Trying to Re-Member

There’s a group I attend from time to time here in my town.  Each week they provide cups of every kind of herbal tea you can imagine, biscuits or cake, and a speaker.  The talks range over many areas and subjects, but they must always be positive.  That seems to be the only rule.

Abstract, Background, Pattern, ArtisticI’d never heard of that night’s speaker, but his subject was ‘The Eight Elements’ and partly because I’d been pondering on elements for quite a while and partly because he was speaking as a follower of Krishna – a Truth quite new to me – I decided to go along.

The gentleman stood calmly before us, looked around the room at the sea of faces and announced, with total certainty, “I’m not the only person in this room who has been to the breaking point.  I’m not alone in having reached a point in my life where everything I lived for, everything I believed, everything I cared about was swept away, leaving me lost, broken and utterly alone.”

All around the room, heads nodded slowly, solemnly, mine included.

The talk was excellent.  Krishna’s take on the elements was oddly familiar and linked in well with the Egyptian, Greek, Shamanic, Medieval and alchemical ideas I’d been reading and thinking about.  What I was left with above all, though, was that idea of the breaking point – the need to go through what feels at the time to be a crisis, a disaster, a destruction of all you’ve held dear.  It is the tower card in the tarot – the card I used to fear above all others, back in the days when my life was settled and sorted (although very far from perfect).

I thought of the many friends and family members I’ve seen hit that point, whether through a sudden incapacitating illness, a financial meltdown, a job loss, a relationship breakup or what’s commonly called a nervous breakdown.  Often – as in my own case – it’s a mixture of several of these.  Like the body of Osiris, we are broken up, hacked into pieces and scattered in the waters of Life.

Shell, Broken, Empty, Close, LeaveThere follows a time of the most awe-ful emptiness.  We shut down.  We exist from moment to moment, day to day, with no clear idea of how or why we are still functioning.  This is the time we need to hide away, to withdraw from everyone and everything, knowing at some instinctive level that we require peace, and that healing will eventually flow from this.

Despite the kindness and ministrations of others, there’s ultimately only one place that healing can come from.  It comes from within.  It comes from our soul-selves – the part of us that is, and has always been, whole and complete.  Slowly and painfully, we begin to re-member ourselves – to put ourselves back together.  This time, though, we will be different.  We will have shed the limiting beliefs that we are not complete without money/ health/ family/ possessions/ career/ home/ friends or whatever we relied upon for stability and identity in the past.  That’s not to say we won’t regain or rediscover some of these, but they will no longer take centre stage.

Now we will have re-membered who we truly are.  We will recognise that we are whole and complete in ourselves.  We are not – primarily – parent or employee, partner or owner.  We are infinite aspects of the great I AM and as such, we have no limits.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.”

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet

 

Having Fun

Munich, Oktoberfest, Ride, Carousel, FunRight now, at this point in my life, I’m having fun.

Should I feel guilty about that?  Would I be more worthy if I focused (as many wonderful people I know do) on wars and famine and the-state-of-politics and all the other worrying aspects of our world?

I dare to say it: no.

My life – all six-and-a-fair-bit decades of it – has had it’s share of disasters, problems, heartbreaks and despair.  I’m now – in hindsight (which is a much cosier place to view from) – thankful for all those difficult and testing times.  They’ve etched lines on my face, turned my hair white and allowed me to understand myself and others far better than if I’d had a safe, comfortable time reading the papers and keeping the house tidy.  (I do neither of those things.)

At this point, I have no major problems in my life and I have the most inordinate amount of fun.  If you’re about to say, “Oh don’t say that, you’re tempting fate”, you are missing the point.  In those terms, I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘fate’ – or, for that matter – a vengeful deity of any kind, which must be appeased and bowed down to.  I don’t believe that I have a preordained ‘lot’ that will come to me, whatever, or can only be avoided if I follow the rules, or store up good karma.

I believe that I create my life.

