But Where Was Me?

Grandmothers should be wise.  It’s one of those archetypal attributes of the crone, isn’t it?  So when I fall short in the wisdom department, it bothers me.  

A little over a year ago, my grandson and I were chatting about the first house he lived in – a place he dimly remembered, having moved away when he was a toddler.  His younger sister was confused.  She insisted they had never lived in a house with two huge trees in the garden.  When her brother pointed out that this was before she was born, she became almost hysterical.

Baby, Child, Girl, Pouting“But where was ME?” she demanded, her eyes filling with tears and panic.

That was when I fell short in the wise grandmother stakes.  I knew my answer to the question, but I would have struggled – when put on the spot – to find the words to explain it to a tiny child.  Even if I had managed to leap that hurdle, I was anxious about straying into the sphere of beliefs.  I’ve spent a lifetime as a teacher carefully and meticulously respecting a wealth of different creeds and cultures.  I knew my grandchildren were being brought up with a nominally Christian belief system.  Christianity has plenty to say about an afterlife, but is curiously silent on before life.  It talks vaguely about dust and ashes, which, I felt, wouldn’t help much.  Did I have the right to impose my own beliefs on those they were being brought up with? 

So I failed.  I gave the child lots of comforting cuddles, chatted to her about how excited we’d all been when she was born, and generally distracted her without ever answering her very important question.  And it has bothered me ever since.

When I came to write my children’s novel this year, I decided it would give me the opportunity to revisit the events of that day and to provide Ruby Rose, my fictional toddler heroine, with a fearless crone figure who is more than happy to address her question head on and provide a suitable response.

It was one of those parts of the book that quite happily wrote itself, while I obediently pressed the keys.  Interestingly, Misty often took control of me, as well as the situations in the story, when she appeared in the pages!

Misty waited for the girl to settle down and for the pounding of her heart to slow.  “Now,”  she began, finally.  “That was a very sensible question you asked, my dear.  I’m going to answer it for you, but you will need to listen very hard.  Can you do that?”

Ruby nodded miserably and Stellan sat on the grass at Misty’s feet, because it had never occurred to him that there could be an answer to that question.

“Before you were your mama’s little girl and Stellan’s little sister, Ruby, you were living in the Dreaming Place.”

“What’s the Dreaming Place?” Ruby asked, sitting up.

“It’s a place you know very well.  Why, you go there every night, while your body is in bed, having a rest,” Misty replied.

“You mean when we have dreams?” asked Stellan.

“Exactly.  Haven’t you ever thought how odd it is that your body stays in bed, fast asleep, while you are off doing all sorts of other things?” …

“That is strange,” agreed Stellan, who had never really considered it before.

“So,”  continued Misty, in the same calm, gentle voice, “while we have bodies like these,” she tickled Ruby Rose gently on her arm and the child giggled, “we live in them for most of the time and just put them down to rest at bedtime.  Before we are born, though, and after we have died, we spend all our time in the Dreaming Place.  That’s where you were when Stellan was a little boy and Bella the cat lived with him.”

Both children were silent for a moment, while they considered that.

“Weren’t I lonely without my ma and my pa and my brother?” Ruby wanted to know.

“Not at all,”  Misty replied.  “You were having too much fun!  You see in the Dreaming Place, you can be whatever you want and go anywhere you like.  You might have tried being a fairy or a brave explorer or even a dog or a cat.  What do you think you would have been?”

“A fairy who could fly in the air and do wishes!” Ruby announced.

“Well that would be quite splendid, wouldn’t it?”  Misty smiled.  “But after loads and loads of dreaming, you decided that what would be even more fun would be to become a little girl with a body.  You see, in the Dreaming Place there are things we can’t do.  We can’t feel happiness or pain or full up with delicious food or the softness of an animal’s fur when we stroke it.  You decided to find yourself the most perfect family for your new body to live with.”

“How did she find us?” asked Stellan. 

He couldn’t decide whether this was some kind of made-up tale to calm his sister and cheer her up or whether Misty believed all she was saying.

She smiled at him.  It was a serious smile, not the sort of winking smile grown-ups give when you and they both know they are pretending.

“As I said, in the Dreaming Place, you can go anywhere you want just by thinking about it.  Once Ruby Rose had decided she wanted to slip into a body and find a family in this – Waking Place, she travelled all around the world, deciding which would be the very best family for her to live with.  Eventually, she chose the family she wanted and when your new little sister was born, here she was!”

“I was very clever to choose my nice family, weren’t I, Misty?” Ruby smiled.

My grandson is reading The Glassmaker’s Children at the moment and maybe, when she’s a few years older, his sister will do the same and find a belated answer to her question.  

 

The Art of Magic (and the magic of art)

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

Oekaki, Drawing, Children, GraffitiThat from the artist who also claimed that it took him four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to learn to paint like a child.  It’s a perspective that interests me.

