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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Randomness of Bees

I was 17, and happened to be sitting next to that girl – Gail or something – who was generally considered by the rest of the class to be a bit weird.

Honey Bees, Beehive, Honey, Bees“I mean just look at bees,” she said to me.
This was a conversation opener, apropos to nothing.  We weren’t even doing a biology lesson.
“What about them?” I said warily.
“Well just THINK about it!” she exclaimed. “I mean how can anyone – ANYONE – argue that life is random, that everything just happened to evolve the way it did by a series of chances. So stupid!  Think about bees, Janet. (I hate it when people use my full name, but Gail wasn’t the sort to shorten it, the way everyone else did.) Think about the way they live… the patterns… it’s all just SO perfect.”

She drifted off into a blissful reverie, religious ecstasy temporarily quenching her evangelical zeal. Gail was a fundamentalist Christian.
I grunted and began focusing hard on my work.

The fact that I can recall that rather odd snippet of conversation fifty years later, though, goes to show the effect her comments made on me.  I’ve never forgotten that incident and as I continued through my life, my mind often travelled back to Gail and her bees.  Were we, and all that we share our planet with, really the result of some fluke of natural selection?  It merited consideration, certainly.

People, Doctors, Medic, ScientistIf you’ve just done the maths, you’ll have deduced that I was educated in the shiny black and white op-art sixties.  Science was at its zenith.  It was the new religion.  Scientists knew everything.  They could send rockets to the moon.  They could explain anything that needed an explanation.  Other points of view were rudely brushed aside as superstition or ignorance.  To disagree with the concept of life emerging from a rather fortuitous combination of chemicals, temperature, light and moisture in primeval swamps was almost heresy.  It meant you had to be a Creationist – someone who, like Gail, believed the beginning of the Bible contained a factual account of the beginning of the World.

Decades rolled by and I kept thinking.  I became increasingly disillusioned with the pomposity of the scientists who were more than happy to sweep inconvenient truths under their lab benches and persuade museums to hide away artefacts that didn’t fit their version of events.  On the other hand, I remained unconvinced by Gail’s merciful-but-actually-pretty-vengeful God and his six day fix on the bottomless void.

Fortunately for me, life is more nuanced these days.  The growth of digital information, multi-culturalism and alternative ways of thinking and being, mean that despite the continued persistence of some purists and fundamentalists on all sides, terms like Consciousness and Awareness and Intention have gained sway.

It’s no longer either/or.  Even scientists are discovering that we influence our lives, our bodies, our wellness and our experience through our thoughts and expectations.  For me, God has drifted away from being a strict headmaster with a hippy son to become a benign Intelligence, of which all Life is some kind of infinitessimal part.

Understanding the implications of quantum science removes the barrier between living and non-living.  We know, now, how much energy, how much LIFE there is in even the most apparently inert object.  Everything is, well, ert.

So OK Gail, I’ll give you that one.  There is no randomness in bees.  They are a pretty wonderful example of that Divine Intelligence playing out.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Totality, 2017And now, I’ve got one for you:  eclipses.  Is it random chance that when we stand on this one little planet, amongst a mass of celestial bodies, our Moon (which is, in astronomical terms, tiny but very close) can exactly block out our view of our Sun, which is far bigger but far further away?

If Life didn’t randomly evolve on this planet, then do the positions of the heavenly bodies need to be viewed as random, or is there a Divine Intelligence at work there too?

Can we listen again to the music of the spheres?  Can we begin to understand why the ancients built megalithic structures with such care and precision, aligning them to star patterns, compass directions and equinoxes?

We are all hard-wired to love pattern, to reach into it and to understand and reproduce it, whether we are humans or bees.

And there’s this….

 

The Day the Muses Died

France, Oise, Chantilly, CastleThey’re not truly dead, of course, those Muses.  They are immortal – even the ones who consider themselves to be human.  They’ve gone though, for now at least.  Another one left this morning.

Have you noticed?  Are you missing them too?

There was a time when they reached so close, touched our thoughts, answered our tremulous questions and inspired our imaginings with a generosity of spirit and a wisdom so deep and wide that we felt nothing was secret, nothing was hidden from us.  All we had to do was to wonder and they would be there with a sign, a comment, a synchronicity that proved to us that we were heard and supported and – yes – expanded by their inspiration.

