November 30, 2009
Seize the Carp
So this is it - I have succumbed to temptation, seized the day, and signed away my life as I knew it. And quite enjoyed, I haste to add. Reader, I have joined the Bloggers of the Round Table.
Just like that - on dry land of anti-blogging superiority one day, and next a virtual (as it were) leap of faith into the deep and murky waters of blogosphere, where you either sink or swim.
Maybe bacause the older I get, the more I feel, with Rilke, that the purpose of life is to get defeated by greater and greater things, that I don't mind where this blogging takes me as long as I get to meet some silver fish of insight in the deep. And have some fin along the way. (Sorry, I cannot resist a pun when I see one swimming towards me).
Hence no fear. Neither of failure nor its trecherous twin - success, for they are both creatures of the Ego. And if the blog becomes my whole world, and the whole world becomes something just to be mined for bloggable material, so be it.
P.S. More about that noble fish - carp - and its place in Polish Christmas tradition, to follow.
Licking my finger
I have some decisions to take this week.
Licking my finger, and holding it up, feeling for the wind; the wind to carry me forward.
Perhaps you are too.
You and me, eh? And all is well.
November 29, 2009
Water water everywhere
The recent floods in Cumbria have been a sobering reminder of the power of water. I recently read Paulo Coelho's Manual of the Warrior of Light. One of the truths that a warrior of light should know concerns the power of water:
"Therein lies the strength of water: it cannot be shattered by a hammer or wounded by a knife. The strongest sword in the world cannot scar its surface.
The waters of a river adapt themselves to whatever route proves possible, but the river never forgets its one objectives: the sea. So fragile at its source, it gradually gathers the strength of the other rivers it encounters. And, after a certain point, its power is absolute."
November 24, 2009
After the flood
I'm told that statistically, if you set off on your run at the same time each day, you will only run in the rain six times a year.
Well, to any powers-that-be who are listening, I have fulfilled my annual quota, and that's just since this morning.
When I set out yesterday, it was only spitting. (Or was that my neighbours?) Half an hour in though, it was cats and dogs and I returned home an hour later deeply soaked. My small radiator was immediately called into surprised action, all running clothes placed either on it or near it, as i spent the day writing.
By 2.30pm, the clothes were beginning to dry out, and there was even blue sky outside, so I decided on a walk down to the ducks in the local rec.
As I left, it was spitting again, but with the blue still on the horizon, I carried on. Unwise. Ten minutes later, down by the water, the cloud darkened in an instant, and the most savage rain storm followed, whipped by a terrrible wind. The ducks were all over the place, as defenceless against the elements, I hunched myself by the nearest tree.
It was a strong tree, and kind, but creaked and groaned in the lashing, as its smaller branches were ripped, wrenched, spun and thrown into the water, causing more panic among the ducks. The tree did its best as a guardian, my face pressed to its dripping bark, but with no leaves to umbrella, my re-soaking was inevitable, as I sought new places to put my mobile phone.
On my dripping return home, the old man who's always by the gate said:'Good day for the ducks!'
But actually, it wasn't; it was a shit day for the ducks.I saw them, and they terrified as the wind whipped the water into a frenzy, and the tree debris flew towards them through the air. And I wasn't over the moon myself. Because I had to take all my running things off the radiator, and replace them with all my newly soaking clothes.
In between however, I produced alot of good copy, so it was all write in the end.
And of course unlike those in Cumbria, I actually had a home to return to. Robert Frost said that home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to let you in.
But after the flood, there's no one there to answer the door. Just the cold and killing water.
November 23, 2009
The Garden of Remembrance
What is all the fuss about? No, really?
I mean, what, in God's name, is wrong with Mr Cameron employing a personal photographer called 'Parsons' to chronicle his climb up the diamond staircase of fame?
Obama did it, which is a bit like saying Jesus did it; perhaps better in a way.