About thirty years ago I recall a family picnic on the banks of the River Stour on the Essex-Suffolk border.  My 18 month old son (now a professional graphic artist and illustrator) seized his father’s sketchbook and pencil, stared intently at the reeds and bull rushes growing at the water’s edge, then proceeded to draw a series of vertical and near-vertical lines on the paper.  It took him seconds.  His first representational landscape drawing!  The child moved on to other ways of exploring the environment immediately.  It was as if the drawing was some kind of instinctive yet fleeting need to capture the 3D world in just two dimensions.  He didn’t, as his older siblings might have done, compare it to his father’s sketches or seek anyone’s approval or praise.  In fact he was confused by our excitement and delight.

A tiny child will not seek out the ‘right’ colours or consider shapes and ratios.  What they do, though, when you think about it, is pure magic.  They use their crayons to create the significant people and objects around them at that moment in time.  Their art freezes an aspect of the swirl of life and movement and emotion they find themselves in and places it on a flat sheet of paper.   How very different that is from our own self-conscious attempts to draw a representational image.  We are hung up on how realistic it looks, whether our lines are straight or whether the perspective is right.  Most of all, we are worried about how others will judge it.  That, I suspect, is the ‘problem’ Picasso was referring to.

“That’s a lovely picture.  Would you like to tell me about it?” we were taught to say when I was training to be a teacher.  It avoided the problems of, “What a beautiful picture of Mummy!  Oh, I see – it’s a green tractor with lots of mud, is it?  Right.”

Gradually we ‘help’ the child to fit their depictions to the conventions of art in our world.  In medieval times, drawing the mother or self far larger than other people would have been quite acceptable.  The convention was ‘important people are shown larger than less significant people’.  In our modern world the convention is photographic, so a person shown large is closer in physical space to the artist’s viewpoint than those standing further away.

 

Light, Effect, Light Effect, Magic LightAnd what of magic?  I would argue that this, too, is something a small child experiences and responds to in a very natural, comfortable way and trying to regain that instinctive connection to the magic inherent in their lives takes many years, once the child has been trained to put it aside.

We allow – even encourage – small children to fill their lives with magic.  We tell them of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and read them stories or show them videos of unicorns and dragons, magicians and heroes with fantastic powers.

At some point, though – perhaps around the same time we start insisting that humans should be drawn with bodies, not just a circular head with legs and arms – we begin to teach them what is ‘real’ and what is ‘pretend’.  What many of us don’t recognise is that this is just as arbitrary and incomplete a world view as the one we are asking them to leave behind.

Magic has a strong similarity to art.  When painting and drawing we encapsulate three dimensions in two.  With magic, we bring multiple dimensions into the three that form what current convention sees as our world.  (Again, I suspect our ancestors would have viewed it quite differently.)

In the children’s story book I’ve just published, I made sure enough magic was embedded within it to at least allow my 8-12 year old audience to keep wondering.  My metaphysician (yes, of course there had to be one!) observes three members of a family who find themselves confronted with a magical ‘coincidence’ as follows:

The lady in the blue dress looked from one to the other of them – the mother, who was slowly shaking her head and muttering, “Extraordinary…”, the boy who was now clutching his cheeks and laughing with amazement and pure delight, and the small child beside her who was still young enough to understand how real magic was and therefore not surprised at all.

I’d love to think that a few children reading The Glassmaker’s Children will recognise the magic my young hero Stellan rediscovers and notice how, by using attention and intention, both he and they can find way of surviving and thriving, despite the setbacks and challenges they encounter.

 

Small note:  I originally set up this blog (back in 2012) to publicise my first book.  Since then it’s be come more of a vehicle for my metaphysical ramblings, and I’d like it to stay that way.  For that reason, I’m placing most of my posts about The Glassmaker’s Children on my Open the Box blog.  This one, for example, explains the particular challenges my two young characters face as they battle to cope with a narcissistic parent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always End With a Story

Tale, Story, Pirates, Fantasy, TreasureAs a parent and as a teacher, I ended every day with a story.  It felt the right way to finish things off and send my own children off to their dreams or my pupils off to their homes.

As I await the artwork for the cover of my own new story book, I thought I’d share some of my favourite children’s books – the ones that most intrigued and inspired those children I read to.

I grew up reading and adoring the Arthur Ransome Swallows and Amazons tales.  However by the time I’d reached adulthood, having a major character called Titty was a barrier to reading it aloud to kids!  I did try once to read it to a class – attempting to substitute the name with ‘Tammy’, but it didn’t end well.  56 eyes watching intently and 28 mouths sniggering each time I fluffed it or (worse) forgot…  I gave up.

Lewis Carroll was one of my favourites to read aloud, due to the sheer brilliance, audacity and anarchy of his stories and poems, while Philip Pullman’s range and scope always left me and my listeners gasping for more.

I lost count of the times I read Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom aloud to classes of 10 and 11 year olds and I still can’t read the final chapter without shedding a few tears.

Some of my favourite children’s books fall into the genre of ‘issues’ stories.  I suppose mine does as well.

