Posted on | May 21, 2015 | No CommentsI had a lovely interview with Ana Isabel at MySpirit radio recently. It was a discussion of "The Path of Synchronicity" - and so much else besides. A Huge Thank You to Ana and all at MySpirit for the excellent work they do, everyday. Listen to them regularly and you'll learn all kinds of things you probably didn't know before! Here's the link if you'd like to listen in: http://www.myspiritradio.com/show-profiles?programme_id=52
Posted on | May 4, 2015 | No CommentsSeveral beautiful birds have visited my garden recently. I hadn't ever seen such delicate and lovely creatures before, so I looked them up to see what they were called. One was a worm-eating warbler, the other a house finch (sometimes called a common house finch). Needless to say, the names were a huge let down. They can't begin to describe the joy these small creatures bring, their exquisite markings, their bright curiosity. But then words do let us down so often, don't they? Naming something may bring us a measure of reassurance. We saw it, we have identified it. Yet names alone can never convey the delicate complexity of the creature itself, let alone my reaction to it.
Posted on | April 18, 2015 | No CommentsI went to plant a tree. The shovel broke. So I walked round the corner to the hardware store and bought a new shovel. I wanted to water the new planting so I turned on the hose. The tap broke. So I walked off to get a new tap. Same hardware store. I installed the new tap, turned it on, and the line leaked. So I went to get the right clamp. Hello hardware store. The new clamp was great, but another one wasn't. Back I went. The tree is now planted, watered, and looking good. I have had a wonderful day mending things and walking in the sun. I savored the season - the cherry blossoms and the small blue flowers whose name I have yet to discover. Sometimes life asks us too slow down and be present. How delicious it is.
Posted on | March 27, 2015 | 2 CommentsArt is many things to many people, but one thing it might just do is remind us of what we would otherwise forget, or not even notice, because we’re too busy being our busy selves. Consider these lines from Jorie Graham: I am the only one who ever lived who remembers my mother’s voice in the particular shadow cast by the sky-filled Roman archway which darkens the stones on the downward sloping street up which she has now come again suddenly. It’s a moment that only she could have seen, and which, remembering it now, she knows gave a glimpse into something bigger than we are as we walk through our days. She knows she will die one day and that this memory will be gone – and so in her poem she tries to give us a sense, a hint, of what that was. No one will ever know that moment as she did, looking at her mother. Implicit in this is a question; it asks - you’ve felt something similar too, haven’t you? And if we’re being honest we’ll answer, yes, I have, but I didn’t realize it until I read these words. The final word “suddenly” is also for us, the readers, as we open our eyes and blink at what we almost missed, forever. Poems like this help us to treasure that most important of all sensations – that of being fully present to our world.
Posted on | March 26, 2015 | No CommentsTolstoy famously remarked; “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. That’s a pretty good opening line for any book, let alone something as majestic as Anna Karenina. But let’s not miss the point. Happy families are characterized by one thing above all else, love. That’s all it needs for any family to be happy, come what may. When love is absent, or too fragile, the unhappiness can create its own difficult and tense forms, and each one will be different, specific, and painful. Anna Karenina is a novel about many things, but one of its key themes, surely, is about how the absence of love in a family can destroy the love that exists between people. Love is the answer. It’s not news, but it’s worth repeating.
Posted on | February 17, 2015 | No CommentsPeople leave and people arrive This little picture sat on my father’s desk for about 40 years. It’s badly squared to the frame, which makes me think it had been on my grandmother’s bedside table, that she’d cut it out and framed it. She’d have done that shortly after he was taken prisoner in 1941 – a time when England stood alone against Nazism - and she was still waiting to see if “missing in action” meant dead. They’d have sent his things back to her. Or perhaps he sent it to her when he graduated navigation and bombing school, even though the grouping is sufficiently scruffy and off center to make one think the official photographer wasn’t too fussed about getting a good picture. It was just one class of many that day. Either way, the off center trimming seems to speak of her emotion. After she died he claimed it back. Then he wrote those names he could recall on the back – not many, for by then it had been nearly 30 years. He’d have remembered them, otherwise. Of all that group only he and one other survived the war. I think of it now because on the date of his birthday this year my second granddaughter was born, 13 years after his death. Timing is everything. He’d have loved to meet that little girl. People we love leave, and other people arrive. And we love them, too.
