January 31, 2009
God forbid that you should feel button-holed!
But let's get one or two things straight.
Don't say 'No offence!' - when offence is your goal.
Don't ever say 'I'm only joking!' - because you aren't.
And never say 'Let's just move on!' - until you've reflected on the motives and agendas which brought you to this uncomfortable point.
Oh, and call me Chris Canary or Primrose Pete, but I so enjoyed being yellow the other day, that I extended the festival for a few days. But on Monday, I plan to be orange, like a dangerous flame; like a figure of fire emerging from the rubble, free from it's crushing weight.
January 28, 2009
It's grey today.
The sky is grey.
The rain is grey.
The air is grey.
The cars are grey.
The outlook's grey.
What a grey day!
So I think I shall be daffodil yellow.
Not my clothes, because that wouldn't work.
But in myself.
You will choose your own colour.
I mean, you can be yellow as well, if you like -
but you may have other plans.
Green? Blue? Indigo? Pink?
You may just want to be grey like the clouds, and why not?
Grey has its own wonder, with more shades than a California shopping mall.
And another thing - grey looks really great with yellow.
Together, we'll colour our world.
January 21, 2009
Ahhh...that's what it reminds me of
That's what it reminds me of; I realise now.
It reminds me of the death of Princess Diana; when everyone was forced to feel a particular something. A journalist friend of mine resigned from the Daily Express after writing the required 500 words.
And today, a newspaper sub-editor thanked me for not writing about Obama. 'Well, hallelujah and praise the Lord for an Obama-free piece,' she said. 'I was bored with him before his election anyway. And I keep the bucket handy in case h is planning any more letters to his daughters..'
It's not anti-Obama; it's just pro-reality.
Who is an all-together more luminous, wonderful and challenging creature.
Brothers and sisters! I have not seen the future!
Oratory! Amazing on the ears, isn't it? Wonderful!
Though, of course, it's a skill, not a virtue.
It's a skill which Hitler used to great effect in his rise to power.
And it was a skill well-used by Tony Blair before he became Prime Minister.
Both men acquired intoxicating popularity through their words.
And Barack Obama undoubtedly has that skill. He's brilliant at it. Grown men weep; and even hardened politicos can't help but bask a little in the dream.
(And all this, despite his speech writer being a mere 27 years old.)
Once in power, however, politics is not about grandiose visions; indeed, such is their value, they can probably be found on special offer, at Morrisons. 'Swallow one grandiose vision - and get another one free!'
Instead, politics is about what happens; about 'events, dear boy, events,' as MacMillan once said. And we are not in control of these things.
And here's the knobbly problem, for those who would be king. Realising we are not in control is not an acceptable vision - for a 27 year old or for anyone else. No orator seeking power is going to declare: 'Brothers and sisters, I have seen the future! And we are not in control!'
It's not acceptable - but it is true.
Unlike oratory. Which is a skill - but not a virtue.
January 20, 2009
'Blue Monday' - hallelulah!
I'm very grateful to Tess for telling me about 'Blue Monday', as it's a festival I hadn't previously come across.
How wonderful that we have a day which gives us permission to be overwhelmed with remorse at the state of ourselves and the world. It's the beginning of kindness really, which arises most profoundly from our sorrow. How can we not be kind to each other amid such shared and almost lunatic dysfunction?
The trouble with most festivals is that they are determinedly celebrating something external to ourselves - which in the long term, tends to make people less whole, and more stupid. But here, wonder of wonders, is one which plugs into the deep creative darkness. A bit like the beginning of time.
I remember one woman who would only come to church once a year, on Good Friday. For her, it was the only day of the year when the church took sorrow seriously enough...and didn't feel obliged to celebrate something...
January 19, 2009
The "powers that be" have for several years now christened the third Monday in January as the most depressing day of the year. Apparently if you have made resolutions, they will have been broken by now, for those who like Christmas it is a dim memory and we're still paying for it, Spring is a long time coming and we're still getting up and returning from work in the dark.