On more than one occasion I would hand a copy of Jacqueline Wilson’s The Suitcase Kid to some poor child whose parents had separated and decided it suited them best if their offspring spent a week at a time in each home.  The issues affecting step families were also deftly dealt with by Anne Fine in her wonderfully balanced series of short stories published as Step by Wicked Step.  Both these authors have produced a range of carefully crafted stories to fit many of the challenging issues besetting children and I’ve read many of their tales to those in my care.

Ordinary Jack.jpgPerhaps my favourite – if I had to choose one – though, is not an ‘issues’ book series at all but a set of comedy tales called The Bagthorpe Saga by the brilliant Helen Cresswell.

I adored everything this lady wrote, but was surprised and delighted to discover how the series affected my middle child.

‘Ordinary Jack’ is a thoroughly charming but – as the title suggests – very normal boy who has been born into a family of hilariously dysfunctional, but high-achieving oddballs.  He yearns to have many ‘strings to his bow’, like his siblings and parents.

My son was the only one in our family with dyslexia – a way of being that has served him very well in adulthood, in his profession as a data analyst, but one which caused him huge problems as a schoolboy.  Despite our best efforts, he suffered with a lack of self-esteem, so finding Jack in these stories was, for him, like discovering a soulmate.  He longed for his nightly story session and we worked our way through the entire series.

I suppose if there is one thing I could wish for my book – The Glassmaker’s Children – it is that some child somewhere will discover my Stellan and relate to him, his personality or his situation, so that his or her own life is positively affected.

 

 

The Glassmaker’s Children is available on Amazon at this link for the USA

The Glassmaker’s Children

The Glassmaker's Children by [Jan Stone]Yes – apologies.  This blog has been very quiet in the past few months.  There’s a reason for that, which I’m about to share with you.

Life during lockdown was very different, obviously.  One of the most positive and welcome changes during that time was the opportunity to chat via video link with my grandchildren every day.  Their mother works from home, so I agreed to do some home learning with them each weekday morning, to give her some time to herself.

Every ‘lesson’ ended with a story session and we got through a fair few books during that time – Tales of Mystery and Imagination (my favourite picture book ever), The Arabian Nights, The Firework Maker’s Daughter, Stig of the Dump and much more.  The five year old – quite understandably – drifted away unless there were plenty of pictures, but the eight year old sat and soaked in every word, day after day.

When the summer holidays started, lockdown eased and the lessons ceased, I found that my love of children’s literature had been rekindled (unintentional pun there!)

As a parent, teacher and mentor, I’d often been able to find the perfect book to help a child dealing with family or personal issues – low self-esteem, bullying, family splits and so forth.  The book I’d never been able to find was one that explained – in a child-friendly storybook format – why, if we do indeed at some level choose the family we are born into, this child chose the parents or siblings they did.

That’s why I decided to write it.

I hadn’t been prepared for how much it would consume my life – waking and dreaming.  Stellan and Ruby Rose, my main characters, became utterly real to me.  Perhaps, since they’ve now been created, they really live in some other reality.  I’d like to think so.  At any rate, one night, during a particularly vivid dream, Ruby and I headed off on an adventure quite unrelated to the story I was writing.

Often I suddenly ‘knew’ what would happen to them next, without consciously planning it.  I caught myself thinking, “Oh, yes, clever!  That links well to chapter 14,” although the new idea had suddenly appeared unbidden in my mind.  Maybe I was being helped…

I did become rather obsessed.  There was the day the doorbell rang when I was in full creative flow and I found myself answering the door to the courier there in a Welsh accent, since I’d been writing dialogue between characters in a Welsh village at the time!

 

It’s only available on Kindle so far, but I’m hoping to get it into paperback within the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, if you know any 8-12 year olds who might enjoy a story about sorcery, self-discovery, adventure and the magical chemistry that permeates all of our lives, do send them to hunt it out on Amazon Kindle, where the first few chapters are free to read.

 

 

Stitching a new garment

Iphone, Smartphone, Apps, Apple IncA week ago, my phone pinged.  One of those Facebook PM things.  I’ve been getting a lot lately – little gifs of cute cats, uplifting pictures of sunsets or seascapes, prayers in pretty fonts garlanded with flowers or rainbows, even the annoying ones that instruct you to send the flickering candle or whatever back to the sender and on to all the women/true friends/grandmothers etc. you know…  Kind thoughts, sent with love – people doing what they can to connect.  I send a smile icon back or a heart or whatever I feel will best please the sender so that I can then move on with my day.

Life at LIME Cottage right now is not Netflix, gin and scrolling through social media.  It starts at 8.30 with lesson preparation (daily multi-age primary school phonics and English resources posted online for harassed parents – opentheboxweb.wordpress.com).  God I hate phonics!  A ridiculous system, but that is what the kids have been learning, so that’s what needs to be done.  At 11am it’s a video call with the grandchildren.  Their mum gets an hour to work from home unhindered while I chat, read stories, deliver the wretched phonics and writing, cram in a bit of maths and help the little ones to make some sense of the way the world is now.  A quick lunch, a daily walk or burst of gardening then on to the afternoon job – sewing scrubs and gowns for a local care home.  It’s all very organised in our town.  The coordinator sends out packs of fabric and patterns via masked and gloved volunteer couriers and our team of makers gets to work, each in their own home, just as the spinsters and weavers of yore may have done in this very house before industrialisation came.  My ‘working day’ ends at 4.30.  I check on the salads and tomato seedlings growing around the house on sunny windowsills then put some dinner together.

