Il poeta mi disse, ‘Che pensi?’ : Dante
Virgil stayed Dante with a wayside word;
But long, and low, and loud, and urgently,
The poets of my passion have I heard
It is their closest whisper and their call.
Their greatness to this lowliness hath spoken,
Their voices rest upon that interval,
Their sign, their token.
Man at his little prayer tells heaven his thought,
To man entrusts his thought – ‘Friend, this is mine.’
The immortal poets within my breast have sought,
Saying, ‘What is thine?’
Alice Meynell, 1847-1922
When Earth speaks silently of her mothering beneath a deep blue sky, and our lungs are filled with cool, clean, fresh air – may hope for Spring-time regeneration in the soul of all humankind prevail everywhere.
it will be our faces you will see, not our backs
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine 🇺🇦
Whoever we are, wherever we are, wherever we came from, wherever we hope to go – and especially today if we’re fearful, or feeling helpless – make eye contact.
It doesn’t matter with whom. All that’s needed is that they’re willing to gaze too. Let us learn to set words aside for a space, as often as may be, and simply to hold one another’s gaze. What we identify through the ‘windows of the soul’ is beyond words.
We turn from the windows to open doors and borders – and oddly, what we thought we saw in another we recognise, maybe for the first time in a long time, in ourselves.
8000 miles in diameter. We don’t take up an awful lot of space in the firmament but we sure make a lot of noise at times! I think I knew first time round that Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast was always going to warrant a second seeing soon. Oddly enough, years ago, I saw the 3+ hours long Titanic on two successive nights and was reminded today of her having been built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast’s famous shipyard – but I digress: I think I hoped I’d be able to shape a choate response to Belfast after second seeing. My friend and I agreed that, whilst the glorious cinematography stole hearts the first time, the nuanced and poignant dialogue won the day today. But further response? Still too early. Still too stunning. Especially poignant today – as Ukraine comes under fire. Words fail. I’m sitting in silence, gazing at a photograph of our small and precious planet, and for the umpteenth time I yearn for a quietening, wondering what – in the name of every imaginable good – what do we humans think we’re doing waging war with one another – nation upon nation, or one on one? When will we ever learn? My small silence reaches out unto the greater, knowing Silence. And recalling a bus, trundling down a tragic street, bearing away to unknown future a small and fragile family, far from all that had mothered them, parentally and metaphorically, I keen …
I think of my heartbeat as
silent until I
am silent and then
I hear peaceful music and
earlier there was
only the ache of a wide
and deep unknowing –
rhythm that asks me
to hush cacophany and
to be present with
echoing in the halls of
Why the storms in our lives? I’m thinking of the kind that flood rivers, whip up seas, bring down branches and trees, and tear down heavy roof slates. But also of the metaphorical storms that knock us off our feet sometimes, the kind that leave us ‘at a loss.’ For each of us, innumerable, unique, losses.
There’s never an easy answer is there? Never one simply understood reason. But our brains are hard wired to keep asking the questions anyway. And that, it struck me today, is why poetry has been one of the bedrocks of my life. Poets help me to process both my never-ending questions and my never-ending little-by-little answers. Poetry places me among community – the arena in which all our lives are lived and sometimes buffeted by ‘storms’ we can’t immediately (and perhaps never will) understand.
Little by little, poetry – ‘creating something’ – comforts and sustains me. Poets show me that big questions, little answers, and both storm and sunshine – are making something. And I am thereby encouraged to believe that, for all of us, there will be some ultimately good purpose in that ongoing creation.
So, I am a pen –
apparently an object
thought yet possessed of
ability to make marks
on paper that speak
of metaphor and
so I permit myself to
enquire from whence comes
that flows in my ink, from whence
and how, why and when? –
heady stuff for all
of us: women and men and
I came across some sage counsel in the University of Instagram a day or two ago …
EGO? Do yourself a favour – you want to enjoy your life? Drop the E and just GO
Yesterday I wrote of the inspirational collection ‘How To Love The World’ – the place and space in which I encountered Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. You can meet her there too – along with an entire firmament of other bright shining lights, all engaged, as we are, in learning how to ‘drop the E and just GO.’
