#192  Walk Deep, walk true, and listen to your dreams: wordsmithing the human spirit with Abigail Morgan Prout

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If language creates reality, then those with the skill to balance words on the knife edge of meaning are the leading edge of our new creation. Award-winning poet, Abigail Morgan Prout, shares her work, her relationships and her life in service to the change we need to be in the world.

Peruvian shaman Oscar Miro-Quesada says that “Consciousness creates matter, Language Creates Reality, Ritual creates relationship.” This week I’m speaking with someone who brings reality into being with words and weaves relational rituals.

Abigail Morgan Prout is a poet, life coach, mother and visionary. She and I have been talking to one another for about three and a half years. We connected just before lockdown and then, as life became weirder, Abigail’s daily poems were a bright flash in the whirling chaos, a doorway into a world halfway across the planet that was different in so many ways, and yet so often the same; a sense of soul connection to someone who gets it; an excoriating and sometimes intensely personal, vulnerable view into someone else’s life, shared with great courage – and word-jewels of true beauty that connected me again to the wonder of the web of life, and the wonder of language.

As a writer, I am always in absolute awe of the fact that we can make black marks on a white page and evoke the whole multi-dimensional, multi-sensory glory of human and More-Than-Human experience. As a prose writer, I am ever more in awe of the skill poets bring to their word-smithing, and Abigail’s is beautiful, moving and inspiring at all levels. It’s not just me that thinks so – Walk Deep, the collection that arose from lockdown won the 2021 Homebound Poetry Contest a 2023 Nautilus Book Award, and is currently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

So when Homebound published Walk Deep, I really wanted to bring Abigail onto the podcast – to talk about the process of writing, which is one of my more major obsessions, but also to talk about everything she brings to this -she’s a life coach and a teacher of life coaches. She’s a daughter and a mother and she holds ceremony in beautiful ways. We didn’t touch much on this last in the main body of the podcast – but, as happens so often, as soon as I’d stopped recording, we talked about exactly this, and it seemed so profoundly important, that I hit record again and we added another ten minutes of what, to me, is not just podcasting gold, but human gold, spiritual gold; the account of someone’s experience of a lifelong dream that came to life, but more than that, of the ways the web of life is so ready to connect with us and offer help if we can only open to hear it. So that’s tacked on at the end, before the final credits.

In Conversation

Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible and that if we all work together, there is still time to create the future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m Manda Scott and I’m your host in this journey into possibility. And this week I am talking to poet, leadership coach, mother and daughter and visionary Abigail Morgan Prout. Abigail now been talking to one another for about three and a half years. We connected on Zoom just before lockdown. And then as life spiralled into that weirdness, Abigail’s daily poems became something that I really looked forward to. Here was a soul connection with someone who really gets it. A connection to place and purpose and the web of life, seen with other eyes, which is always good. And sometimes raw, sharp, deeply personal insights into someone else’s process and their life. Shared with enormous courage and written with such beauty, that was the thing. It’s her use of language. It reconnected me to the beauty of language and to how we can use it. Whatever else I’m doing, I am a writer and words are my thing.

And I am always absolutely in awe of that magical process where we put black marks on a white page or coloured marks on a different coloured page, whatever, and evoke the whole multidimensional, multisensory, multi experiential glory of the human and the more than human experience. I can write something that takes the video sight, sound, smell, senses, feelings in my head, put them on a page and you will replicate them, with your own overlays, in your head. And that is actually miraculous. And as a prose writer, I can have as much space as I want. I do try to write sentences where every word is there for a reason, but is often only there for one reason. And the thing about poetry, really skilled poetry, is that every word is often doing quite a lot of heavy lifting. They have a lot of different meanings. They shift and it’s like looking at reflections on water; you see something different every time. And it’s such a skill and Abigail has that skill. And I am not alone in thinking that. Walk Deep is the collection that arose from that lockdown writing, and it won the 2021 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize and then the 2023 Nautilus Book Award, and it is currently nominated for Pushcart Prize.

 So when Homebound published Walk Deep, I really wanted to bring Abigail on to the podcast to talk about the process of writing. Because hey I can, once in a while we can just get geeky about what writing is. But I also wanted to talk about everything else she brings to this. She’s a leadership coach and a teacher of leadership coaches. She’s a daughter and a mother and she holds ceremony in beautiful ways and we didn’t touch on that last one much in the main body of the podcast. But as happens so often, as soon as I’d stopped recording and we were just riffing while I waited for the files to download, we talked about one of the other poems, which is about a recurring dream that Abigail has. And then she told me about an experience ten days ago where she went to the place of the dream and basically felt it moving around her. And also because she was in ceremony, felt that moment when the web of life stepped in to offer the help that we know is there, if we could only find out how to ask for it. And that seemed such huge podcast gold that I asked if we could hit record and hold that conversation again. So we did. So that bit is tacked on right at the end, just before the credits. It’s worth waiting for. So here we go. Talking about writing life, poetry and everything that matters. People of the podcast, please welcome Abigail Morgan Prout, author of Walk Deep.

Manda: Abigail, welcome to Accidental Gods podcast. How are you this fine morning with you, evening with us?

Abigail: I’m very well, thank you. Thanks so much for having me, Manda It’s a delight to be with you.

Manda: It’s a delight to be able to talk to you, especially since I read your poetry collection. It’s so beautiful. There are so many really deep areas that I want to go that it raised. But before we do anything else, I thought, Could you read us a poem from it? Just to give us a flavour of it in your voice?

Abigail: Sure. So the poem I’d love to start with is called Warriors of Light. In this struggle there is no light without dark. My willingness to respond with trust. Finding the place inside that would die for this cause, shifts the water and the river of human tomorrows. For if not for warriors, there would be no freedom.

Manda: Magic. Thank you. And we could actually spend the entire podcast, I think working just with that poem, looking at trust and light and dark and the waters of human tomorrows and what freedom is. But let’s start off with the the first word of the title, because warrior means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And this feels to me like a time where we are being called to certain aspects of our warrior hood and definitely not to other aspects of our warrior hood. So what does Warrior mean for you?