So it was surprising, really, that I heard the ping.  It was from a lady I’ve been in touch with for many years.  One of those social media friends I’ve never met, and never will, but somehow feel I know.  We exchange messages from time to time and, I confess, as I opened the file I was half expecting another cat picture.  She likes cats.  What I saw instead stopped me dead. Image may contain: text  It was this:

My words reflected back to me!  She had sent me a screenshot of a passage I wrote all those years ago – back in 2012 – in my book LIFE: A Player’s Guide.  No explanation came with them.  Perhaps she had stumbled across the image and found it helpful, or perhaps she guessed that, at a time of such utter disempowerment, they were words I needed to be reminded of.

Either way, they worked.  I was transported back to the time I wrote it, returned to a state of optimism and reminded that what I’m doing now is valid.

 

Let me go a bit deeper here.

You see I’ve known a world-changing disaster was coming for a long time (see last post for details).  Stashed away somewhere in a cupboard upstairs is a rather expensive multi-use survival tool, some packs of waterproof matches and a self-sufficiency handbook.  Their time may or may not come.  I wasn’t expecting it to be this way, but I knew some cataclysm was heading inexorably towards us.  My source was impeccable.

I’d been told that me being a teacher would be important at this time – hence the time-consuming daily lessons.  I’ve been trying my best to follow the scant guidance I’d been given.

I was told more, though.  I was told that although technology would remain in tact and be beneficial, ‘finance’ – the economy – would undergo seismic changes and this in turn would have a huge effect on people.  It would, in fact multiply the changes occurring in society, leading to an attitude of altruism and general goodness prevailing over the cut-throat world of inequality, exploitation and global destruction.

It is that prediction which had been bothering me.  I’d had 15 years to prepare for this.  Now it was here, I fervently wanted to see that change.  I read eloquent passages and watched inspiring videos from people around the world stressing that we must not return to the old ‘normal’, that we need to change and that Covid 19, for all it’s cruelty, was giving us all a chance to stop and wonder and see the disparity, foolishness and waste of our old world.

Sew, Protective Mask, Sewing MachineAnd what was I doing about it?  Making a few bits of PPE for the local nursing home.  Growing a bit of veg.  Liking and sharing the positive ideas on social media.  Tiny drops in the ocean – pathetic!

Reading that message from my friend (and myself), however, helped me to rediscover the bigger picture.

Yes, in terms of the physical self, there are limits.  Once I begin to think of ‘me’ as thought and energy, though, everything changes.  There are no limits to thought or energy.  They are not confined within single individuals.  Thought is a million times more contagious than any virus.  It spreads through the aether, gathering energy and impetus from everyone who acknowledges and shares it.  Once the intention that we choose these beneficial changes in our world has been held, it grows exponentially.  It becomes our creation.

There is nothing – no multinational corporation, no bunch of self-serving policiticans, no reactionary lobbyist who can stand against the groundswell of opinion that is forming as we sit in our separate homes but combine our intent.

As I sit over my sewing machine this week, I will be pondering the deep and abiding changes that are happening in my thoughts, my energy and those of the world community around me.

Sonya Renee Taylor’s words express it perfectly:

‘We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.’

Foreseeing the Unthinkable

The year was 2005. I remember the day clearly. We were on a train journey together – me a middle-aged schoolteacher and him a 15 year old kid. Something had been troubling him for a few weeks and he finally felt ready to talk about it.

This was no ordinary adolescent. This was my friend Will, a young man with extraordinary powers of perception and a deep innate knowledge. The medical profession might label him as disordered, but I knew better. He was highly sensitive and picked up on things to which the rest of us were largely oblivious. I’d known him since he was 6. I trusted him and knew better than to dismiss any of his revelations. That’s why I kept a note of the things he said that day. That’s why I remembered them and waited for the time they would come to pass.

That time is now.

“I think I know what comes next,” he said, miserably. “It’s not a nice thing to think about – lots of death.”

It’s hard to remember back to our mindset in those days now, early in the century. We’d had tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes and there was a collective impression that something major was going to happen in or around 2012. The world was going to end, maybe, or transform somehow. Will wasn’t speculating, though, he was SEEING.

Suddenly he said, “You being a teacher could well be important.”

Coronavirus, China, Mask, Doctor“There will be a chain of disasters. There will be a significantly reduced world population. It’ll be a bit like Noah’s Ark. The technology will remain in tact but people will change. I will be a survivor and – I think – some kind of leader. People will like me and listen to me. I won’t be a doctor but my skills or knowledge will be something like that.”

I was struck, as he spoke, by how stunned and surprised he appeared as he told me his vision. I asked how the future could be so clear, given that we create it with our thoughts and intentions and have only probabilities ahead of us.

