Monday, 31 December 2012

A different countdown

One, two, three lights out on the ocean; one red, one orange, one blue.

Between the shore and the horizon, the water shimmers, magical. Its very bright on the water, reflecting a nearly full moon.

The moon doesn't know its New Year. Nor does the ocean.

In ten minutes, (five now), in living rooms and bars, in squares and gardens, people will shout out the countdown. Ten, nine, eight (and the moon still shines), seven, six, five (the sea still ripples and shines), four, three, two (red, orange, blue), one!

Happy New Year! (happy moon, happy ocean).

Towards a new year

Grey morning, late December
Maybe, after all, this is the human struggle, one we always come to slowly, imperfectly, stumbling on the steps.

And hope and despair can live side by side, hand in hand, as we stumble our way towards something approximating truth.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Laxton (1)

All day, we climbed the tree.
There was a ditch,
a metal fence, a stile.
There was a dirt track,
and on the other side,
an old army barrack.

I was six, or maybe seven.
The sun shone all day,
and in the middle of the day,
we sat in the shade of the tree,
ate salmon paste sandwiches,
drank tea and orange squash.

They worked with scarves
tied around their heads.
Every now and then
I'd climb the stile,
cross the track,
wanting to know more.

At one end of the hut,
steep wooden steps.
Inside, lines of metal beds
(striped mattresses folded to air,)
narrow wardrobes,
(one between each bed.)

The women chased me out,
back across the ditch,
away from the dust,
back to the tree.
"Stay on the grass,
by the tree!"

Over and over,
I pulled myself up
into the branches,
then climbed down again.
Over and over, polka dots
spinning as I twisted down.

And the women's voices
floating from the windows,
across the sunlit grass,
rising up to me in the tree,
as they cleaned and swept and
set the place straight.

At the end of the day,
as shadows lengthened,
they folded us tiredly into cars,
spread us across the
bench seats, to sleep the
long drive home.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

When I was seventeen

Buddha on my bedside table
When I was seventeen or so, I felt despair most of the time. I didn't have a name for it. I didn't know it's cause. I had no context to enclose it. It just lived with me.

I sought out writers and poets, artists and music that reflected my inner world. And so, I found beauty and truths that are with me still.

I discovered, almost by chance, that doing things was better than not doing things, even though despair came along too, and did the things with me.

I discovered that sometimes, despair could be a catalyst to make me act, and that despair and activity, despair and the doing of things in this world, could co-exist quite happily.

And now, all these years later, I wonder if there's also space for an un -doing. A time to face that old despair straight in the face. To sit and look at it head on. To find out what it asks of me. To find out what else it might offer.

Stillness and menace

Still clear pool
By the side of the road, there's a small pool. The water is clear, and bright green fronds hang above it. The water must gather here often, running off the fields. It's a miniature oasis of peace on a storm tossed morning.

Walking on, past a lone tree, and the wind suddenly picks up and hums, violently, through it's bare branches, shaking the trunk. It seems to be shouting "beware!" or maybe "be careful". There's a momentary menace in the world, almost as if something evil were lurking behind the hedge, ready to pounce.

Stillness and clear, cool water.

Unkown dangers ready to pounce.

Held together, held by one step after the other, held by this world.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Letting go of 2012

I've made an inventory of all I need to let go of as the year draws to a close. There's quite a lot in my circle of letting go. I even need to let go of the list of things that I need to let go.

And when you let go of it all, what's left?

Empty space.

And finally, I realise, the empty space is the point. Not a rush to fill the space that's left by the letting go.

Letting go. Empty space. Preparing as the year draws to a close.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Fierce winds

Black mountain in the distance, stark against a full moon sky. Close by, timber posts rising out of the dark of the hedge, and thin strands of barbed wire pulled loosely between them. Fierce winds blow tonight, and I walk thinking "My father is dying, my father is dying". Every day, he eats less, and the weight falls away, effortlessly, silently. As if all the bulk I have ever known was only a disguise, hiding the skinny bones of a bewildered boy, sitting in a cattle truck, heading East.