Abigail: It’s such a big question for the day. Because as you say, we are sitting on the layers of sediment of this word and what it’s created for us. And I believe that like so many words and concepts, we need to rewrite them. And my high dream for the word warrior is an internal courage to really take on the battles of our interior, because that’s where most of the wars live. Most of the the struggles that we have start inside and then they’re projected outside, as we know, into the political realm, into the familial realm, into the interpersonal realm. And it really starts inside. So when I think about the warrior inside of me, I think of the part of me that’s able to stand up and fight the good fight. And really do what is necessary to, I’m very delicate with this word, but recolonise myself to find the good Land and reclaim it, you know, put a stake in the ground around it.

Manda: Right. Gosh. And again, metaphors that I think mean very different things on both sides of the Atlantic, because the colonisation of the North American continent happened a long time after the colonisation of Britain by the Romans. So I’m aware of your being very careful with that. But we’re exploring already in your warriorhood and often in a podcast, it’s the last five minutes before we even begin to get to this territory. So this is a delight. So we’re looking at the battles for our own interior and exactly as you said, we have a tendency to project out. And I’ve been listening a lot to Daniel Thorsson recently and his idea, which of course is not solely his but he expresses it really clearly, that all of the problems of the meta crisis boil down to problems of intimacy. Intimacy with ourselves, intimacy with human other, and then intimacy with the web of life, with the natural world. And that our failure to be intimate with ourselves and to project our self loathing and shame and guilt and then throw them away at other people, and then at the outer world, is where everything stems from. And so this recolonising. Talk to me a little bit about how that settles with you. What kind of images come up? You’re a poet, you work with words and with the metaphor of language and it’s such a beautiful thing. What is this for you?

Abigail: Well, I think there’s so much that we carry intergenerationally, you know. There’s so much that we experience as children that we internalise and then we take it out of context into our adulthood, and it plays out in very warped and twisted ways. And everyone has their version of that. Everyone has their version of the struggles that they’re trying to make right, with their upbringing and their family of origin. And then compounded on that there’s this experience of holding and carrying intergenerational information that we don’t understand yet. And to be able to be a warrior that can go in to your own experience and ask the hard questions, and be willing to see the parts that need to be made right; whether it’s a relationship with your father or a relationship with the Earth, or a relationship with the way that you work, or a relationship with maybe your ancestry that didn’t do such great things. There’s a way to go into your own experience. And my way has been through poetry, but there are many, many ways, as we know, to go in. To ask those hard questions and to be willing to listen to what comes through. And I find that nature is a wonderful place to listen because it’s just easier to hear for me. And then to really experience the feelings that arise. And that sounds kind of trite, like, well, just feel the feelings.

Manda: That’s huge, though.

Abigail: I feel like my work as a poet is just a medium for being an emotional scholar and calling people into experiencing and renaming their emotions, so that they’re not scary. So that they’re information. Like, when was the last time you had an experience that you were deep in anger or deep in grief and you actually stopped and got curious? That’s the warrior that I’m talking about.

Manda: Yes and particularly deep in grief. We had a friend, a very close friend who died recently. And exactly I spent the whole of the grieving process exploring what it was to grieve this deeply for somebody. It is still an ongoing and really extraordinary experience to allow things to unfold and then to kind of lift the unfolded corners and see what’s underneath. And it’s like origami. Every time you fold a corner, there’s something else more complicated underneath and more corners to unfold. It’s a very beautiful experience but my goodness, it can be excoriating at the same time.

Abigail: I want to offer my condolences for your loss and also give you credit for holding it as a gift. Because, you know, when we experience our emotions of grief, we are receiving the gift of the love that we experience. Like that’s the gift that we get to open and we can’t open and experience our love without experiencing that grief. Grief is certainly not the only emotion, but it’s such a big one that so many people have so much resistance to, as we know.

Manda: Yeah. And my very earliest teacher, the first person that I acknowledged as a teacher, we should probably say, taught me that there were only two emotions. There was love and there was fear. And so I was looking into the grief, exploring my own fear and seeing what’s the different edges between fear and grief. And I’m not sure I still believe that that love and fear are the only things, because grief feels to me different. It’s got different qualities. So that’s a whole other conversation, I think. But then what to do with it, because it’s alive. If you’re grieving, you’re alive. And there’s something really enlivening about feeling an emotion with that much power. What’s coming up just at the moment, is we held one of the intention intensives last night and I am doing my best to be able to help the students to feel joyful curiosity, which for me is is the kind of core underlying. If you can feel joyful curiosity about even your own grief. I had a migraine last night and it was one of those screaming, vomiting, projectile vomiting. It was a very, very bad migraine. And I was in the middle of it trying to find that core of joyful curiosity. I could manage the curiosity. Finding the joyful bit was really hard.

Manda: But even so, just even stepping back that much gave a little bit of space in the kind of hell that was going on in my head to, to feel it differently. And back to the old Buddhist thing of pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional and it’s really trite when the pain is that bad. But it’s still worth exploring. And you were talking about emotional scholarship. That poetry was a way into that. And I’d really like to explore that more deeply, as a novelist. I’ve got a current book, until I started editing it was 186,000 words. I got it down to 155 at the moment, which is, you know, there’s a lot gone. And I’m trying to get to the point where every word in every sentence counts. But even so, I have a bit of leeway. Whereas that poem that you just read, 15 lines, every word counts and every word does multiple things in each line. And that’s for me, the difference between poetry and writing. Even the best writing. There are some lines where the words just mean one thing and they’re only there to do one job. How do you craft the emotional scholarship of your poetry and how do you help people to become better emotional scholars within the poetry?

Abigail: I’m remembering this workshop that I took in my late 20s, and we wrote out the story of our biggest trauma or our biggest moment that we were unsettled by.

Manda: That’s extraordinarily brave.

Abigail: Yeah, it was a big deal. And, you know, in that moment, I was able to access this information, this storyline about this old story that I had with my dad. And then and I was able to write it out. And this is just for me. This wasn’t to share with anybody else, this is a very personal experience. And then the next the next thing we were to do was to take a yellow highlighter and to highlight the places that when we read it out loud to ourselves, caught our heart. Like, you know, when you get that catch in your throat and you can feel the emotion constricting.

Abigail: It constricts your voice, it constricts your truth, it constricts the energy that can move through you. And then we were to read that highlighted piece over and over and over out loud to ourselves until it loosened.

Manda: Okay.