Apart from those who are genuinely depressed, Blue Monday is a bit of a win-win notion. If we're feeling down today, we can be comforted by the fact that we have been given permission and were not alone. (The culture that hands out Prozac like smarties, but doesn't do depression says it's allowed for a day so enjoy it!). If we're feeling quite cheerful we can feel ahead of the game.
O well, I'm sure we'll all get through Blue Monday, anyway we like. And one thing we can be certain of is that tomorrow it's plain old ordinary Tuesday - except that it isn't, I've just remembered. America will have a new president! I'll call it Rainbow Tuesday.....and God bless him.
January 16, 2009
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been upset by the pictures of the children in Gaza lying next to their dead parents for 4 days. I found myself identifying somehow although I have never experienced anything so terrible. It seemed to touch the most vulnerable and most hidden part of me – it’s not just that their parents are dead. God knows their orphaning is tragic enough. But when your world, your safety and your comfort are gone what else do you do? You stick with what you know even if what you know is no longer alive or there for you. Home is still your dead parents when the option is not known yet. And no-one had found them to scoop them up and help them take the first tentative steps in their new life. I know I do it every day in lesser ways, in relationships, in jobs, in ways of living. I hang on in there hoping against hope, because to get up and change or in some cases, leave/stop all that I know takes more courage than I think I have.
Last week on my retreat I was reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes commentary on the story of The Red Shoes in Women who Run with Wolves each morning. She writes of this experiment on dogs testing the “flight” instinct in humans in the 1960s. In the first experiment a dog is put in a cage and given shocks every time it went to the left – so it quickly learn to stay on the right. Then the shocks are changed to give it on the right – so it adapted and learnt to stay on the left. In the third, the dog was given random shocks all over the bottom of the cage – so no matter where it lay or walked, it would get a shock. The dog was confused at first and then panicked. Finally it gave up and lay down, taking the shocks as they came no longer trying to escape them. In the fourth experiment, the door was opened. The scientists expected the dog to get up and leave but it just lay there taking the random shocks. They concluded that when a creature is exposed to violence it will tend to adapt to it so that when the violence ceases its instinct to flee is hugely diminished.
I think this is true of any kind of habitual circumstance that prohibits growth and freedom – including the adaptions I developed and continue of my own making. Well that’s my little problem – and it seems quite a luxury compared to the children of Gaza – who keep haunting me.
January 11, 2009
How can I find what is missing
If I do not know what I have lost?
Nothing is lost
When I clear all that I do not need
Then buried under that strange collection
I find everything I need
Is there waiting and always has been
Works every time.
January 07, 2009
Manifested by the star.
The Christmas trappings are folded under the stairs. Totty Dribbett and I were due to clean the Church to brighten our Epiphanies and what a chore it was chipping away at the candle wax that has accumulated during the festive season. The frosty wind was making moan as we hurried home up Hangmans Rise through the whispering non sustainable larches. I pushed open the Parsonage gate and there was our dear Rector at his study desk, a warm coal in the hearth. He took the church key and offered us muffins and a well stood brew. We were full of good hope for the coming year and counted ourselves much blessed to abide in Bracombe.
Mrs Minchin had arranged a New Year's Eve party, and we met in the Fuddling Tent. There were eight of the Knights, Drab Pam and the Grim Reaper, (they're usually together),Mr Kipling, who always brings something pastry related, and Jack Spratt. The latter is not much fun at parties it has to be said. Oh, I nearly forgot Dick the mole catcher. He has been sleeping in the stables since Lady Wellbender evicted him from his hovel. He finds the stables quite agreable. I believe the horses are less enthusiastic. Aunt Betsy and Dick Thresher were the last to arrive, they'd been waylaid by the Ancient Mariner.He's stopping more than 'one in three' these days.
Mrs Spittle lugged a couple of crates of her last pressings. You have to hand it to the woman, she always gives 110% and I suspect the apple wassail is 110% proof too. The evening started with some musical canapes then we played the game of writing down our New Year resolutions and drawing them blindfold guessing to whom they belonged.Who would have thought that Sir Plus de Requirement intends to write more poetry this year! I was surprised. Sir Prisingly Gullible vows to lead another Crusade to Palestine. Someone has told him that it is quiet there and that folk will welcome him with open arms. I have my doubts.