Unlike most humans, though, Will is not confined by time. He can operate in a state where everything is simultaneous. Think of Einstein’s quote: “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” and you’ll see where Will can be.

“There are infinite routes,” he agreed, sadly, “but they all seem to lead to this point.”

He returned to his precognition at several points during the following months and years.

In 2006, my journal tells me he was very angry and frustrated, being unable to find the words to explain what he foresaw.

Graph, Growth, Progress, Diagram“There’s things to do with finance,” he said, “but it’s much more than that. You’re missing the full significance of what I’m telling you.”

Finding verbal language inadequate, he resorted to attempting to record it using mathematics. He scribbled this on a scrap of paper:

F((p=n) >(p=B))

All I could get out of him was that there would be a transformation involving finance and the number of nice people would be greater than the number of bad people. Society, he was telling me, would undergo a deep and abiding change.

The next relevant note I have is from an article he wrote, dated 2011. (I’m giving the dates partly so that those of you who have copies of our little book The Words of William can check the entries there. That book was published nearly 8 years ago.) He was discussing the effects of a cataclysmic event on the world’s neuro-typical and autistic spectrum populations.

Foretelling social distancing and widespread self-isolation, he spoke of how there would be a reduction in the need for social skills (a distinct advantage for those who experience difficulties with social interaction).

He also predicted “the advance of technology creating a greater reliance on machines and also reducing the need for social skills.”

His final statement from that day is enigmatic and yet rather hopeful. I’ll reproduce it here just as he wrote it. This section is about the workings of the autistic mind.

“What I suspect to be more the case is the different way of thinking, viewing information and processing that information in a different way – whether consciously or not – to provide a better understanding (or different one which could be more relevant in a different or changing world) of what’s going on around them and also potentially have the ability to provide more accurate predictions of the future which could easily prove to be a valuable survival skill and very beneficial to non ASD people around them.

“I think there could be very beneficial relationships between the two groups of people.”

So there we have it.

The world has been awash with portents and predictions as long as there have been people to make them. My feelings are, though, that Will’s words are a gift that may contain a few hints to enable us to negotiate our way through this cataclysm.

Next time I will post about how these small snippets of prediction could be of help.

Meanwhile, if you are, or live with, one of these highly sensitive people – autistic or otherwise gifted with ‘different ways’ of viewing the situation – please communicate with them and see what wisdom they have to share.

Be safe.

The Curing

I feel safest with stories.  They soothe me.  And the old stories are the best of all.

Today I want to share an old story with you – one that came to me and was most anxious to be shared.  Even the synchronicities that drew this story to me tell a tale in themselves.

I live in England, where currently entire households in which anyone has a fever or a cough must self-isolate for 14 days.  When my grandchild developed both these symptoms, her mother was faced with trying to work from home and care for both children.  I live far away, but decided to have a daily one hour video talk session with the children, giving my daughter a chance to get some uninterrupted work time.  I’m an ex-teacher, so we play maths games, draw, read, write and learn together.  It’s a delightful time for all of us.

I went to my still fairly extensive children’s book collection (who can throw books away?) looking for stories that would interest a 5 year old and her 8 year old brother.  Almost at once my eyes fell upon Hugh Lipton and Niamh Sharkey’s beautiful ‘Tales of Wisdom & Wonder’.  It’s a glorious collection of folk tales from around the world.

On day 1, we read the first story, a delightfully silly tale of a monkey who demonstrates that we should be very careful what we ask for.

Last night I sat down to read the second story – a Cree tale called The Curing Fox – in order to re-familiarise myself with it.

The first sentence told of a little girl who became desperately ill with a high fever, dreadful cough and breathing difficulties.

Ah.  My initial instinct was to put this one aside.  Who knows what fears and nightmares the children are having as Covid-19 spreads through the world?  Then I thought deeper.  Why, of all the stories in my bookcase, had I been led to this one, at this time?  That almost imperceptible tingling that tells me synchronicity is drawing me in had appeared.  I read the story.

Mr Lipton tells it wonderfully, but here is the briefest summary:

The child’s anxious parents summon an ancient wise woman, who listens very carefully to the rattling in the girl’s chest.  She tells the couple that she hears from it that a small, sickly female fox is undertaking an arduous journey through the snow outside.  When the child coughs, the wise woman hears the sound of the fox’s paws breaking through the crust of the frozen snow.  The father offers to track and bring back the fox.  As he journeys, the wise woman is able to track his progress, and that of the starving fox, by observing the little girl’s illness; when she senses that the hunter has stopped for the night and lit a fire, the girl has a high fever.  Finally he catches the fox, cradles her in his arms and takes her back to the village.  The mother is told to feed the fox.  It then curls up and sleeps.  The child, too, falls into a deep sleep.  Eventually, both fox and girl awake at the same moment.  The parents are asked to feed the fox again and then release it.  The little girl watches from the doorway as the fox runs off.  As it disappears, so does her illness.  The wise woman asks them whether the fox cured the girl or she cured the fox.  The mother replies that the woman cured them both.  The old lady just smiles.