Now the devil’s advocate will be saying, “So if that’s the case, how come you created all those heartbreaks and disasters, huh?”

I don’t mean that I create the whole shebang consciously and meticulously (although I have come across a few people who are just about able to do that).  However I am coming closer to a conscious awareness of the process.

Since I started to see myself as moving through a thixotropic aether (see my last post for details if you have no idea what I just said there) rather than a vacuum which happens to have a bit of air in this particular portion of it,  I’ve altered my way of viewing life.  It’s great!  I’m loving it.

The Sand Dunes, DuneThe way I considered it was this:  Quicksand is thixotropic.  The more you bash and flail and struggle, the more unyielding it becomes.  If, though, you very softly and gently relax, flow with it and – causing as little resistance as possible – swim slowly and carefully towards the edge, you can gradually escape.

The thing is, if my whole life is a journey through this substance, just crawling out once won’t help that much.  There isn’t, in this existence, a place of safety, where no perils or challenges can possibly occur; physical life just isn’t like that.  I could argue that it’s one big sea of quicksand.  Once I know how to deal with that, though, it stops being a problem.  I can drift gently through it.  I can get used to the way it pulls and sucks at me.  I can stop seeing it as the enemy and just resolve to move lightly through it, not taking it too seriously, not resisting it.  I can start to enjoy it’s texture and the whole adventure.  It was my choice to be here, after all.

So I’m not living in some kind of fool’s paradise.  I know just how it all works.  I know the hazards and dangers, but that is not going to stop me enjoying myself.

Like I said, I’m having fun.

When Worlds Collide

People, Bus, Commuting, Public TransportA three hour coach ride passes so much better when you find yourself seated next to someone interesting to chat to.

My neighbour yesterday was, it emerged, travelling to London for a brief, bittersweet half day with her daughter.  It was the girl’s birthday.  She’d booked herself into a posh hotel in the West End.  They were to have champagne, then lunch somewhere luxurious.  The daughter would unwrap her presents then – ‘a comfort sack’ with such items as a thick duvet, pillow and covers, hand warmers, hot chocolate mix…  Tomorrow the young lady will take all her spoils and return to Greece, where she works for the UN, caring for the refugees.
“It’s so desperately cold there, Mum,” she’d told her mother. “Just so desperate”.

Lesvos, Island, Mytilini, GreeceI wondered how it felt for that young woman to move between those two quite different worlds – her opulent English lifestyle and the squalor and tragedy of the transit camps.  How must the smells, the sounds, the sickness and pain feel to someone who has grown up in such a different culture?  How, indeed, must it feel for the inhabitants of the camps, wrenched from their lives in such violence and terror?

 

“And you?” my neighbour enquired.  “Why are you going to London?”

“Oh,” I said, with a slight smile, “I’m probably going to enjoy a few hours in the British Museum.  And I might be meeting a friend.”

Well it was a long journey, so gradually my story came out too.  If we did meet, it would be no less shocking and difficult a transition for my friend than her daughter’s move to Greece had been.

Sport, Exhausting, To Clench TeethJust as the refugee camps would seem overwhelmingly disgusting and sickening to us – their sights, smells and emotional charge far beyond what we feel able to cope with – so our world is, for people like my friend.  For him, and so many other super-sensitive people who live with autistic spectrum perception in its many and amazing forms, our world – in all its raw, visceral physicality can be almost too much to cope with.  Their senses are easily overwhelmed by what, to us, would seem trivial.  Their anxiety never sleeps.  Their fears grapple constantly at their throats with sharp, threatening fingers.  Small wonder so many would prefer to remain in the insular, relatively safe surroundings of the worlds they have built for themselves.  Why – given the choice – would they venture out into the uncertainties of our unfamiliar and terrifying world?

The answer is the same as for the young lady working for the UN – compassion, humanity, generosity of spirit.  They want to help us.  They want to build bridges.  They want to reach into our world and show us their perspectives.  If they manage it, we will be so much richer for it, but if they don’t, we have no right to criticise them.  Every single day, they struggle to do what they can to reach into our world.  And there will be days they just can’t.