Abigail: So for me, the process of poetry is there’s this big story that you have about something. It can really be about anything. It can be about a moment in time that was important to you, it can be about an idea, it can be about a dream that you had, it can be about a friend. I mean, the prompts are, you know, like extensive. It’s almost like taking a microscope and getting really, really close in and going deeper into the emotion, until you find the essence of the trigger. And it’s not necessarily a trigger of fear or anger. It can also be the trigger of joy. And so you get in and you go and you spend the time spend time with yourself to get to the essence of it. And it’s like circling a plane round and round and finally landing. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to find the essence because it takes a lot of feeling and feeling can take time.

Manda: And there are layers of feeling and what you thought the thing was at the outer layer, by the time you peeled the skin off the onion for a few weeks or days or however long it takes, it’s going to be a different thing. It just is. That’s the nature of humanity. And presumably you could write a poem for every layer of that process and and they would all be aiming for that central fulcrum, the turning point. But they would be really different. I want to come back to that. But before we get too further down the line, you did a workshop in your 20s about writing poetry, that’s what the workshop was for? Did you know you wanted to be a poet then?

Abigail: No, it wasn’t about poetry, it was about personal development. I was trained as a therapist. I got into therapy really, really early. Now I can see I was really trying to figure some stuff out for myself and I really wanted to be of great service to other people to do the same. And so therapy was kind of in the 90s, that was the option, you know. And so I went down that route. Then I found the world of coaching, which was nascent. It was a brand new field at that time. Nobody knew what professional coaching was and how to use it. It was just a completely new thing. And I found my way into it. And it really opened up the joyful curiosity that you’re speaking about. It was like, Oh, here’s a profession where you, instead of holding people’s pain, you know, for them and with them, you can set that down and actually activate the field of curiosity and possibly even joy. Possibly awe. Possibly inspiration and inspired action. That’s what’s possible with the coaching model. And so in the process of getting into coaching, that’s when I did all those workshops.

Manda: Okay. And so this was before you became a mother, because I would really like to explore motherhood and Warrior-ship in a moment.

Abigail: That’s a whole thing.

Manda: We should definitely do it. So on and off through the last many decades had quite a lot of therapy and only once have I been to coaching. And I went three times and thought oh yeah, fine, and then I didn’t ever go back. It was quite straightforward at the time, but it also was a very different experience and kind of emotionally easier, because I didn’t feel like I was done the wrong end of somebody’s microscope and they were busy dissecting my soul and commenting on it in passing. So it felt much happier but also I think I felt that I was getting off too lightly in some way. So tell me a little bit more about it for you, because you’ve said that the coaching opens up the joyful curiosity and it’s instead of being with and holding someone’s pain and possibly mirroring it back and whatever else therapy does. In the world that I inhabited, therapy was about unconditional positive regard and holding the space and just asking, prompting questions. Coaching seemed a lot more structured than that. Can you say a little bit more about what the aim is of coaching as opposed to therapy, in the world as you experienced it?

Abigail: I just want to clarify, it’s not that as a coach, you can’t use that whole range and hold someone’s pain and reflect back to them. It’s just that the range is stretched. And I actually think therapeutic profession has expanded monumentally in the last 15, 20 years. And so as I say this, I hold therapy with a massive regard and I believe that that is the path for wonderful, wonderful healing for so many people. And what coaching is for me; I’ve been a coach for almost 25 years. And I work for the Co-active Training Institute and they’re one of the gold standards of coaching. So I feel like my training is kind of like top shelf and that’s not true for all coaches training. So I just want to put that in the space. But I feel like for me and for the people that I train to be coaches, it’s about time and it’s about one’s experience with time. So as a coach, my job is to open up the wisdom, all of the wisdom that you can have access to, and do it in a playful way, in a joyful way and in a provocative way. So that people feel really curious about who they are and who they could become. My clientele, we look some at the past and we look at the stories that you make up about where you’ve been and how relevant and helpful and effective they are now. But then there’s a whole conversation about working with the future self and the high dream of who you could become. Because there’s all these trajectories of who we could become and to know and have a relationship with the highest version of yourself and be in dialogue with that, so that you can receive information. I know you do this too, and that is a very productive and generative relationship that people don’t often know how to access.

Manda: At what point in the process, either of therapy or of coaching, do we get to the point where the trajectories that ten, 15, 20 years ago would have been really sane and seemed plausible, and now we look at them and go, I’m sorry, the world isn’t… The dreams of becoming X five years from now…. You know, the world might not even be holding together five years from now. How do you, as a coach, integrate the essence of what I was reading when I read Warriors of Light. Of if not for warriors, there would be no freedom. But the freedom then to shift the water in the river of human tomorrows; that our human tomorrows are much less predictable than they were. How are you finding that folding into your practice now? Are people coming with more existential concepts than they were before? Or am I just projecting that too?

Abigail: No, I think that’s absolutely true. I think Covid really helped with this. The light side of Covid, you know, the silver lining was everyone got,  well, not everyone, but a lot of people got really real about what was important and what was superfluous or materialistic in some way that wasn’t serving. Because when you’re faced with mortality, there’s just so much clarity about, Oh, if you only had a year to live, would you still be doing the things that you’re doing? Would you be in relationship to the people? Would you be living where you’re living? And people ask those questions. I feel like the clients that I’m working with are cognisant that our world is rapidly shifting and they’re conscious of their part in it. And so the question of how can I be of service to this quite transient, dynamic time? And how can I be creative instead of reactive in this time? And how can I touch into, learn and accept and stand in my power to serve the greater good? What does that look like for me as an ‘individual’? To be more connected to what wants to unfold and be revealed through the social system and the construct that we’re trying to partner with?

Manda: Beautiful. Thank you. Yes. And that service to the greater whole. And then it sounds as if within this, or certainly within the way that you practice it, there is that numinous connection to the greater whole that perhaps has more wisdom and intelligence than we do. Such that we can connect to the web of life and ask, What do you want of me? And then respond to the answers in real time, which people get very tired of me saying. But it’s not a trivial thing to do. And it sounds as if the ways that you are teaching coaching, you’re giving people access to that. And certainly the ways that you write your poetry, you give people access to that. I guess.

Abigail: I mean, that is really wonderful to hear. That’s what I most want for others. And that’s a big reason why I activated my own warrior to write this book. Every book that you write, as you know, demands that you you face all the stuff and take a stand for what’s most important, and use your words. Use your words!