So really, what is wrong with Personal Snapper Parsons barking instructions in the Garden of Remembrance? 'Bend a bit, David, now straighten a bit...tuck the stomach in as you read the names of the dead...that's good, but lift your face, David; we're seeing way too much of the double chin... and more concerned; you need to look much more concerned, these were real people...no, I know they don't have any votes...look, imagine you're waiting for the latest poll figures...ah, that's better...OK, that's it, David; the fucking Dean of Westminster's coming and we haven't got permission. Leg it!
As I say, I don't see what the hullaballoo is about at all. Is there anything wrong if Mr Cameron wants to spend a quiet half hour in the Garden of Remembrance before everyone else arrives contemplating...er..himself?
November 22, 2009
The Boabab Tree
I spent a week recently on holiday in Wales and enjoyed my own mini retreat. I have been reading Barack Obama's first autobiography "Dreams from my father". In it he writes about his trip to Kenya where his father was born and lived much of his life. His reflections on the boabab tree really spoke to me:
"each tree seemed to possess a character, a character neither benevolent nor cruel but simply enduring, with secrets whose depths I would never plumb, a wisdom I would never pierce. They both disturbed and comforted me, those trees that looked as if they might uproot themselves and simply walk away, were it not for the knowledge that on this earth one place is not so different from another - the knowledge that one moment carries within it all that's gone on before."
Anyone who has been to that part of Africa will know the striking Boabab tree. My grandmother had a painting of one hanging in her flat which she commissioned to remind her of my aunt, uncle and cousins who live in Zambia. I remember the painting as a child. A strange tree that looks as if it is growing upside down. Its branches like roots growing up to the sky. Only when I stood under one in Zambia did I appreciate their size, the massive trunk, and experience that sense that they had witnessed much and would remain long after we have moved on.
November 19, 2009
Starry, scary night
I'm researching the life of Vincent Van Gogh at present, and I was both laughing today, and rather sad, as he refers to his 'Starry night' painting, as 'another failure.'
We really have no idea when we are succeeding and when we are failing, as Vincent wonderfully shows. The painting was a failure for him, as it didn't achieve what he wanted; and in his life time, no one was queueing to buy it. But it did prove a success in the world after he died, worth ridiculous millions.
Vincent had no sense of that, however; no sense at all. He didn't put down his brush in the Yellow House, turn to his friend Gaughin, and declare 'Aha! A classic!'
And the thing is, when I've got past being scared by that ignorance, I find it strangely liberating.
Who knows what I'm presently doing? Not me. I draw from my well, which is all I have, lugging th bucket to the surface. And if they wish, others can tell me how the water tastes. I have no taste for it myself.
Success? Failure? Well, we all want one and not the other. Though I'm not sure that in this climate, those words mean anything any more.
November 18, 2009
Having just returned from leading a 4-day retreat, I decided to go on a bit of a 'monopoly board' run around London early Sunday morning. Blow out the cobwebs, and all that. And though most who read this will not live in The Smoke, I challnege you not to recognise something along the way.
So I set off towards Archway, and then down through Camden to Regent's Park - very poshed-up now. Past Madame Tussaud's, (Don't go there; it's so shit,) down Baker Street, (Elementary, my dear reader!) along Oxford Circus, (dull shops) Marble Arch and then across Hyde Park, taking in the Serpentine.
Then? Then back along to Knightsbridge (Swanky Simon!) and down Sloane St (OK Yah?)to Chelsea Bridge and then along Mother Thames, past Battersea Power Station, (As in Pink Floyd's 'Animals' album; not their best,) cutting up to the Houses of Parliament, (Order, order!) 10, Downing Street, (Not Cameron, pur-lease??) Trafalgar Square, (Insert your own jokes about Nelson's column here,) then down the Strand past the Law Courts, (where you have to know your judge from your jury; and your gavel from your wig.)
Where now? On to Farringdon Road, my friend, eyeing St Paul's Cathedral, past Smithfield Market, then Sadler's Wells, (People in tights and musical stuff), Chapel Market, Upper Street, (now mostly bistros and really expensive gift shops; I can't even afford a card,) Holloway Road, (not like Upper Street at all; really not) the Emirates stadium (Wenger Boys) and then home.