January 06, 2009
paws for thought
Well, to continue the blog theme, I'm with Anna on the mountains; with Tess by the sea - but by myself in the dark park. Or am I?
Before setting out for my early morning run, I wondered if I would meet a dog this morning? But going early, and given the temperature, I reckoned it was too cold and dark for any dog walkers. I then found myself remembering, by way of nothing, how once our dalmatian Syd, - now dead - had jumped up at a walker, her paws on his shoulders. She was playing - not attacking. But I always remembered the remarkable calmness of the walker in the face of this unsettling occurrence. He was not to know she was harmless. Fortunately, nothing like that had ever happened to me.
With that memory in mind, I set off on my run, dear reader, and all was going smoothly if freezingly - until I reached the park. For there, in the frosty gloom, was a bouncy dog; and not just any bouncy dog - but a bouncy dalmatian dog! Oh my word! And then he was chasing me, and then, what's this?? His paws are up on my shoulders! No really, they are! His owner rushes to pull him off and then he jumps up again, and again.
The owner is a young woman who doesn't want to engage with me. I am, after all, probably a rapist. Who else would be out at this time in these conditions - and so ugly? But i do tell her not to worry; that in fact I had once had a lovely dalmatian, a long time ago, and do you know what?...
(This tearful remembering is becoming a little bit like the classic Christmas No.1, 'Two little boys had two little toys' by Rolf Harris. 'Can you feel Joe I'm all a tremble? Perhaps it's the battle's noise?..' etc etc
Anyway, I later told a friend of the strange coincidence of remembering and event. She said it was Syd responding to my thoughts of her - and coming back to say hello; waiting for me in the park to say that all was fine...
January 04, 2009
2009 - the year of the hand-made life
I'm with Anna on mountains - for me it's also sea or anywhere wild which sadly I don't live near. I also have a New Year's intention - I gave up on resolutions many years ago as I found them bad for my spiritual health.
I only have one perk in my job (hospital chaplain) but it's a good one - I get paid to go on retreat twice a year. So next week when everyone has returned to work or school, I will be tucked up at home - a deliberate choice - and will be found with paintbrush in hand (both decorator's and artist's).
Several years ago a friend showed me the story of the Red Shoes - as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in "Women who Run with the Wolves." (not the Hans Christian Andersen one which has such heavy religious iconography that I can't relate to it and gives it a different meaning). Anyway, it's not bed-time reading, it's very violent but the violence is about what we do to ourselves when we ignore the "hand-made" life - the life that we make for ourselves as opposed to a life where we might follow.
So, altho I'm not beginning this intention in 2009, I'm prioritizing it with a do or die zeal, which, if you read the story, isn't too much of an exaggeration. (It's also a 2 fingers up to every art "teacher" I ever had who told me how crap I was and for all the years I believed them).
In the meantime, I offer a prayer on the blog for all returning to work.......
Spirit of all, beyond me and within me,
in the big bleakness of winter,
and the smooth flawlessness of the glossy image,
promising new wealth and health and happiness,
come to my ears and whisper that my littleness is loved;
come to my heart that my little love is enough;
come to my head that my mind might not be overwhelmed,
come to my feet that today’s steps are all that is required;
come to my eyes that I might notice the little things;
come to my tears that I might find you in the ordinary.
Come to me as I return into the big world this season.
May I remember that in
the littlest baby,
the tiniest star,
the smallest bulb,
the diminutive wren,
lies the seed of love that overturns the universe.
Bless to me my germ of faith.
Bless to me my shortness of vision.
Bless to me my vulnerability of heart.
Bless to me my trembling of courage
and cover me with your grace,
for blessing is of gift and not of might.