Manda: Yes. Yes. And use them knowing that this set of words creates this set of patterns and textures and colours and ideas and feelings inside me. And they might be completely different inside somebody else. And you just have to let them go out in the world and and see what happens. It’s an astonishing experience and you must have feedback from people who read the book. Do you ever, this is writer to writer; I sometimes stand in front of a group of people and someone says, I read your book and ‘X’ and I think, Are you sure we’re talking about the same book? Do you get that with poetry or is poetry cleaner in the emotions and feelings that it evokes, those two being slightly different?

Abigail: Well, you know, there’s a funny thing with poetry. This is really simplified, okay, but it feels like it goes into one of two buckets. This is super simplified. It either goes into speaking to the individual through the universal or speaking to the universal through the individual.

Manda: Okay.

Abigail: And so, you know, it’s kind of like that poem that I read is speaking to the individual through the universal. I’m speaking to the we and the you and the US and we are all together kind of energy. But if you care to really read it, then you’ll find yourself in it, and you’ll find how it’s personalised to you. The other type of poetry that you’ll find in this book and you’ll find around the world right now that’s really coming through, is the individual’s voice sharing the vulnerability of one’s specific moment in time that cracked open something that was really intense or whatever. And then you can find yourself in that and make it kind of like, Oh, yeah, I’m a part of that too.

 Manda: There was one I was just reading before we came on air about a man who had lost his wedding ring. 

Abigail: That man happened to be my husband.

Manda: I kind of figured that, but I didn’t want to make the assumption. But that was exactly as you said, very, very personal, very intimate event that happened. And yet the ripples of possibility and the ripples of universality are rising from that very individual moment were huge and beautiful. So I want to take us in a slightly different tack. You have a poem a little further down called We Are the Ones, and partway through it says We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Ancestors behind us and ancestors ahead. We are the longing of our children’s children reaching back to pull us through the veil of time. And that was one of the ones that really crashed over me like a huge wave. Because a lot of the shamanic work that I’m doing at the moment is endeavouring to connect to the generations not yet born, to ask them to add their wisdom to the generations that have been along that timeline. Because otherwise I don’t see how we get through. But if we can access that that multigenerational wisdom, then there might be a chance. And it felt to me that that was what you were speaking to and of, and so I’m curious to know what was the the chink of light or the spark that expressed this one? And where did it take you?

Abigail: This poem came through initially as a song. So this is a song that I just included in this poetry collection because it’s also a lovely poem, as a lot of songs are. I mean, some of my favourite poets are musicians, of course. They just also have so much extra. I just have so much respect for amazing singer songwriters. So this came through as a song. So my mom is a big influence on me. She’s a shaker in the Sufi tradition. She’s a true mystic and she’s also a conservationist. And so she spends a lot of her time and energy saving lands that would otherwise be developed, like really precious lands in the San Juan Islands where I live in Washington State in the US. She was responsible for saving and being a part of creating the monument status for a lot of acreage in these precious islands. And just in time, because Covid hit and you know, we’ve been really like inundated with a lot of people who want to buy and develop land. And so we now have a lot of precious land that has been conserved. And a lot of it has to do with my mom’s efforts. 

Manda: Well done.

Abigail: I know. Asha Leila, you really did it that time. And really, she has given me a lot of my spiritual teachings. And one of them that I grew up with was, yes, we have ancestors behind us, and they are beautiful and important. And because she was adopted and so wasn’t as connected to her ancestry, she, as a mystic kind of went out into the future to connect with her future, you know, ancestry. And and I feel that a lot, because I’m part of that line for her.

Manda: And so you’re the first step on that journey.

Abigail: Yeah. And so she often talks about, you know, seven generations. It’s just like a common, you know, throw in the words seven generations in any conversation that we have. To really think about the generations ahead of us and how to care for them, but also how to listen to them so that we can care for them. And I do think that it stretches the imagination to believe that we can have access to the unborn realms. And that is something that some people are open to and some people are are not open to, and that’s totally fine. But that’s where that song came from and the poem came from wanting to offer that as as a possibility.

Manda: And did you write the music to go with it, If it’s a song?

Abigail: I did. Yeah, I did. And actually I submitted it to a contest and I won the contest of a local songwriter singing about, you know, that was really cool. But I haven’t done anything else with it, so there’s that.

Manda: You are so multi-talented. So do you sing it with a guitar? That’s not my field. I don’t know much.

Abigail: No, this is one of my sad things. I was too rebellious as a child to learn an instrument. You know, you have to get your rebel on somewhere. So that’s where mine came, which is so sad because that kicked my butt later on. But no I have friends in musical places, so.

Manda: So they can play and you can sing. Yay. And where along your path if the early workshops were were coaching and therapeutic, at what point did poetry become the medium within which you were able to express more than you were doing in your daily work?

Abigail: Well, like most of the people that I know, I keep a journal and I scribble down things that mean something to me in the journal. I think about ten years ago. I’ve always dabbled in poetry, you know, I can see it from when I was in high school, just kind of throwing things out there. But I never really took it very seriously and I never really developed the craft. It was just another thing that I was like, Oh, I can do this if I want to, to to get to know myself better.

Abigail: But it wasn’t until I really started to take seriously my role as a model of a cultural creative, that I started to share my poetry. And that was about ten years ago. And I started just throwing it out there on Facebook. And I got so much feedback! It was a little startling and also really validating. And so I started doing it more and more. And then when Covid hit, I took a challenge from a coach. Lovely coaches challenges, to write a poem a day for a month. And then lockdown happened two weeks into my month and then I just was like, well, I’m going to just do this for a year and just see what happens. So I wrote a poem a day for a year and and I would take this walk up on a hill that was right near my house, called Lopez Hill. And the same walk every day, with my dog for a couple miles. And then I would meditate, hold a question or an idea or something that was really bothering me, or even a phrase that was inspiring me. I would take that on that walk, and then I would come home and write a poem about it. And then after that, I threw my manuscript, my body of work, into another contest and won that and became published through Homebound Publishing.

Manda: And is this the collection?

 Abigail: Yeah.

Manda: Wow. Okay. That’s beautiful. And so much of it is so deeply personal and revolving around relationships within the family. And that makes sense now that we know that you were kind of in lockdown. Well it makes sense anyway; the intensity of it does have that real closeness. And I’m remembering, I think, a Ted talk that I once heard from Elizabeth Gilbert, who was talking about somebody else who was describing being out in the fields and the poem would rush towards her like tumbleweed, and she’d have to run inside and get a pen and scribble it down. If she didn’t it would go off and find somebody else. Is that also an experience that you’ve had?