When I reached London, he was still at home, holed up in an agony of indecision.  If he managed a meeting, it would be the first for many years.  The least I could do was to make it as easy as possible for him.
‘No rush,’ I messaged.  ‘I’ll head for the museum. Text me later if you feel able to meet somewhere.’

An hour later I was a stranger wandering in the world of the Abyssinians: huge bas-reliefs of Kings and courtiers.  ‘Spirit helpers’ with the heads of eagles and small handbags held objects like oversized pine cones against the backs of the humans’ heads.  Why?  Pineal gland connection perhaps?  What was in the bags?  What favoured realm had these beings descended from, to help their human counterparts?

Then my phone pinged.

‘I’m going to come.  I’m in central London.  Shall I meet you at the British Museum or elsewhere?’

‘The museum’s crammed with people,’ I told him, when I’d had a moment.  ‘Let’s meet in one of the squares nearby.’

On my way out I paused to stare in awe once again at the Rosetta stone, that magical jigsaw piece that had given the modern world a way into the world of other races at other times.  For me, at that moment, the stone became a talisman, allowing my world and my friend’s to come together for a short while.

Seat, Iron, Metal, Bench, Seat BenchBloomsbury, like much of London, has many lovely, peaceful squares – small oases of calm and greenery amidst the hubbub of traffic and commerce.  I selected a calm, pleasant open space where I felt he’d be most comfortable, sat on a bench and waited.  I sat at one end and placed my bags beside me, knowing he’d need more body space than most would consider normal for lifelong friends.  I remained seated when he arrived.  No exclamation of delight, no bear hugs or grasping of hands.
“Alright?” he said simply.
“Yes,” I said quietly.  “And well done.”

Old friends.  Old friends.  Sat on a park bench like bookends.
Paul Simon’s song echoed in my mind from another of my distant worlds.

I’d written much of what I wanted to say on paper.  He finds the written word easier to handle than speech – less unpredictable.  So for the first few minutes he sat and read in silence.  Then we talked.  He kept his eyes fixed straight ahead; body language and facial expression are confusing for him, so it’s easier if he cuts them out.  Still there were deep discussions and moments of humour, with both of us laughing out loud.  There were connections and shared memories of times when we’d spent so many days and hours together.  It was wonderful.

And because I know he finds transitions difficult, I made the decision on when to leave.  Or perhaps the weather did, as the rain that had been threatening all afternoon eventually began to fall.

Neither of us said, “See you soon.”  Who knows?   And what does it matter?  Our worlds had come together for that short while without any explosions or disasters and we are closer for that experience.

We Need to Talk

Legs, Shoes, Shadow, Alone, PersonI live alone and, yep, sometimes I catch myself speaking aloud – to myself, obviously.  My utterances are quiet; of the “Okay, what next – do the washing or check email?” variety.  I try to keep a cap on it though.  Don’t want to end up as one of those compulsive mutterers.

I used to live next door to a guy (also a single person) who spoke – nay, bellowed – to the TV.  The partition wall between our rooms was thin, and he would join in vociferously with Question Time – a current affairs discussion forum on the BBC.
“Turn off his microphone!” he would roar.  “Don’t let this fool have airtime!  You are a disgrace, sir!” and so on, and on.

So is speaking aloud something we all need to do?  I think the urge to do so is pretty strong, judging by my experiences on a bus journey earlier this week.

Trolleybus, Transport, City, PassengersTalking Passenger 1:   He was scruffy but clean and of indeterminate age, dressed entirely in shades of grey and beige.  As he stood aside before boarding, to let an elderly couple off, he greeted them effusively, despite apparently not knowing them:
“No, no, that’s fine. I always check to see if anyone needs to get off first. Have a wonderful day, won’t you.”
The driver was greeted in similar vein: “Thank you for your kindness,” when given his bus ticket.
Sweet.
When he sat down, the conversation continued unabated, despite having no one to talk to:
“Oho, what do I see? A newspaper! Excellent!”
He went on to peruse the sports section then to use the paper as an improvised trumpet. This clearly pleased him, as he repeated it several times.  He kept up a commentary on his journey until leaving the bus in a small village.  I watched as he walked across to the war memorial, sat on its steps and continued to chatter amiably to himself.