We were such a sensitive, anxious bunch, back then in the years surrounding Y2k and 2012.  Was the world going to end?  How would that look?  Were we ‘birthing a new Earth’, some kind of parallel planet where we would be gods?  Would there be the fires, the floods, the earthquakes and famines that had ended previous ages?  Did we really have to go through all that again? Reawakening, rebirthing, rediscovering our true selves… re- just about anything you could hold a candle up to.  What did it all mean?

We needed answers.  We needed to know the things religions had never seen fit to share with us, the things science hadn’t addressed, the things Hay House and Gaia and the Shift Network tantalisingly offered to sell us, if we had enough $$$$.

That was when the muses arrived.  They were quiet, gently spoken.  They answered our questions with courtesy but rarely initiated the conversations.  Each utterance was filled with a Knowing of divine proportions.  I would listen with reverence, take their words and wrestle with them until I could make some sense of what I was learning.  Then I’d pour those words into my books or my blog or my coffee shop conversations with trusted friends.

Now, save for a very few, they have gone.  Did they answer all the questions we needed to ask?  Perhaps.

I miss them, that’s for sure.  But maybe they shared all the Knowing they needed to before moving on to other missions.  For those we know as fellow humans, those ‘other missions’ may be happening in some part of their greater selves which is not currently visible to us at all.  For those who came to us through channelled voices or spiritual guidance – well – we can’t even guess.  All I know is that during those magical years, the Muses gave us precious gifts, and I will always be so very grateful.

The Quietness is sad and deafening, at times, but I take comfort in the thought that, like the legendary Arthur, who sleeps beneath Albion, ready to awaken when he is needed, they will return when the time is right.  “Assume it’s temporary,” one of the Muses told me once, and another – the one who left today – instructed me to “Trust the Silence.”

I will.

Taxonomical with the Truth

Taxonomy is something I’ve been thinking about recently, because it very much underlies our current world view.  Everything is classified and sub-classified so that it can be put into a tidy little box, marked neatly with a (preferably Latin) name and declared separate from everything else.  We do it with flora and fauna, obviously, but that mania for neat, clear, unambiguous boundaries and definitions has become a mainstay of life in general.  It’s how we understand and make sense of things – their features, their purposes, their very existence.Oxford Museum Of Natural History, Oxford

At times, the classifications have to be tweaked.  Poor old Pluto is downgraded from Planet to Big Rock; some garden plant suddenly gets a new name and all the garden centres have to readjust their labelling.  And don’t even get me started on the labels they use and change around in medical and psychological diagnoses…  Basically, though, humanity clings to the concept that everything that is, can be labelled, and that this is a Good Thing.

Was it always so?  We know our Greek and Roman forebears were keen on this organised labelling idea, but if we go way back to the people who made those strange and wonderful structures that seem to evade neat classification and confound the theorists, I suspect a very different world view was in place.

Teotihuacan, Mexico City, PyramidWe are told by the experts that these creations were burial chambers or astronomical observatories or temples or meeting places or whatever the latest fragments of archaeology suggest.  They dig in the dark and assume that a few pieces of charred sheep bone or potsherds will allow them to make a classification.  The truth is, though, we don’t get it.  We, as 21st century humans, simply can’t see why so many people would work together and go to such enormous lengths to create massive, perfectly aligned and painstakingly constructed edifices such as the Giza pyramid complex, Gobekli Tepe, the Stonehenge landscape or Teotihuacan for ANY of those purposes.  The nearest (relatively) modern equivalents we can find are the great Gothic cathedrals of mediaeval Europe or intricate mausoleums, so, for want of better data, we decide that’s what they must have been ‘for’.

Deep inside, though, we know there has to be more to it than that.

What if our distant ancestors lived in a world where classification was considered counterproductive or, at the very least, irrelevant?

Think of all those folk tales and ancient religious texts where a name was considered to be a dangerous thing – so powerful that it was only to be used by initiates, and then only in the direst of circumstances.  That suggests that categorisation per se was not the way their minds worked.  Did these people see the world, and indeed the cosmos, as something so integrated, that to divide it into its constituent parts would be to destroy, weaken or pollute it?  Was it, indeed, a form of heresy?