I sat and pondered the wisdom of that story.  Half awake and half asleep, I thought my way back into that First Nation culture and bank of knowledge that showed such subtle yet deep and abiding connectedness.  I wondered at the idea that the symptoms of an illness could, with the right level of focus, lead the wise to find and alleviate suffering elsewhere.  I marvelled that, in taking steps to alleviate that suffering, the illness itself would vanish.  Further and further I meditated my way into the meaning this story held for me.  I thought of the symptoms – the fever, the choking cough, the inability to breathe.  Clearly the girl stands for us in our present crisis.

And the fox?  What does she represent?

The words that floated into my heart were, “Think of the World’s cough.”

 

It was from the Cree that this prophecy came:

 

 

The Wisdom of Corona Virus

Before I begin…

Today is my 69th birthday.  I am embarking on my 70th year in this now rather wrinkly and saggy skin suit and still enjoying every day and relishing the pleasures of life on the Blue Planet.  However my working life as a teacher – which I loved – is now over.  I spend my time enjoying the company of nature, family and friends, reading and writing and making tiny, intricate models out of upcycled junk and discarded items.  No one needs such trifles, but the creation of them nourishes my soul and others get pleasure from them.

Because I can now lay claim to being ‘old’ in Earthly terms, I feel able to write what follows with a clear conscience.  These things would be far harder for a younger person to say.  It may shock and upset many, for which I am sorry.  That is not my intention.  I’m not being mischievously provocative.  I’d just like to encourage others to stop for a moment and consider what this virus is showing us and doing for us.

 

Coronavirus, Virus, Pandemic, EpidemicAre you able to pause, put aside the prejudices fed to you by media and gaze on the beauty and perfection of these organisms?  They have intelligence.  It enabled them to evolve this new, unique form.

Humans are quite ready to see this Covid-19 as a wicked, scheming adversary – one that will take all of our collective powers to defeat.  Could we instead see it as a benign, caring entity that looked with concern and compassion at our predicament and evolved to ease some of our most intractable problems?  A step too far for many, perhaps, but worth considering.

Pollution

Imagine, for a moment that we are discussing a wise and benign entity.  It sees the massive pollution rife in China.  It sees the pollution attacking the lungs of China’s people – weakening them, lowering the quality of their lives, lowering their resistance.  Breath, after all, is life force, prana.  China knows this, regrets what is happening, but can’t solve the problem.  Industry has taken control.  Profit matters more than quality of life.  Does it?  Corona Virus strikes and vast numbers of those people, their lungs already compromised by breathing in those poisonous fumes, are struck down.  China simply has to react.  It closes schools, colleges, factories…

The satellite images have detected a significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide over China. And this happens:

Photo taken by NASA of pollution levels over China this year.

Yes, many lives have been lost.  Death – like birth – is almost always a traumatic and messy affair.  It makes huge changes to the lives of those around the person concerned.  I know I am fortunate to believe firmly that my Self is eternal and this physical incarnation just a small – though important and fascinating – episode in its development.  I also believe that Self is able to choose the time of the personality’s arrival and departure in terms of a human life.  I’m not saying (this is a tricky one to explain) that any victims of the virus decided at a conscious level to die.  I’m suggesting that at a higher, spiritual level, the entire entity decides on the correct time – for that being’s evolution – to move on to another state.  At times of mass death, whether from a natural disaster, war, an act of terrorism or a disease, every soul concerned has – at that higher level – elected to move on.  Perhaps part of that decision is based on a desire to force those of us remaining to rethink certain aspects of life.

Will China return to its former levels of pollution?  It will be interesting to see.  Will there be a knock-on effect from this to other industrial nations?

Covid-19 is also affecting travel throughout the world.  I heard yesterday of a school in England requiring all staff to sign an agreement not to engage in any non-essential travel abroad.  Again, air travel is recognised as a major pollutant, yet foreign holidays have become an accepted part of life.  Is the virus holding this up to us for consideration?  Will we find alternatives and make changes to our lives?

Population and Age

Hospice, Wrinkled Hand, Elderly, OldThis is the single most important factor that leads me to believe that the virus could be intelligent and benign.  We have an intractable problem in our world with the ageing population.  Doctors are able to keep people alive for longer.  This is generally considered to be a good thing.  However longevity takes precidence over quality of life.  It has to.  The alternative is unthinkable.  Thus – in my country, at least – many elderly people become increasingly weak and frail, needing to be cared for by exhausted relatives or in nursing homes.  They spend their final years relying on others to provide all their daily needs – even the most intimate ones – while they sit or lie helplessly waiting for the end.   I have watched, at very close quarters, both my parents and both my grandmothers finish their lives that way.  It is that – not death – that I dread.

Covid-19 is highly selective.  It infects all ages, but children recover easily.  Not until after the age of 50 is there even a 1% chance that it will be fatal.  Even then, only those with weakened immune systems or underlying heart/lung problems fall prey to it.  From age 70 onwards, the incidence of death becomes higher.  At 80 it climbs still more sharply.