This gentleman appeared to have a very comfortable life, I decided.  His monologues clearly soothed and satisfied him.

Many of us, though, would fear ridicule for chattering away so freely to ourselves.  A companion (or at the least, a mobile phone) becomes a necessity for many.

Businessman, Talking, Phone, MobileThe bus was unexpectedly diverted at one point and almost everyone grabbed their phones and began chattering excitedly.  Some were legitimately warning a relative or workmate that they would be delayed; most were simply calling hapless friends or family members in order to share the news with someone.  For a moment I was tempted to do the same, before realising that no one I knew would be even remotely interested in hearing about my slightly lengthened journey.

Talking Passenger 2:  A mother with a small child, aged about 4.  She got on in a flap, asking the driver why all the bus timetables were wrong.  He explained that, for reasons of their own, the bus company had seen fit to change the 171 bus to a 37, although the route and times had not been changed.  Well yeah, they do that sometimes.  Ours not to reason why…
Anyway, this news clearly disturbed the young lady.  She needed to process the information and to do that, she evidently needed to talk.
She turned to her little boy and told him, “We won’t be able to get the 171 any more.  They’ve stopped it.  We’ll have to get a different bus now – one called a 37.”
The child nodded, mutely.
This clearly wasn’t enough for her. She repeated the information twice more.
Finally the boy replied, very pragmatically, I felt, and in a comforting tone, “But it had a W on the front, so that means it’s still going to Wells, doesn’t it?”
She had to agree that it did, and finally felt able to fall silent.

I had to change buses in that very city, and found myself seated in the bus shelter alongside…

Woman, Dog, Coffey, Coffee ShopTalking passenger 3: “Oh that’s right!” she said, suddenly, loudly and in a voice heavily laced with sarcasm.
I started, before realising she was talking not to me but to a small terrier, wearing a neckerchief.
“Yes, why don’t you! Put your muddy paw on Mummy! Now my raincoat’s got a nasty smear on it.”
The dog wagged it’s tail cheerfully and attempted to clamber on to her lap. It clearly didn’t get sarcasm.
“Get OFF!” she bellowed, angrily.
This time the message was clear and her pet withdrew and busied itself by chewing a discarded sweet wrapper.
As our bus pulled in, a teenage girl held the access gate open for the lady.
“Thank you,” she said, “but the driver isn’t ready yet, so I’ll wait here. Not,” she added, cuttingly, “that you can hear a word I’m saying, with those headphones stuck in your ears!”
A man nearby smiled sympathetically, “Yeah, dogs!” he responded. “Never listen, do they?”
The lady turned on him. “My DOG hears every word I say!” she announced, imperiously. “It’s those young people with the headphones – they never hear you.”

She clearly needed to be heard.

I suppose, to some extent, we all do. And, yes, we need to talk.

Why else would I be writing this blog? 🙂

Dear Self…

I have a friend who is experiencing the most terrible of times.  She is heartbroken, flat, without hope, overwhelmed and filled with grief.  Her pain and suffering are not illusory (despite my continuing belief that life is a game – it’s real enough while we are playing it) and the problems seem insurmountable.

I considered writing a letter to this friend, suggesting how she might help herself emerge from these black times, but that feels wrong.  I haven’t walked in her shoes.  I can’t tell her what steps she should take.

So instead, I’ll write my letter to my Self – the Self I was in 2008: the year I had left my teaching career, my painful, trustless, crumbling marriage, my beloved grown-up children, my home and friends, and moved to London to care for my mother.  Woman, Old, Face, Portrait, White

She couldn’t acknowledge her dementia, couldn’t see why life was becoming uncomfortable and confusing, so directed all her anger, fear and spite towards me.