What if, instead of saying, “Hey, guys, let’s build a gigantic temple to the gods here,”  or “Oh, this would be a great place to build an observatory,” those wise and distant people would perhaps work together to build something that was not this or that or the other, but something that was this AND that AND the other AND all that they could possibly create as a microcosm of the universe itself?

The current mainstream science-based world view is that everything is a fortuitous accident – evolution and climate, gravity and the tilt of an axis here or there somehow randomly resulted in all this.  As such, it’s very fragile, very likely to dissolve back into chaos and we need to impose order on it, if we are going to make any sense of it at all.

Earth, Globe, Space, Universe, WorldIf we can imagine a society where such a view does not hold sway – a society where the skies above us, the planet we inhabit, the plants, creatures and all of us exist as a conscious, intelligent, unified whole, with each aspect relying on the rest for its existence, there would be no need to separate and divide it.  On the contrary, all that could be done to celebrate its perfect symmetries and unity would be a job worth doing well.  I suspect that such a society would have a language based in something that expands naturally, like mathematics or perhaps musical notation, rather than words that label, define and confine.  Perhaps such a language, were it ever rediscovered, would help us towards an understanding of our mysterious ancestors, and our cosmos.

 

Stasis – Unlimited

Glass, Heart, Window, Shot, Hole, BulletIt’s been ages since I last did a course.  I chose one of those science-meets-spirituality online ones.  It struck me it would be a good way to settle back into my life, after all the disruptions of last year – allowing someone else to lead me, gently, into my old ways of learning, musing and wondering.

So there I was, following the course leader’s instructions and working my way into an altered state.  All fine and good.  Next, we were to ask questions and allow the heart to provide an answer.  The yes/no queries worked perfectly, but then we were instructed to ask our hearts, “What do you need from me right now?”

Clear as a bell, the answer came back:  STASIS.

Sorry, what?

Space, Ship, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, ScienceAn image of those spacecraft pods you get in sci-fi films flashed into my mind, the ones with rows of people suspended somewhere between life and non-life waiting to be brought back to themselves before landing on some far-distant planet.

To be honest, I didn’t get much from the rest of the module I was studying.  I was too busy thinking about stasis – wondering if it had some other meaning I wasn’t aware of; wondering how and why it applied to me; wondering why my heart would wish me, or itself, to be in that state.

The next question we were supposed to ask was, “What do you want me to know right now?”  We were told that the answers would be brief – a short phrase or even a single word.  My heart is clearly less loquacious than its bearer.  Another single word answer: UNLIMITED.

Since then, I’ve pondered on these odd messages.  I checked ‘stasis’ for other meanings.  There are medical ones to do with veins and something about ancient Greek tyrants, but I settled on ‘a period of inactivity or equilibrium’.

(Yes, my heart is doing that glowy, expanding thing that means ‘yes’ as I type this.  I’m simply learning its way of communicating, the way I did with my pendulum, when I first started dowsing.)

Heart, Castle, Love, Symbol, RomanticMy heart has been through a great deal over the last year – all those dramas and emotional upheavals, anxieties and accomplishments, terrors and triumphs.  It needs, now, a period of stasis to recover, to rest, to relax.  It needs me to wrap up in a blanket, light the log burner and spend these winter days regaining my equilibrium.

After that, our potential together is – unlimited.

 

 

Mama was a rolling stone

I just counted up.  I have moved home ten times in the last two months. Even when I have been at my own place, I’ve had four different people to stay during this time period.

Luggage, Packed, Travel, Trip, SuitcaseNow I know that, I don’t feel quite so stupid for waking at 2am, trying to figure out where I was and who my coughing fit might be disturbing in the next room.  (No one, luckily – I was having one of the rare nights alone in my own home.)

For a mildly sociable but relatively reclusive sole dweller such as myself, the varied company and changes of routines, diets and house rules has been bewildering and exhausting.  Seeing friends and family, visiting and checking on those I’ve been forced to ignore during the hardest parts of 2018 has been a pleasure, but one muted by the confusion and aching throat that is the lot of the soliatry being suddenly thrust into day-long chatter.

As well as covering a geographical area that stretches from London to Liverpool and Wessex to Essex, the family and friends I have visited espoused, between them, a political spectrum ranging between socialist and fundamentalist Conservative-with-a-big-C, with greens, centrist small-c-conservatives and rampant liberals scattered around.  I mention this because, within these past two months, there has not been a dinner table or sofa in Britain where politics has not been at the heart of almost every discussion.