Speaking as an old person, I welcome this.  I have no death wish, but there are things far worse than death.  Those lingering years, stripped of all purpose and dignity seem to me infinitely worse than a few days of fever, aches and pains and a bad cough.  Our scientists, doctors and politicians are powerless to change the problems caused by and for this ever-growing elderly population.  Perhaps the virus has arrived to rescue the situation – to humanely deal with those who would choose a quick and timely death.

The Sick and Vulnerable

Ah, but what of those who have weakened immune systems for other reasons – people who are ill but would soon recover or those with conditions requiring care in institutions?  They are vulnerable.  They should be protected.  Yet in my country we place them in hospitals where the essential work of cleaning and sanitising is given to people on zero hours contracts, people living in poverty, people who – if they become unwell – can’t afford to take sick leave, or their families would have no food.  Thus the outrageous treatment of these vital workers may well cause the virus to spread around hospitals and other institutions.

Like China’s pollution, these injustices have been brushed aside for economic reasons.  The Health Service is overstretched, we are told.  We simply can’t afford to pay these people more.  Now, though, can we afford not to?

 

Certainly this strain of Corona Virus is harsh and uncompromising.  It is no respecter of sensibilities and traditions.  It is forcing every one of us to rethink multiple aspects of our lives.  And in many respects, perhaps that is no bad thing.

 

 

 

 

A Window into Consciousness?

There have been two concepts – probably closely related – occupying me recently.

One is the idea that the ‘stuff’ around us, visible and invisible, is all conscious.  That’s a fairly large idea to get my thoughts around.

The second is a wondering about perception – what it is, where it is and how reliable it might be.  I think that’s where I’ll start.

Planets, Sun, Earth, Galaxy, Sky, SpaceHere I sit, pretty much still apart from my fingers moving across the keyboard of my computer, whilst knowing that I’m being held in position by gravity to an oblate spheroid (aka The Earth) spiralling through space at an eye-watering speed.  My perception in no way matches that reality, yet I put it aside and carry on with my daily life.  Why am I not aware of travelling so fast?  Good grief, I get travel sick in a car going round the M25.  Is it something I’ve adjusted to?  And if so, when – at birth, in the womb, at the moment of conception?  None of those seems right.  It’s as if the physical mechanics of the universe and the physical reality of life on the planet don’t mesh.

Of course, as we all know, even physical realities don’t mesh.  There’s a macro reality for the universe, with a set of rules that seem to work fairly well; there’s a micro reality down at the quantum level, that works quite differently but, again, seems to follow its own logic.  The TOE that should be able to combine them is oddly elusive.  And somewhere between the two, there are our perceptions of what-is-going-on which seem quite often to be at odds with both of these realities.

We are a pragmatic bunch, us humans.  Most of the time we are more than happy to bumble along accepting trade-offs – the compromises we make with the world about us so that we won’t be confused and troubled by the way things are.  It’s comfortable to see the sun rising and setting, rather than ourselves spinning around it, or to look out to sea and see a straight horizon rather than a slight curve.  It’s convenient to see a desk or a dinner plate as a solid, static object, rather than as a combination of extremely active (and conscious?) subatomic particles blinking in and out of our reality.

So these are some of the simple concessions we make, despite knowing the physics that gives the lie to them.  Sometimes, though, our perception can get completely messed up, without us having the slightest idea why.  Spare a few minutes to watch this little video.  It may not be the slickest production around, but – if you watch it through to the end – it packs quite a punch and deals a rather crushing blow to our reliance on our senses.

‘Optical illusion’ somewhat underplays what is going on here.  Our eyes and brains aren’t just playing a little trick with us – they are forcing us to believe a completely false set of perceptions.  Certainly it’s harmless enough, but doesn’t it make you wonder about all the other ways we are being lied to by our senses?

I’m not suggesting a Matrix-type scenario, with some evil force going out of its way to fool us for its own nefarious ends, but I am seriously considering the possibility that the everyday world around us is not at all the way it seems according to our sensory perception.  If something as simple as a sheet of card can mess with our minds that way, what else is going on?

I think the only answer is that we have – collectively and individually – a set of perceptual constructs which give us the parameters within which we can view the world.  There are common agreed mass perceptions and personal ones.  That’s why some people see danger and menace where others don’t.  Some see the world fragmenting while others see the dawning of an age of true enlightenment.  Some see ghosts, aliens, the fae…  In other words, perception is subjective.

So if there isn’t any objective truth out there (or in here) what, exactly are we perceiving?  Why are some things the same for all of us, while others differ so much?

Sky, Astronomy, Moon, LandscapeIn The Seth Materials, channelled by Jane Roberts in the 1960s and 70s, we are told that there are Units of Consciousness – CUs – which are the infinitessimal building blocks of physical existence.  (Seth states that to a CU, an atom would be the size of a planet and that scientists have yet to discover them.)  These Units are particles of electromagnetic energy – incipient consciousness, which is volatile and imbued with infinite possibilities.