I’ll write to the Self who lay shaking and crying on the spare room bed, after dodging most of the vicious blows and scratches for barring the front door at 3am and not allowing Mum to ‘go to the hairdressers’.  The Self who had turned the gas tap off on the hob again, after finding it hissing, and was wondering how long before the house would explode.  The self who knew that – one way or another, even if she didn’t blow us up – we both had to be out of that house within the next three months because there was no money left.  The Self who had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  Those are shoes I’ve walked in.

Dear Self,

I know how black it feels.  I know how heavy all those fears and injustices are.  I know it’s 3.30 in the morning and you’re at the darkest hour – in every way.

You’re asking yourself what you have done to deserve this.  The answer is: you have grown strong.  This isn’t retribution; it’s a rite of passage.  You have given yourself the opportunity to be tested as never before – and to overcome each and every difficulty, to emerge stronger and more confident.

You’re protesting that you didn’t want this ‘test’ – you want to go back to when things were easier: not great, perhaps, but easier than this.

It doesn’t work that way.  Your life has been moving towards this point for quite a time now.  It’s here, and I’m here to help you through it.

Me?  Yes, I’m yourself – one of the millions of Selves you create with your every thought and emotion.  The me who is writing this lives eight years in your future.  She’s happy, comfortable and lives a full and independent life, surrounded by like-minded friends, with a pretty home of her own, inspiring children to teach and learn from and a garden to tend.  She has all you now dream of and more.  I don’t expect you to be able to imagine that life yet, but it’s waiting for you, dear Self, once you get through this time.

You think you’re alone.  You’re not.  All your past and future Selves are there with you.  They send you exFace, Soul, Head, Smoke, Light, Sadperience, wisdom and inspiration.  They are as real as the Self you are, lying on that bed.  You are – how can I explain ideas you haven’t yet encountered? – ‘entangled’ with more other Selves than you can imagine.  Everyone you have cared for and loved, shared with and learned from is there with you.  Just like those little sub-atomic quantum whatsits you’ve read of in science books, you and those people – the ones you see as ‘living’ and the ones you think of as ‘dead’ – become forever entangled.  That means you only have to lie there in the night asking for support and comfort, and they will come flocking to you.  You know, already, that we are more than our bodies.  You know we are also spirit.  That is how they reach you, care for you and hold you up, if you can just allow them in.

Dad’s there – of course he is.  He knows exactly what you’re enduring.  Grandma, too.  She’s barely left your side.  Trust that they are with you.

Now I want you to look into your life.  Yes, I know, the one that totally sucks.  Only it doesn’t – not TOTALLY.  I want you to find something in there – and it can be a tiny, seemingly insignificant something – that is better-than-awful.

Park, Hirsch, Enclosure, Animals, AntlerYour body, for example – it’s working pretty well, isn’t it?  Certainly the sleepless, interrupted nights aren’t helping and the IBS has flared again, but your senses work, your legs, your arms…  Take that body tomorrow – once Mum’s gone to the daycare centre – and give it a treat.  Take it to the park.  Leave the sack of worries at the gates.  Stroll in the sunshine and watch the squirrels and deer, the movement of the trees and grass, the ripples in the river.  Listen and smell and immerse yourself in nature and don’t allow yourself to give a single thought to the worries or fears.  This is your healing time.

When you get back to the gates – yes – the problems will still be waiting for you.  There will be a difference, though.  You’ll have created a piece of your Self they can’t get to.  Nurture that ‘safe’ fragment of you; spoil her rotten!  She deserves it – YOU deserve it.

You don’t need others advising you about what to do, or telling you how much you matter to them or protecting you.  You’re very slowly and wonderfully growing into the Self you can be – that strong, independent woman you were born to become.

It will keep hurting for a while, and there will be problems to overcome, but trust.  You’re going to come out of all this just fine – and it will be you (with a million Selves to back you up) who does it.