I have been a silent knight of late, seated at the table but not saying much. My energy reserves in the run up to Christmas were completely drained. I have just returned from a much needed trip north, to Yorkshire where I have had chance to recharge the batteries. My batteries seem to require a regular dose of hills and mountains to fill up again. As I return to work tomorrow I will start 2009 like a mechanical pink rabbit with super powered Duracell. No doubt by the second week in January I will be juddering along as if I had only bought cheap batteries in the Woolworths closing down sale.
The resolution is to head for the hills more regularly. We started the year on top of an icy Weatherlam looking out across the glinting waters of Windermere. What an amazing sight. Definitely a supercharged experience.
January 03, 2009
A new year thought.
Why be a puppet on a string?
When you were made
To walk tall.
Wishing all blog readers A Very Happy New Year.
And Chris if you are reading this, I am reliably told that you may consider sharing some of your poetry.
There I go - just as I said - there probably aren't meant to be PSs in blogs.
I just wanted to say that I don't think blessings only come with the good times. In unhappier times, I don't doubt I was blessed moment by moment - it just feels better now.
Thank you Simon - "wonders ahead" - over-rated if you ask me!!
Yea! Damien Rice to become a knight "I love your depression and I love your double chin" - now there's a thought.
a gripe about the new year's honours list.
and that's another thing.
Where are the lyric writers in the new year honours list?
I mean, really!?
I think writers of lyrics are the great unsung heroes of our day....
PS And greetings to Tess, our blog virgin! Such wonders ahead...
January 02, 2009
A blog virgin counts her blessings for 2008/9
Simon invited me on to this blog a couple of months ago and I said no being a blog virgin - certainly I have never contributed to one but shame to say I don't read them much. This is partly because I could lose days at a time once I get started. But also I try and fail to get the terms of engagement with blogs. I suspect they're all different - anyway, I have decided to give it a go and I can say with complete certainty that I will try and fail here too but Happy New blogging Year anyway.
And so to begin, the New Year has already been interesting. On New year's eve someone asked me what the highlights of 2008 were, one came for me instantly without having to think. However, the next day they kept coming to my mind, thick and fast. 2008 was a steady year for me - no big changes, no significant losses, and now that I thnk of it many blessings.
There was a time when being told to count our blessings I would consider a punchable offence so I'm certainly not going to tell anyone else to do it but some years back after a couple of very unsteady years full of loss and lostness, counting my blessings was one of my ways through. I made it my practise to count 3 before I went to sleep. It taught me the lovely gift of gratitude - a good gift for one who is prone to looking on the bleak side.
So, the first entry in my journal for this year is a list of gratitudes for things in 2008. One of the last ones is "Survived Christmas and it really was OK" - not my favourite festival but I made it to 2009 with a bundle of blessings (and those are only the ones I can remember) and I'm grateful for it.
on lighting candles
I'm lighting a candle for you.
I'm a fool to myself, I know. But a fool in a hurry, because like Poirot in the last ten minutes, it's a race against time.
We could be all right,though. On this second day of january 2009, there may still be a newness about you, a space - we must hope so, captain.
Because it's for that miracle of space I'm lighting this damn thing.
The wax and wick have been sitting in my kitchen drawer for literally yonks - and really, even one yonk is too long.
(Yes, I know. I need to clean out my kitchen draw. I have too many keys for no known locks; odd batteries for no known appliance and fresh wipe cloths which dried out some years ago.)
So enough is enough! I'm lighting a candle. What good are wax and wick if they remain strangers to flame?
But I have to say, it's all such a bother.
The matches have gone AWOL.
I mean, really!
You might think - but no, they are nowhere to be seen.
(I've looked in the kitchen drawer, thank you!)
I may postpone this til tomorrow, to be honest.
Would that be OK?
There's always another time, eh?
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Or is my flesh willing and the spirit weak? It's so important to live on the cusp of both, but immersed in neither; riding that perfect wave, where their two seas meet.
Agghh! Ye gods! I've burnt myself.
(I found the matches. They were in the kitchen drawer - but hidden by the tin foil. You wouldn't have done any better. No really, you wouldn't.)
The wick and wax become a candle at last.
They were nothing in the draw.
But now? Now they are everything - as they die for you in flickering, burning glory.