Normally, such conversations can be difficult. Suddenly, though, I find them all of one voice.  From the most ardently politically correct Liberal Democrat to the high Tory, the words have been the same.  All of them despise and reject the politicians – every single one.  They are united in disgust and fury at the farce that is Brexit.  They are bemused and horrified at the prospect of a new election, since there is no one they can countenance voting for, despite wanting earnestly to exercise their right to do so.  They are stunned by the ludicrous, self-serving, power-hungry bunch of clowns who slump around Westminster, on huge salaries and expense-accounts, jeering and jibing at each other like a gang of school bullies, but without a single useful idea in their heads.

London, Uk, Westminster, EnglandI found myself wondering why we, as an entire nation, have so abruptly woken up to this.  We voted for these – our leaders – and heaped power, prestige and money upon them.  Now, quite suddenly, it has become glaringly obvious that they possess no skills,  no specialist knowledge, no creative thinking, no debating skills, no charisma, no wisdom beyond that of any Tom, Dick or Harriet in the street.  The message is clear:

They are no better than us.  They have lost all credibility with the people and they do not, in any meaningful way, represent us.

I feel unqualified to broaden this to the political situation in other countries but my limited knowledge does suggest that the UK may not be altogether alone in this…

So why?  I kept pondering.  Why would all these politicians suddenly be engaging in such a public display of self-destruction?  Why are they metaphorically leaping, lemming-like, over the White Cliffs of Dover?

If we broaden our perspective and take a more metaphysical view of this situation it becomes clearer.  We have outgrown them.  We have, and this is quite a scary thought, reached a point where such a system of leaders and mute followers is no longer necessary.  We have learned a valuable lesson.

A few years ago, the politicians decided to let the people – all of us – make a choice.  They made it sound simple.  They told us they trusted us to vote on whether or not to leave Europe.  They’d done it to the Scots just before, in an independence referendum, and the people of Scotland had voted to stick with the status quo.  They assumed that, when we stopped and thought about it, we would do the same.

Flag, United Kingdom, England, LondonSome of the politicians, though, expertly exploited the racial prejudice and economic concerns of certain down-trodden and less-educated members of society.  Others created bogus claims of assumed huge financial benefits of leaving, painted these in catchy slogans on the sides of a bus and travelled around the nation lying to the populace in honeyed tones.  The rest of the politicians did very little.  They mumbled vaguely about uncertainty and hidden costs and trusted to the natural conservatism of the people to leave things as they were.

It all, of course, went horribly wrong.  No one knows what to do.  They have revealed themselves – what passes for both government and opposition parties – to be entirely unfit to govern and we the people have proved ourselves unfit to make such far-reaching choices without being fully and honestly informed of the implications of each option.

Perhaps we need and deserve a country run by a council of wise and experienced elders – the kind of people from industry, health care, diplomacy, education, the emergency and military services, banking, social work, conservation and the like who currently get given CBEs and OBEs for their services to the nation.  Perhaps we need to vote for such people to hold office, based on their record of expertise and success – in terms of wide benefit and happiness – in their specialist fields.  Perhaps we are ready to dispense with the bickering and taunting and arguing that plagues our political system and allow free debate amongst those who know what they are talking about.  Perhaps party politics has had its day.

In any case, I’m glad now to finally be settled at home, and looking ahead to a new year of musing on whatever comes my way.

I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, safe and joyous 2019.

 

 

Home?

Box, Sheet, Saying, StorageHere I am then.  Back in the strange little 17th century stone cottage I own in beautiful Somerset.

At least, my body is.  My possessions are here too – many still waiting to be unpacked as I try to remember where on earth I used to keep them.  The rest of me, though, hasn’t quite landed yet.

These two lives I’ve been living this year are so utterly different.  When I moved to the East, I had to adjust instantly; there was so much to do.  Here, there is no urgency.  The days are not planned for me.  I don’t need to be in specific places at specific times.  I don’t have a list of tasks with completion dates.  I just have Life – and I can choose how frenetic or leisurely to make it.