Love

Your Self   (please…)

“What’s Important Is The Journeys”

English: Footpath to Workhouse Lane. This is t...

So I have found another new route – my own personal trek through the myriad criss-crossing paths, just to see where they lead me and what I discover along the way.  I’m careful to vary my travels, to avoid retracing my steps.  I bypass the more obvious well-trodden roads, to scramble instead through almost-forgotten overgrown footpaths and bridleways.  I’m careful not to follow any track for too long; I’ll branch off sharply if I find that happening.

Not for me the ramblers’ group.  I’ll happily stop and pass the time of day with those I meet along the way, listen to their wisdom or local knowledge and thank them warmly before heading onwards.  Should anyone offer to guide me, though – to lead me to my destination – I’ll smile politely and decline.  Some of them, I’m sure, have perfectly lovely journeys planned, but this is my trek, no one else’s.

Eriboll - Strath More road - geograph.org.uk -...

Well yes, that’s a metaphor.  Too cold here at the moment to be rambling anywhere.  My journeys take place in this battered old computer chair with a log fire crackling away cheerfully beside me.  I simply want to convey that I choose my own path and am, in the late autumn of my life, content and comfortable to travel it alone.  A handful of people – mostly those who read these ramblings – have some idea of the journey I’m on.  Almost everyone else in my life – all relatives and almost all friends and acquaintances – regard me as strange at best, deranged at worst.  That’s why, to be honest, I left home (in my late fifties) and headed to a place where I would be, if not understood, exactly, at least tolerated.

I’m happy in my own skin.  I’m comfortable writing blogs and books that few will read and still fewer will understand.  I wake up each day knowing I have work to do – ponderings and wonderings and explorations of ideas.  I’m metafizzing with excitement as I find a new quote that fits with a recent thought or see ideas I can recognise and relate to in someone else’s words.  Would I swap all the richness of this life to be normal?  Hell no.

Let me be absolutely clear, here.  I am NOT deriding or criticising people whose lives revolve around celebrity gossip or the storylines of soaps.  That is their path and it’s totally right that they follow it.  Trainspotters and war gamers, Manchester United fans and ballroom dancers, shopaholics  and chocaholics, churchgoers and landscape painters, hypochondriacs and bankers… all of these people and many, many more make our world richer and wider and filled with variety.  I salute them all.

Every single one of us, I believe, has a higher Self – a consciousness more magnificent than we can fathom from this perspective.  In each case, those Selves have carefully chosen a Life to live.  They have elected to become totally engrossed in a human existence in order to try out new experiences, using feelings and emotions they want to develop and expand for the ultimate good of All That Is.  From that perspective, no one is worthier or stranger than anyone else.

We encounter each other in these odd little lives and act out our parts, re-acting to the others and building the great work of art that is an individual lifetime as we do so.

It’s magical.

It’s expanding the Cosmos.

If someone else (or even everyone else) is puzzled by the path I am taking, that very puzzlement is enriching for both myself and them.  In terms of Life-with-a-big-L, there are no wrong turnings, no wastes of time, no blind alleys.

“What’s important is the journeys.”

 

 

 

 

 

Walking with hope

I was so moved by this little boy’s kindness, courage, optimism and general awesomeness.

Joel’s a 9 year old who has been watching the news and seeing little kids his age and younger walking many miles to find safety.

He’s decided he wants to walk from his home to London (115 miles) to raise money for the refugee children.  He and his dad are going to do the walk in the next school holiday – late October.  They are taking clothes and a tent, but no food, water or money, because Joel wants to find out how kind strangers can be to those who have nothing.

He’s decided to give his much-loved Lego characters and Hot Wheels cars away as perks to people who contribute to his fundraising.

What an adventure he’s embarking on – one he will never forget.

The full details of his story, and ways to contribute using cards or PayPal can be found at the link below.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/walking-from-my-home-to-london-for-other-children/x/12208181#/story

Will a hat make a difference?