Abigail: Yes. I’m the one who always has a tiny little notebook that I carry around and I’m that person that at a cocktail party or at a concert or in a conversation, I’ll be like, Hold on. And I’ll just jot the thing down. Because it only takes those few words to evoke the feeling again and then you can take that and get into it later.

Manda: Right. Like when you wake up in the middle of the night and you just want to record a dream and you just need, I don’t know, Buddhist monk, boxer dog, car. And then you can remember it in the morning because those are your catches in. Wow. So if I see you scribbling halfway through the conversation I will know what it is.

Abigail: I know. I actually have I have my journal right here just in case I needed to take a break in this podcast to write something down. So that’s how addicted I am.

Manda: Okay Listener So if it happens, we will tell you and then you will know that there’s a poem arising out of this conversation. I want to head us a little bit more back into family dynamics, because partly it does feature quite strongly in the Walk Deep book. And also it’s helped me to realign my concepts of motherhood and daughterhood. And in my Mother My Soil you say ‘my mother once said, a parent’s job is to accept their children and a child’s job is to invite the parent in’. And I cannot tell you the degree of pushback that second line evoked in me, but you know, I’ll work with it. I’ll go away and have a look at it. But you’ve been both a daughter and a parent. And I’m wondering, given your awareness of generational trauma and the wish every parent has; I’m watching my partner’s daughters raising small kids and doing their utmost to be the best parents they possibly can, and still knowing that Philip Larkin in the end is going to be right, they fuck you up, your mum and dad, it just is a thing. And that seems to be the nature of the world, I think. It seems to me it’s the nature of our world, because I don’t think this happened in tribal societies. Like the tribal societies of ancient Britain or the indigenous peoples of any of the continents. It didn’t happen because there wasn’t that pressure cooker relationship. It did take a village to raise a child and therefore the child had parents throughout the village and there was less of the chance of being completely messed up as a result. And the sooner we get back to that, the better. But we’re not back there yet. How, in your poetry and in your life have you found the balance between being a daughter (as I understand it your mom is still alive) and being a mother. And wanting to mother right and yet knowing that you have to step back. This is huge. I realise this is probably entire podcasts that just ask that one question, forever. But over to you.

Abigail: Well, I love that we started with Warriors of Light because that’s a stance that I take in in all of my relationships. Because as you said, so much of what we’re up to, if we’re really, really committed to doing our work in our world, it has to do with trusting. And trusting has to do with being able to open and be vulnerable and create intimacy with someone. Trust and intimacy they’re the same. It’s just one is the cause of the other, right?

Manda: Yeah.

Abigail: Trust is both given and it’s earned. It’s given and it’s earned. And just because I wrote a poem doesn’t mean that I’m great at doing it, Manda. I mean, that poem bothers me, too. It’s like, you know, my mother says like invite her in and I know that I have to accept my children. Both are the way of the inner warrior. Like it is hard. It is hard to invite my mother in sometimes and it is really hard to accept my children.

Manda: Right.

Abigail: I am walking the fire path on this one, as you know. Like there’s a lot going on in my family and I feel so grateful to be grounded in my commitment to those two things. Doesn’t mean I do it, but I return to it.

Manda: The task is daily, isn’t it? Until we die. And then probably thereafter as well. And I’m then reflecting on the last stanza of the poem, which is This job I have requires no work, only the risk of transparency, like a glass door opening from the inside to welcome her in. Her being my mother, my soil. And this is another one of those that starts off in the intimate and if we look at our mother as the whole web of life, our soil, then for me the essence of that becomes much easier to engage with. And also so big that I can barely get my head around it. And I’m wondering, you write this, it’s out in the world. Does it make it harder or easier, no change in the relationships both ways? Up the ancestral line to your mother, down the ancestral line to your daughter, when how you feel is on the page. That in itself would seem to me really exposing and an act of trust.

Abigail: Yeah, it is and it’s an act of commitment. And it doesn’t mean that I can’t rewrite it. I can rewrite it. But that’s the most true version that I have and I’m committed to it. So I’m going to put it out there. I’m going to use my words to lead my actions. I’m going to use the platform of my poetry in this book to help me stay committed to my highest truth and my highest version, which is how we should be using our words all the time. And so it’s just a commitment. It’s like a wedding vow to my kids and to my mom in a poem.

Manda: Right. Yes, absolutely. And it’s because your wedding vows are made in public. And then the poem, I imagine there must be a real threshold between I wrote this poem and basically nobody else has ever seen it, to now anyone who picks up the book now knows this about me. And I know first time novelists end up with that sense of being flayed. Of, you know, everybody now knows everything because I poured everything into my first book. And it seems to be both true and untrue. That everybody assumes that you’ve had every kind of sex you’ve ever described in a novel. And nobody ever assumes that you’ve committed all the murders that all the crime novelists describe in a novel because you’d be inside. And you’re going, I’m a novelist, I’m allowed to make stuff up. And so there must be, you know, I’m a poet; I take a fraction of a thing, and then I extrapolate from it. I haven’t necessarily lived through every moment of everything in every poem. Do you find yourself having those conversations?

Abigail: Um, yeah. More, the tricky bit for me is I live on a tiny little island that’s like seven miles by 14 miles. It’s tiny.

Manda: And what’s the population?

Abigail: Well, before Covid, it was about pushing 3000. Now it’s probably 6000.

Manda: Oh, really? So Covid is driving people away from the mainland because they think it’s safer? Or did they decide that they didn’t want to be in cities and they just wanted somewhere and you’ve got cheap land, cheaper land?

Abigail: Well, it’s not cheap, good Internet, beautiful. They don’t need to live in the city because they can do their work remotely. So anyways, that’s the population. But I grew up here and I know a lot of people and a lot of people know me. And so that’s been the edge for me: to go public. It’s not so much the people that don’t know me, because it’s about intimacy and it’s about trust. So, yeah, that’s been the edge. 

Manda: Right. And there is a beautiful poem I remembering now, about coming home to the place that nurtured you and going down the supermarket aisles, and basically trying not to catch the eyes of the people that you know. Because I don’t meet anyone that I went to school with in my adult life, or at least very, very rarely. And I know some of you are out there and you’re all very lovely people. But still, I’m not who I was, and I’m not necessarily wanting to be reminded of who I was.