Then there’s the space.  My house is tiny by most people’s standards, but after seven months of single-room living I’m finding it strange to have a separate room for almost every activity.  It feels almost decadent.  I will readjust, but I haven’t yet.

Oh and the people!  I am a solitary soul by nature – quite happy with my own company.  Living alone suits me well and there were many occasions when, at the end of a frantic day with the grandchildren, I could shut myself into the little studio flat and unwind.  They were always nearby, though, and while I didn’t see them every day, there were never more than two or three days without company.  Here there are friends, and no doubt I’ll see all of them soon – when the missing bits of me have landed…

So what is it that is really bugging me?

Home.  That’s what.

‘Home is where your heart is’, so they say.  Trouble is, my heart is one of the bits of me that hasn’t landed yet.  It’s scattered in several different places.

You see, the town I’ve been living in for the last half-year is the town I called home for over thirty years.  It’s where I gave birth to and raised my three children, where I taught hundreds of others, where I forged all the most significant relationships in my life.  It’s also the place I ran from when my job and my marriage and my wellbeing became so compromised that I knew I needed a new start.

I ended up here, convinced that I’d found what I grandly called my ‘spiritual home’.  Glastonbury is a powerful place.  People say it chooses you, rather than the other way about.  Certainly, over the ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen many arrive with plans to make changes and give the place what they decide it needs.  Within six months, they are scuttling off, tails between their legs.  Glastonbury chews that sort up and spits them out.  Me?  Oh, it tolerates me well enough.  It shares it’s history and beauty and energy with me.  It accepts that I refuse to join any of its tribes (Pagans, Sufis, Goddesses, Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans, Alternatives etc.) and quietly plough my own furrow, but it doesn’t welcome me into the fold.

In the East, there are tribes, too, of course – the famed ‘Essex girls’ with their madly manicured nails, immaculately tinted hair, fake tans and glitzy fashion; the overweight mothers, bulging out of skin-tight lycra and screaming obscenities into their phones or at their children; the young men with smart suits and fast cars, chattering into their bluetooth headsets as they scurry hither and thither, and the cheery but dreary housewives, who have always lived there and always will, and thank providence for their uneventful lives.  I feel a stranger amongst them, too.

I often wonder if there’s a place where I’d fit – where my tribe can be found.  Certainly there are places I’m drawn to – places whose beauty leaves me gasping, and this is certainly one of them.  Is that a sufficient reason to stay here?

Well, why not?

After all, if this strange year has taught me anything, it’s that my body and my possessions will happily settle anywhere.  Maybe my heart and soul just need to float for a while longer…

 

 

 

 

Equinoxing

Equinox Sun Moon Landscape Mystical CloudsI revel in the magic and symmetry of the equinoxes – those two occasions in the year when darkness and light occur in absolutely equal quantities.  They mark a shift, a subtle but important tipping point in the year.  Here in England, the Autumn Equinox that falls today is the time when we shift from more-light-than-dark to the reverse.  From tomorrow onwards the days will be shorter and the nights longer.  They won’t equal out again until next March, when the spring equinox heralds the start of the long summer days to follow.

And so, today, I find myself equinoxing – pondering the wonder and timefull/timelessness of this seasonal ebb and flow and the perfection of this perfectly poised day when neither night nor day holds sway.

For me, the six months since the last equinox has been a time of special significance.  In late March, I was packing my bags to move across the country to be with my child and grandchildren at a time of great need.  Now I’m starting to pack again, ready to leave them in their new home and return to my own home in beautiful Somerset.

Here in the East, life simply goes on from day to day.  Few people remark on the changes beyond a shake of the head and a comment on how the nights are drawing in.  Back in Glastonbury there is no shortage of people wishing to mark each nuance of the natural year – from robed and garlanded goddesses, through drum-bangers, chanters and pipers to those who will joyfully strip off and cavort in the buff around sacred groves and hills.

Me?  I’m somewhere between the two.  Equinox is a time to stop, to take stock, to consider the lessons, blessings and memories of the past six months, when Summer ruled.  It’s a time, too, to contemplate the darker months that lie ahead; long evenings curled up beside the log burner with candles twinkling and a good book, peace and quiet after the frenzied activity of the summer and a chance to dream myself into the next phase of this amazing little drama that is my current ‘life’.

Equinox greetings and blessings to all.