landscape. The idea was triggered by a recent challenge from the Hedgehog Press. They send out one a month and I usually manage a response, although I’ve never even been shortlisted for publication. Heigh ho. It just helps to have a nudge to my post-covid brain. I’ve written before about being inspired by landscapes, but the challenge gave me a different perspective – not so much inspiration as need to capture something  of the essence of that place, that time. Something to look back on, to invoke the same feelings as were felt then. If I had an ounce of artistic talent, I might have made a sketch – livelier and more personal than a photograph and from my own hand, but I have only words.

The image from the Hedgehog Press’s challenge is of a dreary, grubby corridor reminiscent of a disused psychiatric hospital or some such institution. You have been incarcerated in it and now the door opens. Where will you go? What does freedom mean to you? So –



Hinges groan. Door swings wide. Light. Air. Pause.

Walk. Walk on crunching pebbled shores.


Walk on soft, resistant sand. Walk in the shallows, in seaweed slither.

Seabirds cry, ride the wind. Walk on.


Walk the round-sloped Downs, on Kipling’s sheep-bit thyme,

 bee-buzz low, lark-song high. Walk on.


Walk the high fells, on slipping scree, snow on the tops,

 breath coming hard, curlew call. Walk on.


Walk in the woods. Leaves whisper, crisp underfoot

burnt umber, rose madder, cinnabar, ochre. Blackbird’s song. Walk on.


Walk on the heath, through scrunching heather, Watch the light change, dim.

White flashes in the dusk. Nightjars churr. Walk on.


Here’s the moon rising, riding high.

Shadows. Silence.  Night air cools. Walk on.


I imagined revisiting beloved places, longing to re-kindle, perhaps, what they had meant; to remember beloved people who’d been part of them. To feel again the air on the shore, on the Downs, on the Fells; to re-live that evening in the New Forest watching and hearing nightjars, walk on fallen leaves crisp underfoot, listening to an evening blackbird. So many of these places are present in stories or poems. The Sussex Downland is the setting  for my The Hob and Miss Minkin stories and the poem Bluebells; the Woodland Walk in the Lost Gardens of Heligan produced The Mud Maid and The Giant picture books, the Cumbrian Fells are at the centre of an as-yet-unfinished YA novel (you never know) and a whole clutch of poems, as, for example:


Three walks around Mell Fell



On the path to Mell Fell.

the ‘dying fall’ of curlews’ songs.

Black clouds bloom across the lake

cleave the sky, heavy with snow,

summoning silence.


Solar eclipse

On the path to Little Mell Fell.

Sheep call, call, call from the fields,

the constant soundscape of the fells.

Light changes, air chills,

sheep fall silent



Walking back from Mell Fell farm.

Dusk. Somewhere, an owl.

Rooks home and settle in the pines,

crossing conversations, quarrels,

confidences, tailing off,

quieting as night falls.




And I’m an inveterate moon-watcher. It appears in my writing over and again, in in picture books, in poems for children, and these recent ones:


My very talented friend and fellow-writer Lisa Conway made this batik panel and suggested it for the poem


Earth to Moon


The split, when it came, was cataclysmic.

Afterwards, there was a need

for distance between us – each with our own space,

but visible, I to you, you to me,

tethered together and apart.

Division of the assets was unequal --

this was not our choice.

You, like a womb-starved twin, empty,

silent, without the means to breathe,

your pale light merely borrowed.

I, the favoured one, abundantly alive,

fertile, burgeoning – and yet,

my nights and days, the turning

of my seasons, ebb and flow of tides,

are gifts from you. You anchor me,

steady me, keep me as I am.   



I’m not promising to abandon Unusual Sexual Encounters altogether, mind – you never know.


Susan Price said…
Beautiful, Sandra.
'Bee buzz low, lark song high...' It reminds me of walking on the island of Staffa.
Bill Kirton said…
Lovely, Sandra. Way beyond anything of which I'd be capable.
Peter Leyland said…
Ah, you made me chuckle here Sandra, and... there's nothing like a bit of poetry to give us all a lift. I did really like Release, 'Nightjars churr', fabulous, and 'Walk on', as we do. On Thursday my poetry group are returning from hols so that's something to look forward to. In the meantime, thank you for the post.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you for your kind comments, folks - self-doubt is my middle name and you've helped it to fade a little bit.

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