Abigail: Yeah, it’s a hot karmic path to return as an adult to the place that you were raised. I’m actually working on a book, a prose kind of memoir, you know, self-help memoir about returning as an adult to the place where you came up. Because you have to meet yourself over and over and over and you have to make peace with who you’re meeting.

Manda: Right. Okay. You’re brave. Very brave.

Abigail: Yeah. It’s like that’s why I write these warrior poems. I need them Manda. 

Manda: Okay. Yay for the inner warriors! So how long were you away for? Because I think you go to university and come back, it probably doesn’t make that much difference. But if you go away and build a whole new life for yourself and then come back, you are a different person.

Abigail: Yeah, well, in my case, I left when I was 19 and then I came back when I was 31. You know, I would come back for visits, but, you know, that was primarily.

Manda: Sure. Not the same thing. Okay. Long enough to have gone through a couple of thresholds. So we started off talking about warriorship and inner warriorship and something that struck me reading through the book, is that in the poem Tiger Child you describe a warrior emerging. And this is your child. So we’re looking down the generational line and it feels it feels to me like the burning heart of the book. It’s it’s so powerful and so potent and feels as if it’s written…they all feel they’re written with heart, but this feels like it’s got some extra dynamism to it. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Abigail: Tiger Child was written for my son Jax, who is transgender. He was born female. And when he came out, my first words that he heard out of the womb, because I knew that I was carrying a boy and I told everyone I was carrying a boy. We got rid of all the girl clothes and we only had boy names. And my first words were I’m sure you’re wrong, check again. Because I knew he was a boy. They were like, You just had a daughter. And I’m like, No, no, no.

Manda: No. It can’t be. You didn’t look right.

Abigail: It took us a month to give him a name. He was nameless for a month because we couldn’t settle. We could not find his name, so we gave him a placeholder name, Sophie. And even just saying it now, I’m like, What is that? What is that? And so when he came out, I wrote this poem for him and it’s been two and a half years since he has come out as transgender. And it’s been quite a ride, as you can imagine. Just accepting what I already knew but learning it again and really finding the warrior in me to do the hard work of accepting my child. So this poem is is for Jax. It’s called Tiger Child.

Abigail: Tiger child. You came one arm bent, shielding yourself. A warrior emerging, your skin changing colours. Face morphing until you landed on this, your current form. Tiger child, when I asked for teacher, I did not expect you, fervent with passion. Not in this armour, leading with No, fierce as a cornered bear. Tiger child conjure a vision of hope. Harness yourself to the chariot of righteousness, sharpening vulnerability as your best tool. No need to push. No need to hold back. Tiger child wield your power with grace and mercy. Channel your rage against injustice in ways that create health, not harm. Tiger child when you are wounded, may you have a true friend. And the wisdom to receive deep healing found only through love.

 bigail: Tiger child, your battlefield is strewn with the tiniest watercoloured wildflowers, soft enough for you to lay amongst, to dream into, sighing. Tiger child, You have the impossible job of fighting with an open heart. And I the impossible job of mothering a warrior. Tiger child, no one is more loyal than when you lead the charge, your spear forged of pointed wisdom, with the eyes deep as earth.

 Manda: Thank you. That is so beautiful and so moving. And how was it received? 

Abigail: It was received quietly. We haven’t been able to talk about it. He received it and he is excited to have a poem for him in the book. But we don’t talk about it yet.

Manda: How old is he now?

Abigail: He’s 14 next week.

Manda: So quick arithmetic. He was 11.5 when he came out as trans? And do you think that had been a long time coming? Had you had conversations about something around this area for a while before?

Abigail: You know, were just letting him find his own way. We weren’t surprised, but it was still shocking. It’s like, you know, something’s coming, but when it comes it still shocks the spirit. Because the constructs of our understanding of gender are so rigid and calcified. Mine. I should speak for myself. I consider myself a pretty open minded person, but when your child comes out as a different gender it’s shocking. Even if you know deep in your bones that it’s perfect.

Manda: Yeah. Because it can be shocking and perfect. And these two are not necessarily mutually contradictory. And I’m wondering if you lived, I don’t know I’m thinking East Coast, Providence, the sorts of places where there’s a lot of fluidity, at least in sexuality. And I’m presumingly now in gender. Do you think it would have been easier? Is it part of the culture of where you are, the place that you’re in, that makes it hard? Or do you think it’s just always going to be hard for a parent to hear that?

Abigail: I think a lot of it has to do with place. We live in a cultural liberal bubble and there’s this interesting thing that’s going on with the liberal mind, that wants to be open to everything but is so fragile at the same time. And so it’s been challenging to be surrounded by people who are so loving of us and so accepting of us, but really don’t understand. And I think that could be said for, you know, the racism conversation. Because we’re in this tiny little microcosm of liberalism, it has its own challenges. It has its beauty, but it also has its challenges.

Manda: We could have a whole other podcast on how one as a parent or as a child navigates this particular set of really turbulent landscapes, but I wanted to move with the last few minutes we have. Because you and I met in the context of beginning to think about thrutopian ideals and how we could use our warrior ness to create visions of a different future. And presumably a different future within which gender fluidity is completely fine, because why not? But also different futures where we actually have descendants who survive and can eat and have children of their own in a safe world? That’s quite high on the agenda, too. How is that moving for you and how is it feeling these days?

Abigail: Well, I’m cognisant that the name Thrutopia has been a magical word for me, because it’s opened up a new genre of how I think of myself as an author. And I’m no longer some sort of authority telling you how things should be. And I’m no longer a victim complaining about my situation and how bad things are. But there’s this thing of being a thrutopian that opens up the bridge. I am a bridge. My words are a bridge. My creations are a bridge for for people to find the way through this time, with a semblance of wholeness and connectivity and compassion. But also a quality of warrior, because it takes grit and commitment to let go of the things that no longer serve us. You know, plastic.

Manda: Internal combustion engine.

Abigail: Alcohol. Like all of these things that we were just given. Like, of course you’re always going to have these things and they’re great for you. And now it’s like, Oh, well, actually there’s a lot of things that we need to pivot and find a different way through. And in order to do that, we’re going to need each other and we’re going to need models and we’re going to need inspiration, and we’re going to need new ways to think about things. So my writing has now really become that. And I really want to thank you for that.