The wind blows, it blows, and brief clouds pass translucent across the face of the man in the moon. And my father grows lighter by the hour, lighter and more insubstantial. As if the man never existed, and instead, only a boy, with too little flesh on his bones.

Christmas is over, but still the house heaves with food. And my father sits, in a clean tidy room, with kind people watching, sits wasting, sits failing to thrive, refusing all but the meanest mouthfuls of food.

Fierce winds blow. The veil grows thin. It feels as if he's passed the point of no return. Hunger has ceased to exist. Hunger, which so defined his early days. Hunger has ceased to exist. And as we pour cream onto pudding, gravy onto plates full of food, he grows less substantial by the hour.

And so a life turns full circle. And the man that he was disappears. And I try to hold him, but I can't.

Spinning a life - words for 2013

Moving towards 2013
Turning and spinning,
Spinning and turning,
Spinning these words,
Spinning a life.

The words circling around

Hope. Open. Joy.

Circling and turning

Travel. Different. Enjoy.

Turning again, circling around

Connect. Authentic. Still.

And again spinning round and around

Create. Teach. Satisfied.

All this turning and spinning,
Spinning and turning,
Spinning these words,
Spinning a life.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Being enough

Everything you have done is enough.

Eveything that is bought is enough.

Everything that is made is enough.

It's easy to spoil the day, fretting over what's not been achieved.

Stand back, and tell yourself, slowly and clearly,

"I am enough"

And then start to enjoy the gift of mid winter celebration, the turning of the year, and the bringing of light into the darkness.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Connection and armour

Lost people everywhere. As you start to get to know someone, and they loosen their protective armour even just a little, you see the loss and hurt they carry with them.

It's not possible to be human in this world and not accumulate your share of woes. It IS possible to keep the armour tight, and function and go about your everyday life, and never show the bewildered child to anyone else.

And yet the true connection arises when we lift the armour, trusting that the other person WON'T deliver a fatal blow.

No cure, but a salve in the connection. Here is another person, just like me, coping as best they can, just like me, carrying their hurts and working to rise above them, just like me.

And connection feels something like prayer, something like thankfulness.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

the veil is thin

In this life, there are places where the veil is thin between this world and ..... somewhere else.

I don't know the name or place that is the "somewhere else", but I recognise the times and places where the veil is thin.

You see it in newborns, just arrived, not fully here, still partly in that other place.

You see it in old men, sitting head tipped forward in their chair, not asleep, but not fully in this world. Waiting. Dipping their toes into the other place.

A fiery angel guards the borderline, policing it; deciding who is to be on this side, who on that side.

When we sleep, the veil is thin.

When we dream, the veil is thin.

Giving birth, the veil is thin.

And perhaps, if we sit still and quiet for long enough, the veil becomes thinner, and we get a glimpse of eternity.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Twists and Turns

This world, with it's twists and turns, is
too fickle, somehow ( ... you twist and
turn, like a twisty turny thing....)

This is where I stand ( this place here).

This (this place) is where I stand.

And like a twisty, turny thing, this place

(here) moves. Here moves to there.

(Twisty. Turny. )

And the world is too fickle.

And my nights are filled with flying and falling.

And the ancients look on, sternly, keeping their counsel.

And still, I leap in the air, magic lifting me, until I've climbed too high, and know I must crash.

Twisty turny world.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mid December

Mid December Morning
Morning arrives.

The days are short, and there's a shortage of days. Not enough days or hours to do all the things we need to do to satisfy our self imposed standards.

December 13th. Twelve days to Christmas, eleven to Christmas Eve. Where will I find the time, as I rush through my days, to do all that has to be done? Buy the presents. Buy the tree. Put the tree up. Buy the food. Cook the food. Finish the work for the clients who need it all done and dusted before 21 December, when the industry shuts down till the New Year. I feel the panic rise and with it the helpless feeling of not knowing what to do first.

Then I pause. All to meet an arbitrary date. A man made date. All to meet these self imposed standards, so carefully policed. Policed not just by myself but by all those around me. "Have you got everything? Have you done your shopping? Is your tree up yet? When will you put it up?".