Posted on | February 16, 2015 | No CommentsKindness – we see that word a lot. It tends to be translated as being nice to people and allowing others to be themselves. It asks us to be pleasant, not hold grudges, and not be judgmental. And that’s good. But what about if someone is being basically very unkind to you, or to those you love? What if someone wants to destroy you? Should we just be nice to them and hope it’ll all solve itself? Or is that what a friend of mine calls “idiot kindness”? Kindness here takes on another meaning. Its derivation is the same as for “kin” – those people who are family. And sometimes in a family it’s necessary to stand up and say that something is not acceptable, that you will not stand for whatever it is that is not right. The twist is that in a family, any family, we still remain related to those people no matter what. That means we have to speak to them as if they were part of ourselves, part of our living situation, and not people we can hurt, or ignore, or walk away from. We cannot treat them as strangers even if we disagree entirely. That means that, yes, we have to be who we truly are no matter what others may say, and yes, we have to allow others to be themselves. And, when they do something unacceptable we have to tell them so in such a way that acknowledges that we’ll always have to have them around, whether that suits our plans or not. Like Pi stranded on the lifeboat with the tiger; we have to share the space, claim our corner, defend it, and try not to kill each other. And in the end love grows out of that.
Posted on | February 15, 2015 | No CommentsWhen I go through the upheaval of moving house I tend to throw out a fair amount of stuff on leaving the old place. Then I throw out more when I reach the new place. Then, after about three months I begin to notice that a fair amount of the stuff I so carefully moved is reaching its retirement age. The sofa I ignored so happily for years? It's worn out. The chairs I put up with? Ready to fall apart. The clothes I took along "just in case"? Pretty much too disgraceful to use. The various objects I said will do for now because I didn't want to buy new ones? Time to chuck them away. And so on. The naked truth is that these things need to go or the new place will never be "the new place" -- it'll just be the same place as before, but slightly re-arranged. If I am to change my life I must also review and change the objects in it. I must alter the comforting but shabby accoutrements I've come to rely on implicitly. Otherwise I'm not much better than a snail, carrying my house on my back. It's time to up my game.
Posted on | February 3, 2015 | 1 CommentDo people still publish their novels on-line as a first step? It seems to me that there was a great wave of people doing this and then.... the wave passed. I don't hear about it so much. Of course, we still hear about the occasional blog-novel that got bought for a gazillion dollars and turned into a movie, but on the whole I think fewer people are putting their creative efforts on line than before. Is that right? So - what happened? Did people become disillusioned with writing and the very few people who actually read their words? Was this merely a fad - like hair curlers - that lasted about 15 years in which time everyone seemed to be writing their novel and then they all burned out? Or do we just not have time for that sort of thing anymore? Was it like the irrational exuberance of the pre 2008 stock market? I'm asking these questions because I'm interested in the way we behave in our society, and also because I wrote several novels during that time. I still think they're rather good, but then I would, wouldn't I? Was there a novel-bubble, perhaps, of which I was part? Any ideas?
Posted on | January 19, 2015 | No CommentsBreathing. We do it all the time but we seldom think about it much. So here’s a short exercise for you to consider. Lie down, relax, breathe. Who could resist that, eh? Now, pay attention. Does your breathing come easily? Do you find yourself gulping air? Do you breathe through your mouth? Try using only your nose. How easily does the air flow into your lungs and out again? If you’re like most people the answer is: not very well. We grunt and gasp and the exchange of air is not easeful over a five minute period. Perhaps you have a slight cold, or a cough. Something holds up your easy breathing. Notice this. Why does this matter? Simply because the way we breathe is the most basic way we interact with our world. Do you allow yourself to accept the air and then breathe out the carbon-dioxide? Or is it a bit of a struggle? Pay attention to the muscles in your jaw and face. Are they tense? I bet they are. If so, remember, you are doing this to yourself all day, every day, 24/7. Worried about wrinkles? You might want to think about those tense muscles. The way you breathe is an indicator of the way you face your entire life. Can you let the energy of the universe flow through you, like a simple inhalation and exhalation? Or is it a fight? And could you make it easier for yourself? Often relaxing will do that for us – yet we don’t do it often enough. The way you breathe will mirror the way you are in the rest of the world. You can claim easeful breathing, and an easeful life, any time you want. But first you have to notice what you’re doing, and if it’s a struggle, you’ll have to listen to your body and consciously learn to breathe easily. It’s not hard if you pay attention. It’s the natural, default position. But somehow, somewhere, most of us have strayed from this. We’re like high speed cars but we’ve left the e-brake on, and we waste energy stifling ourselves. It’s time to pay attention and make a few adjustments. Take a breather. Change your life. keep looking »