Manda: Oh, thank you. If we can have models and inspiration in writing as beautiful as yours, this is how we change people, is open the doors to possibility. I think a lot of the fear and resistance that we have at the moment, is because people are being told they’re going to have to give things up, without being given a vision of a future where those things are not necessary anymore. I listened to two really intelligent people on a podcast the other day bemoaning the fact that there would be no jobs and we would have to find jobs for people. And I was but guys, 300,000 years of evolution we didn’t have jobs and we don’t need jobs. We need to create community and feed ourselves. It doesn’t have to be this kind of transactional thing where somebody slots you into an economic model so that you can be both a consumer and a worker. Anyway, no. The idea that we need to, as you said, break open the walls of our perceptions and envision different futures and how are you doing that? What do you do? What are your strategies for changing the view of the world that we were given and naturalised in and grew up in and we thought was all there was?

Abigail: Right now, as I shepherd my book out into the world, it’s just been out for almost a year. It’ll be a year in October. I’ve been doing a lot of readings, doing a lot of podcasts, talking to a lot of people about the power of poetry, the power of the pen, the power of words, the power of reclaiming and rewriting our stories. So there’s the book, there’s talking to people and having these conversations with brilliant minds, to crack open new ways of thinking together. A lot of my work is in the coaching world and so I’m actually rolling out a nine month writing program to help people find their relationship with their writing, because I think that a lot of people have a lot of blocks and resistance.

Manda: Brilliant.

Abigail: So a lot of my work is to help open up the space where people can can experience their creativity flowing through them, that is uninhibited and of value to other people.

Manda: And is that an online program? Can people join up if they want to still?

Abigail: Yeah, online. It has components. There’s two retreats both on Lopez Island at the beginning and at the end. It’s a new program and I’m super excited about it and it’s going to be really intimate. There’s only going to be eight people, so that’s a very small program. But then my husband and I are opening up a lot of different coaching conversations that we’re inviting a lot more people into.

Manda: So your husband is a coach also? 

Abigail: Yeah. And then my work in spiral leadership. So I developed this whole nature based spirit forward Leadership model that’s based on the shape of the spiral, and that is something that keeps rolling out. I’ve taken over 300 people through that program and I’ll continue to do that. So there’s that as well.

Manda: And you will give me links to put in the show notes so that people can connect to all of these.

Abigail: I will. Yes.

Manda: Excellent. That might be a very good place to start, because we’ve run out of time. I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. There was so much more. We wanted to talk about the nature of place and grounding in place and how important it was, but maybe that’ll be podcast number two, when you’ve run a few of these courses and you can come back and tell us how they went and what arose out of them. Because it seems to me that every little bit, eight people, a dozen people, however many, they go out into their communities and they talk and they write and they share. And we will hit tipping points if we can extend. Is there anything that you would like to say as a last thing?

Abigail: I think the only thing that I would like to say is that it really matters that we are listening. Like really opening ourselves up to listening and getting curious and then sharing what we’re getting. That is the way of a thrutopian. And I want to thank you for inspiring me to do that. Reading your Boudicca books when I was nursing my children in the nursing chair, way back when, I felt a calling to a different way of writing and sharing. And that has led me to you and it’s really informed the book. So I really want to thank you for that.

Manda: Thank you. I’m honoured and deeply grateful. And also odd that something that I wrote 20 years ago can still have life and move people. Thank you.

Abigail: That’s the thing. And I really I want that Everything that we write has the power of our vision and carries it out way farther than we can ever know. So just to trust in that.

Manda: Yeah. That is the wonder of writing. Truly. Really. I wondered as a last thing, whether you’d like to read the last poem in the book, ‘Golden’. Just as closing.

Abigail: Sure. I wrote this out in the field next to our house as the sun went down. It’s called Golden.

Abigail: And now all I have here is this thin slice of time. The ripple of liquorish clouds drifting in, and a patient, four legged friend in the back field. Can you smell the winter in the soil too? Every stock will soon fall. Yes, of course we will. But this slanted light, this moment, so right.

Manda: And it’s shaped beautifully on the page. The first poem and the last poem have this beautiful, multi-dimensional shape on the page. So glorious. Abigail, It’s been such a joy talking to you, and I look forward to future conversations. Thank you so much for coming on to the podcast.

Abigail: Thank you and blessings to you.

Manda: So welcome back. As always happens, at the end of the podcast, we had a chat after I stopped recording and you will understand why I felt that we needed to hit the record button again. We were talking about a poem that Abigail wrote called The Dream that Dreams Me. It’s in the book. And dreams: I teach dreaming, I am a dreamer, this is what I do. And it was such a powerful poem. It’s one of those that I could imagine it being chanted in a roundhouse in ancient Britain or anywhere that is sacred around the world. Then I began to learn where the dream came from, where the poem came from, and where it led. So Abigail is going to read us the poem and then explain what she just explained to me. Over to you.

Abigail: The dream that dreams me. We are thousands marching slowly coming from every direction. Over crumbling rock bridges, past impossible spires. We walk in lines towards the place, the one place, the sacred canyon. In a desert with two moons, orange sand and liquorice sky. We are draped in rough, pale cloth.

Abigail: And for sake of brevity, I’m going to jump down to the last stanzas: 

Abigail: In wide arcs we place our tiny fires to burn together. Even the children. Making opening circles of light, we face the middle and pray this way. Everything is sacred if we pilgrimage toward it. Everything is sacred if we carry it in our hands. Everything is sacred if we place it on the altar.

Manda: Indeed. Thank you. Such a beautiful poem. And if I’ve understood correctly, you’ve had this dream many times. And then it enacted out in a way. So tell us about this. Tell us how it came about.

Abigail: So I’ve had this dream. You know, sometimes we have these dreams over and over and over. And I’ve had this dream so many times, where there’s all these people together in this different landscape that’s not quite earth, but it’s related. And so when I wrote this poem, it was really from honouring that dreamscape. And about a week and a half ago, I had the great honour to visit Ghost Ranch, which is in New Mexico. And it’s a really, really sacred canyon. And my girlfriend Maria Sofia and I did a plant medicine ceremony, up on top of this mesa overlooking the canyon, for the sake of the healing of the land. And we were engaging with the full moon and we were connecting with the canyon. And it occurred to me that this was the canyon that I was writing about. And it was like that moment when time comes together and finds its alignment with a dream that you’ve had and a reality that you’re experiencing. The essence of what we experienced was that there’s just so much support right now from the other realms, and we really need to go to the sacred places that we feel called to, to listen and to receive the wisdom of the support that’s coming through there. And then we need to share it with other people, so that they can feel it too, because it’s not just for us.