Highly and deeply enjoyable, starting in the dark; then the heavy clouds and rain; and then blue skies and sunshine for the final 45 minutes.
Having lived in London for 25 years what surprised me was that there was barely a step of the way when I wasn't remembering some incident or other. It turned into an unexpected memory-fest. So many things! In a way, I wanted to go back and do everything again; fail again, but at least fail better. Oh, please; one more chance at it all?
But that isn't how it is. I can only hold the memories; hold each one of them lovingly and with care. They are not all they might be; and I am not all I might be; but they are also quite perfect, and I am quite perfect, with only today to live.
Alive and running in London. Alive. Wow!
November 07, 2009
Samhain (or Summers End)
Tonight like many places we have our big Bonfire and Firework display. It’s spectacular and I enjoy it but tonight my children are old enough to go with their friends and I am alone and know what I need this particular year. Well I say alone the dog on Firework night will not stay out of physical contact with me. Even going to the loo is not sacred. So I said to my daughter Im going to stay at home and look after the dog and watch Strictly. My daughter said I wish I was old like you Mum and I could do that. So heres to being old and enjoying the onset of winter in just the way I want.
This is the time of Samhain of Summers End.
Of Autumn and Fall.
The time of All Hallows and All Souls and remembrance
for mists and vapours and remembering
For cherishing and honouring.
But this is a thin time when memories haunt
And ghosts revisit and the past is alive to us.
It is a time for facing fears
for laying to rest and mourning.
For shedding and disentangling and pulling away the deadwood
For letting the old fall as the leaf falls to the earth
For dying and letting go.
It is a time for creeping darkness and allowing the mystery of unknowing
Of not seeing what lies ahead
but trusting Spirit to reveal the untrodden way step by step.
For the dying is beautiful
it blazes in scarlet and ochre and orange
And withers to unclothed branches against the skies
To bareness and empty spaces and distinct outlines
Where things can become clearer.
The dying must come so that new things can grow.
The land must go fallow and into darkness
the roots nourished by the falling.
Beneath the white moonlight and stars of the dark night
and before the fires I might make as winter draws in
may I clear a space and pay holy attention.
May I guard the work I have done in the last
and mark this stopping place
before I journey on into the next.
Before the Great Mystery
I cannot know what green will emerge and grow
but I honour all that must die in this time and this place.
November 04, 2009
Beneath the big white shiny moon
Beneath the big white shiny moon, I ran this morning.
The chill dark still had the keys, handing over only slowly to the day. Alarms in snoring bedrooms, bathroom lights appearing, and cold tarmac beneath my feet as white van man accelerates into the day, thick with choking exhaust.
In the park, wet grass is covered with leaves; a thousand shades of orange, yellow, brown and red - hard, resistant, like grease-proof, and slippy beneath my soft rubber feet, beneath the big white shiny moon, though stained. On glancing inspection, there are dark patches in the brightness,not at first seen.
The children's play area is lonely. The roundabout is round, but not about; and only dew drops use the slide. Conifers stand black and tall against the pale gold eastern sky; the cemetary stones quiet sentinels to things no longer so; and black shiny recycling bins, all in a row, like a guard of honour.
Empty buses pass by, with a cleaner or two in the back; Polish youths with rucksacks by the side of the road, waiting for a lift. Smeary kitchen lights in homes, kettles boiling, and outside the bathroom door, the age-old question: 'O God, are you still in there?!'
But God finished in the toilet ages ago. There's a day to create, between the big white shiny moon and weakening winter sun, waking in the blue-gold eastern sky.
November 01, 2009
Playing is a serious business
But it should never feel like hard work,
Yet working hard at playing
Needs to be enouraged at all times.
The 'rules' for playtime are few
Maybe only one
'Playtime must be enjoyable for everyone who is playing'
During playtime there are no rights or wrongs
But plenty of opportunities to practice and improve skills
Whether they be physical, mental or emotional.
Oh and another thing
Noone is ever too old to play.