I think I first heard the story of the boy and the starfish from Wayne Dyer.  He, of course, has been in my thoughts a great deal this week, as he gracefully withdrew his consciousness from that earthly body and moved on to other great adventures.

Dr Dyer made a difference, a huge one, while he was here.

Then there are the rest of us.  This week our lives have been touched by the sight, not of starfish, but of small children washed up on the beach.  We, too, feel the futility of any gesture amidst the mass of suffering as countless displaced people – mums, dads, sons and daughters – make desperate bids to find refuge and rebuild their lives somewhere safe.

What an opportunity it gives us – the chance to decide how we want to react; what we want to do.  If we can step back for a moment from the wringing of hands and the economic and cultural challenges, each of us has the chance to make a difference, even in the smallest way, and that is a great gift.

Please don’t think I lack empathy with the refugees by saying that.  Certainly I believe that every single person on the planet chose, as some level, the life they’re currently living, so that they could play this massively complex and often agonising game called Life and experience all it can throw at them.  We can’t come close to imagining how painful that is for some.  We can decide, though, how we will respond.

So I decided I wanted to make a difference and the idea that came into my head was – bizarrely enough – ‘make hats for the children’.

Hats?

Well, autumn is coming on, and many of the families are moving into colder places.  Hats are great for keeping the body temperature up.  I have an ancient and basic but functional knitting machine and shelves of yarn in all colours of the rainbow…

How was I to get these hats to the children?  That was the next challenge.  No sooner had the thought entered my head than I received two emails, detailing local drop-off points for supplies which would be taken to the refugee camp in Calais.  Once synchronicity starts to kick in like that, I stop asking questions and get going.

IMG_20150906_091802Here are the first two.  Each took about an hour to make.  The little crocheted starfish take another 20 minutes.  It struck me that I could make more hats if I left the decoration off, but intention is everything.  As I create my rather lumpy little starfish (I’m not great at crochet) I’m pouring into them all the love and hope I can for the child who will wear that hat, and the starfish is a powerful symbol for me of how, even in this absurdly small way, each of us can make a difference.

Wish you were here…

On the 17th July last year, I spent my first night in my cottage.  There was nothing much here – just me and an ancient futon (long since free-cycled).

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The furniture didn’t arrive until the next day. I can’t say I slept much that night, but still it was a momentous time for me.

The studio now

The studio now

I never managed a house warming party.  The place was full of workmen until well into the autumn, and by then I was so exhausted and crushed by the whole adventure that parties were the last thing on my mind.

So, I decided, this first anniversary would be the perfect time to celebrate.

Upstairs landing.  Note the large hole in the ceiling!

Upstairs landing. Note that large hole in the ceiling!

Obviously, I’d invite friends – people who helped me with the move, people who took me out for a coffee or a meal when all became too challenging, people who made encouraging comments about the changes and kept me going when miracles seemed a little thin on the ground.

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Then I decided to invite all the neighbours.  They’d put up with months of scaffolding, yelling, banging and clanging without a single complaint.  They must have been curious to know what was going on inside but with typical British reserve, few called round to look.

Next, I wanted to invite back the tradesmen who had made such incredible changes.  After all, such people rarely get to see the finished article.  A room is plastered or a shower plumbed in, but to see those rooms decorated and finished would perhaps be of interest.

The kitchen when I moved in

The kitchen when I moved in

And last but not least, although you’re scattered around the world, I’d love to have invited you, my dear supportive WordPress followers.

The kitchen - now

The kitchen – now

Your likes and comments have been a source of such great pleasure and encouragement since the very start of my LIME story.  I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for a virtual tour of the place, and  you won’t get to meet all the wonderful, warm-hearted friends and neighbours who joined me last Friday, but thank you so much for staying with me on my journey through time to reach the point where I can say the cottage is (mostly) in a fit state to enjoy.