Manda: And you were saying before we hit record again, that there was a sense of awareness of the spirits, of the place, of the land, of the medicine teachers, that we know you’re in trouble and we’re here and we want to help if you’ll let us in. Did I hear that right? 

Abigail: Yeah. And it’s about, you know, there’s a lot of of support standing by. They’re waiting for us to ask for help. And in order to ask for help, we need to feel that warrior inside of us that can receive the help and is strong enough to carry it and to carry out the support that we’re getting. So making ourselves strong physically and spiritually, doing our work. Doing our meditation, doing our yoga, eating right, being in right relationship and being connected with the earth so that we can hear the energies that are ready to speak to us. That’s our work. And then sharing what we get out to other people, that’s our work.

Manda: As you were doing just now. Yes. Thank you. And what I love about what you’re saying is the egolessness of it. It feels really clear to me. Your intent feels strong and clean. You’re not claiming magic for yourself, which is, I think is a Western kind of Disney Shamanism. Hey, look what I can do. And you’re so not doing that. But the experience, listening to you talk about it and knowing that you’ve had this dream, from the sound of things many times, and then meshed into the place where you were and the understanding. And I really encourage people to get the book and read all of it. Reading this dream, it feels it feels really alive and it feels as if this is a thing that has happened and will happen. And the connection to the land is huge. We were going to talk about place. I want to talk a little bit about place, because your genetic heritage is you were saying Scots and Welsh. Not necessarily of land in New Mexico. And yet you dreamt this. You’ve been there. You’ve had it. How do you experience your relationship to places where your epigenetics perhaps is attuned to somewhere else.

Abigail: Well, I think I was very lucky to be introduced to really sacred places by my father and my mother when I was young. And so I didn’t have a shield of individualism or ego when I was a child. And so I really connected with those places when I went to them when I was young. And my dad was a teacher on the Hopi and Navajo Reservation. And he took us all around the Southwest and we would go to Ghost Ranch. He was a big Quaker, so we would go to Quaker camp at Ghost Ranch. And I had all day to just roam around Ghost Ranch by myself. And as a child, you know, that’s a lot of intense energy. But I didn’t know that. I was just scrambling around on the sandstone and enjoying the sagebrush and connecting with the water. 

Manda: Right. So this, in fact, is a landscape that is deeply embedded in the soul of who you are.

Abigail: It is. And it was introduced to me before I had an individual story. And there’s also a poem in this book called Box Canyon, which is about the canyon behind Ghost Ranch. And so it definitely has spoken to me for a long time. But I do think that it’s time for us, and I’m speaking to myself as well, to really follow our intuition and go to the places that are calling us and listen. And ask for help there, because there’s a reason why we’re being called to those places. And sometimes they’re hard to get to and it’s a pilgrimage. And that’s what makes them sacred.

Manda: Yes. Thank you. Okay, we’d better stop recording again. But really, I’m so glad we talked about that. And I’m so glad you agreed to let us put it out there. Thank you.

Abigail: Thank you, Manda.

Manda: And there we go. Finally. Definitely. Completely. We are done. Thank you to Abigail for the main part of the podcast and then for letting me record that last bit. It felt really deeply and intensely personal, that bit. So I hope you listen to it with ears that respect the sacredness of the place and of the dream and of the ceremony. And then this feels to me like a doorway into the places that we all need to go. How can we reach the best of ourselves? How can we reach deep inside? Step beyond all the inculturation that’s telling us that things need to be faster and brighter and more exciting and more full of dopamine hits. And come instead to that sense of the serotonin mesh, the connectivity with ourselves, with each other, with our families, with our friends, with our communities of place and of purpose and of passion. And then from that rooting connect to the whole web of life. And it isn’t just the web of the trees and the hill and the red kites, although that is huge. It’s also connecting to the life beyond that. That sense that there is something or perhaps many somethings that are ready to help if we know how to ask. And if we know how to ask in ways that don’t put our own projections, our own hopes and fears in the way. And in many ways, this is what shamanic training is. We were talking at one of the recent workshops about why does it take between 12 and 20 years, at the very least, to get to the point where this can begin to feel like the strongest thread of our lives? And largely it’s because it can take us that long to get out of our own way. To get to the point where we’re not impinging our egos, and that’s our frightened ego and our I am master of the universe ego, in the way of what’s coming in. One of my very early teachers said, our heart mind is very shy and it speaks very quietly, but our head mind will learn to whisper if that’s what it takes to make us hear it and listen only to it. And our head minds are being filled these days with so much stuff. So how do we let go? How do we come back into alignment with ourselves, with each other, with the web? Because I’m not sure we have 12 to 20 years for all of us to get our heads around the absolute depths of this. And part of what my inquiry is for myself these days is: if it is as urgent as I feel it is that we all connect, how can we make that happen? And I don’t have an obvious answer. The Accidental Gods membership is my best effort and the intention intensive that we’re running this year that we mentioned in the podcast, where we get together for a couple of hours once a month, and then people meet up in groups in between and support each other in the work is endeavouring to fast track things.

Manda: I think there will be better ways and I am exploring them. And when I find out what they are, I absolutely guarantee I will let you know and do what we can to share whatever the leading edge of our understanding is. At the moment, really connecting with the earth, the air, the water fire in all its manifestations. Learning to hone our attention into intention, learning to let go of all that we believe to be true, which are the six steps inside the membership program. This is my best understanding. So that’s what we offer. And the podcast.

Manda: And that being the case, we will be back next week with another conversation. In the meantime, enormous thanks to Caro C for the music at the head and foot and for the sound production. Thanks to Anne Thomas for the transcripts. Thanks to Faith Tilleray for the website, for the awesome work of the YouTube channel and for the conversations that keep us moving forward. And as ever, enormous thanks to you for listening. If you know of anybody else who is enchanted by the wonder of words and by the sheer magic of being alive, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.

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