Now for the really exciting part.  “No objective reality exists but that which is created by consciousness,” Seth tells us.  “Consciousness always creates form, and not the other way about.”
So here we are, us conscious beings with thoughts and ideas of what we are perceiving, and swirling around us is this mass of conscious electromagnetic energy, just waiting…  These CUs coalesce around our thoughts, ideas, emotional responses, reactions and events to form matter.  The stronger and more intense the thought, the faster and more convincing and real (if I dare use that word) the manifestation.

Clearly ideas and beliefs we share have enough intensity to hold true for all of us.  Thoughts of a more indeterminate or nebulous nature, held to be true by some, yet refuted by others, will not result in matter/reality perceived by all.  For some people, though, they will be as real as any dinner plate, any desk, or the sun setting outside my rectangular window.

 

Dragons and Rats and Realities

Right.  This is complicated.  Before I start, there are a few bits of background you’ll need:

  • For those who don’t know, I spend a fair bit of my time making steampunk miniatures.  Recently I have been making ‘time dragons’ – an ecclectic mix of papier maché, modelling clay, old watch parts, intention and creativity.
  • Steampunk, for those not familiar with the term, is an imaginary retro-futuristic existence, something like the sci-fi worlds created by HG Wells and Jules Verne.
  • As well as this, my metaphysical pondering blog, I also write one called Steampunk-Shrunk, which contains whimsical back stories about the models I make.
  • Finally, you need to know that I live in an end terrace cottage and my neighbour has recently had a problem with rats in her loft, so her landlord called in pest control.

OK.  Now for what happened.  I’ll try to put it in chronological order, but I suspect time is somehow absent from parts of it.

As I said, I’d made these strange model dragons.  It was fun.  I then wrote a rather dark little story about them to publish on my other blog.  It said that they formed out of the rubbish that collects in corners and crannies of steampunk inventors’ workshops, coalesced into living creatures and flew away to inhabit caves in an undiscovered canyon, where they had started to breed.  (If anyone wants to check the story, it’s here, but there’s no need to unless you’re so inclined.)

The following day, the pest control man came.  I heard him chatting to my neighbour in our shared entrance hall, heard him head upstairs and wished he could have been some magical pied piper … but rats are rats.  I’d had them in my roof a few years back, heard them gnawing purposefully at who-knows-what and although there is a fire wall up there between the two lofts, I’d recently heard the occasional brief scuttle above my bedroom, so I wasn’t sorry to hear that they were being dealt with.

That night I went to bed.  I’d been going through one of my frequent spells of insomnia, so was not really surprised to find I was still awake at 3.10 in the morning.  Having looked at the clock, I sighed, turned over yet again, and tried to lie still.

Then quite suddenly I found myself sitting on my sofa downstairs.  I was surprised, mainly, and disorientated.  What was I doing here?  How had I got here?  Was it real?  I checked the sofa.  Yes, definitely mine.  The colours of the fabric were the same, I could feel the cushions against my body.  This still surprised me.  I couldn’t work out what had happened to propel me here.  My coffee table was just in front of me, in its accustomed position, yet something was wrong.  I felt – I honestly did – as if I’d entered some place that was and yet wasn’t in my home.

The room was fairly dark; not (now I think about it) as dark as it should have been in the middle of the night, but there was a dimness about the whole place, as if space acted slightly differently here.  The rest of the room should have been visible, but I was only aware of this one area.  And yes, there was a difference – my model time dragons were under the corner of the coffee table, which is definitely not where I had put them.

As soon as I became aware of the dragons, I noticed that they were moving.  That was WRONG.  Now I was genuinely scared.  They were making a scuffling sound and suddenly, as if at some unseen signal, they erupted into the room, scuttling and flying outwards and upwards in all directions.

Cute, Rodent, Mouse, Small, AnimalImmediately I was back in my bed, eyes wide, heart pumping and body shaking.  A split second later, in the loft space above my head, there was a stampede of rats.  There must have been at least five or six of them.  I heard them race across from one side to the other.  Then silence again.

 

So what was that all about?

Yes, the most ‘rational’ explanation is that I’d finally fallen asleep for a few moments and the scuffling of the rats had woken me.  In my dream state their noise had become the noise of my dragons taking flight.  I’d then heard the rats running.

A few things didn’t fit, though.  Why was I so disorientated if I was dreaming?  We normally accept whatever reality we encounter in dreams quite comfortably.  Even before I noticed those dragons (and yes, as it happens they are roughly rat-sized) I felt uncomfortable, as if I’d strayed into one of those many-worlds/ alternate realities.

So now I’m left wondering.  Was it ‘just a dream’ or had I strayed – or been taken – into some alternate world where my ‘words became flesh’, so to speak?  Is there a reality out there now, in amongst all that strange dark matter, where my little dragons have indeed taken on an existence of their own?  Did I pay that world a fleeting visit, just to discover how ‘creative’ I really am?  Did (as my guides are suggesting) the same psychological trigger event occur in both worlds, causing the time dragons and poisoned rats to erupt into a frenzied movement at the same moment?

The time dragons here are quite inanimate now and so too, it seems, are the rats in the loft.  Strange, though, and interesting to ponder…