I heard some fascinating stories from neighbours…

There was the time the Chalice Well stream, which still flows beneath the front of the building, suddenly overflowed in the middle of the night.  An elderly couple lived here then and were woken to the sound of rushing water filling the living room.  Apparently the water board engineer was unwilling to do anything at first, since it wasn’t his company’s water.  The neighbour who told me the story described how, in very forthright language, he told the engineer that since his van bore the word ‘water’ and this was indeed that substance, he should put these good people out of their misery and fix the leak at once.  Apparently there have been no problems since.

I was told that the little rubble stone garage that lies in a tiny lane of colour-washed cottages just behind my garden used to be a betting office, while the cottage opposite it once sold paraffin.

The downstairs bathroom then

I discovered that badgers have a huge sett in the garden of the house opposite and can often be seen padding past my fence at night.

Same bathroom now

Same bathroom now

Visitors arrived with jars of home-made jam, cordials and honey, plants and flowers, along with friendship, congratulations and kind words about the renovations.

It was a glorious day and I felt so grateful to have such kind and caring people gathered around me.

Now that I’ve proved to my own satisfaction that miracles can and should be expected, and more-or-less finished my repairs and decorating, I’m free to focus on the other passions in my life – the writing, the metaphysics, the teaching and the living of this glorious physical reality I find myself in at this point in my consciousness.

The alcove now

The alcove now

The alcove in the iving room - then

The alcove in the iving room – then

Celebrating Solstice my way

 

Living as I do in Glastonbury, there are endless ways in which to welcome these turning points in the year.  All day today there have been and will be meditations, retreats, activations, celebrations and gatherings.  Robes will be donned, headgear dusted off and worn; drums will be hit and fires lit.  Invocations will be said to ancient gods and goddesses and dances and rituals will be solemnly performed.

 

The diversity of beliefs and observances is wonderful and adds to the magic of this unique place, but I have not joined in.

 

My pictures are grainy and blurred, but they mark my own personal Solstice celebration.  I don’t follow the angelic or shamanic paths.  I’m not a pagan or a druid.  I simply AM and I walk my own path, happily and with humility and gratitude for being a part of this wonderful game of Life.

 

Yesterday I welcomed the longest night of the year by watching a beautiful sunset across the Polden Hills as I painted the walls of LIME Cottage’s study.  What a glorious back drop for such a mundane task!  (No photos of that – I was far too paint-spattered to risk touching the i-Pod 🙂 )

So today Chalice Hill winter solstice 2014I headed out early and admired the mistletoe-laden apple trees on Chalice Hill as the sky started to lighten.

solstice torFurther along the road, the Tor came into view.  The angelic light to the left came from a street lamp, by the way – at least I think it did…

Usually I – and many others – head up to one of the hills.  Today, though, I decided to take advantage of my first solstice spent living just above the edge of the Somerset Levels, so I took the Old Butleigh Road and wandered down to the fields and rhynes below the town.

By now morning had broken, so it seemed very fitting – solstice blackbirdin an Eleanor Farjeon kind of way – that a blackbird began singing in a tree right next to me.  You can just see him – tail in the air – in the lightest part of this photo.

Away to the left, across fields that are already heavy and clogged with water, the clouds had parted enough to let in some dawn light.  No sunshine, but solstice sunrisecertainly an ending to the longest of nights and a promise of the return journey, with days gradually lengthening at the turn of the year.

So no drums, robes, bells or whistles for me as I headed back uphill along the gloriously-named Cinnamon Lane (pausing to greet a pair of sheep who had somehow strayed into the children’s playing field there and were grazing gratefully).

I felt grateful too, to have witnessed and welcomed the solstice dawn in this beautiful place at this very magical time of year.

In homage to that blackbird and with seasonal greetings to all who read or follow my little blog, I send this with a wish that however you mark or celebrate the turning of the year, you may have a peaceful, joyful and memorable experience and find something to enjoy as each new dawn arrives.  Meanwhile, I’ll return to the painting 🙂