Meanwhile, the sun continues to rise every morning, oblivious to the scurry, and worry, and urgency. Oblivious to our self important ways.

The days are short. That is the way of days in mid December. These short days are the perfection of the season. Listen to what they tell you.

There is no shortage of days, just days that are perfectly short. 

All you do is enough. 

There's nothing more required.

And as Christmas arrives, let it be perfect, with all that is done, and all that is undone. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Crib scene on rock

Painted onto a rock collected on the beach in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Something like acceptance

I grow back into myself;
and what you do, or don't do,
slowly cease to matter.
I grow back, slowly,
into my self.

This self that is less than perfect;
sometimes slothful,
sometimes petty,
almost by chance,

This self that is
multi layered,
multi textured.

This self that feels
like a neglected home
needing a good spring clean
to clear all the cobwebs away.

This unfamiliar,
most familiar

And in the early hours,
all those things that mattered
cease to matter,
and there is only this.

Soft breathing.
The quilt round my shoulders
keeping me warm.
The weight of the cat at my feet.
And something like acceptance.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

On a grey sunday

Milky Way

On Friday night, we got home late. Getting in, lighting the fire, putting away the shopping, all made it later still. The dogs still needed to be walked, so reluctantly pulling my coat around me, I headed out by myself into the wind and cold and dark. Half way down the road, I lifted my head, in spite of the wind and my resentment at having to be out in the cold - and there above me, the glory of the milky way.

When I got home, I wrapped up a tired and grumpy little boy, and walked him down the drive and away from the lights of the house. For ten minutes, we looked at the night sky. And the milky way twinkling with ancient light.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Standing at a bus stop on Sunday morning

I'm seventeen. I'm standing at a bus stop, in the city centre. It's Sunday morning, and I'm in my Saturday night clothes.

It's still early, not many people around, and those that are, are dressed in their sunday best, and mainly on their way to church, some holding well dressed children by the hand. It's early in the day, and early summer too, the day bright and brisk, the sun lighting up the dour Victorian square with its new steps and pedestrianised plaza. The progress of the 70's.

My dress looks too short and too shiny. I've just said goodbye at another bus stop, and I'm wondering if he'll remember my number. He asked for it just as the bus arrived, and had nothing to write it on. (he will). (he'll even walk across the city, six miles, to come and see me, but I don't know this yet).

I'm heading home for sunday dinner. I'm heading home to a good dose of scorn, and best attempts to shame and humiliate. (but I don't know this yet).

I stand at the bus stop, alone, and wear the transitory connection like a shield, a talisman, a thing of meaning in a world where I scrabble about, looking for meaning.

The sun's shining, and there's a light wind blowing. I hold my head high, and turn my face to the sun, as I wait for the bus to arrive.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Simple prayer

Yesterday, my mother's best friend died. They came together through Siberia, through Persia, the orphanage in Africa and to England in 1947, young women, stateless, family-less.

I remember Ciocia Zosia's voice in our dining room, on summer mornings when I had no school and slept late; I remember her voice rising and falling and laughing a lot.

She was widowed in the 70's, an early death by cancer. Her children were still young. For many years, she and my mother worked together in the scoold meals service, serving up dinners to the mainly Sikh and Bangladeshi children at the Sparkhill Institute, and then at the Nelson Mandela Primary School.

She was a good woman, a good friend. This is a simple prayer to wish her soul safe passage.

A Good Day

The sun's not yet risen, over the top of Carrig; the week's not yet started.

It's going to be a good day, in spite of it all. It's going to be a good day

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Wisdom Within

(sunrise 30 Nov 2012)

There is a wisdom within that can be difficult to admit. All that responsibility for yourself!

Easier to read another book. Easier to go to another workshop. Easier to silence your own voice, and listen to the answers offered by others.

Easier to write and write, or talk and talk, and not REALLY listen to a word we say! Easier to race through the world, and not listen to a word it says.

I'm trying to slow down and listen.