You can also meet Rosemerry at TEDx – and find yourself delighting in a post-locked-down world beyond masks, frames and walls. And maybe for a while you’ll become a pen, a butterfly, an arrow, or simply walk a path, enjoying your perfectly imperfect lawn. It’s really up to you (and all of us). Really.
Stars resonate like a huge musical instrument
Bill Chaplin, asteroseismologist
Friendship is designed for the sharing of beautiful, thoughtful, wondrous things, isn’t it? And you are my friends, and I think you might love ‘How To Love The World’ (and beyond) as much as I do. Herein, Laura Grace Weldon, thinking on the words of an asteroseismologist, and writing of stars, notes: ‘I can’t hear them, but I’m told they / sing of things we have yet to learn.’
Oh, and there are other wonderful stars and colours and twinklings and music between these covers too. The Epigraph and the Foreword warrant several slow readings. And before you get to the words you might stay awhile with the cover, after which, opening, I think you’ll be opened. I hope so. And I am grateful for you.
* Thank you, Mama Cass: Dream a little dream of me 😊
David Whyte: from Santiago de Compostela ‘you do have the possibility of going on for three more days to this place called Finisterre … from the Latin, meaning ‘the ends of the earth,’ … the place where ground turns to ocean. The place where your present turns into the future’
How many times have you been to ‘Finisterre’ – and how many times have we wondered, all of us, about the unanticipated miracle? – that where ground gives way to ocean we become. We become voyagers. Wide awake, we set sail. We taste salt on our lips, and draw fresh air deep into our lungs, and ‘present turns into the future.’ This is the work of souls, the Camino, the Way. As one of David Whyte’s poetry collections has it, ‘The Sea in You.’
This beautiful photograph reminds me very much of one I stopped to capture (below) while visiting San Sebastián de la Gomera in January this year. I’ve been wondering what caught the eye of two photographers, in different places, each looking at weathered boards through a lens? And of course I can only speak for one of us!
What I think beautiful in these images is, precisely, the weathering seen in them. Once upon an unidentified time a painter stood before these shutters and they were beautified and made to look like new with shiny coats of paint. But as surely as the new exists in this world so too does ageing – and I contend that the beauty of the history brought to bear on these shutters – sunshine, wind, rain, heat and cold is shining today.
And further, that’s how it is for us. The rosy cheeked beauty of our human infancy is subject to the weathering of our days, and we must learn to recognise the ageing beauty in our unique stories. My friend Lori and I were conversing about the late, great poet John O’Donohue recently. Apparently, John was fond of posing the question ‘what would some of your unlived lives say to each other?’ We agreed that this would be a super discussion starter for a small group of close friends. Perhaps another question, for the same group of friends, might be ‘what would the lives you have lived say to each other?’
There’s history in these shutters, reaching all the way back to the rootedness of trees in the earth, and to the skills of glaziers, joiners and painters. And there’s history, rootedness, the works of craftspeople, and weathered beauty in each of us, too. Were the shutters to be flung open wide, what of life and love might be celebrated, contemplated, learned from, mourned, or otherwise reflected upon, inside?
Those old melodies still sound so good to me as they melt the years away
It’s true. But more than that, they sometimes catch me unawares and I find myself with a lump in my throat! Music is truly the most evocative of languages – like Dr Who’s Tardis it can whisk us away to other times and places in a flash. And it works as a kind of ‘virtual embrace’ – loved ones near and far, old and new, are brought again into one’s orbit, and are greeted with emotion – happy and sad, sad and happy, all of a oneness, and all unexpected, unsought. Musical notation and distinctive voices – sometimes no more than a word, or a string of two or three notes, are required to stir us – and the context of the original hearings is, of course, unique to each of us, whilst also bonding and unifying. Aaah. Those old melodies … gifts of life and of love.
Having mentioned VW Campers the other day I’ve been tickled as – celebrating my mother’s 86th birthday – we’ve been rifling old photo boxes en famille, and came across a lovely reminder that it wasn’t just camper vans that fed my imagination. Here’s a blurry Instamatic snap of yours truly beside Dad’s VW Beetle (or Bug as M&L might know it) and a tent that, to his young son, was better than a 5 star hotel. I can still smell the canvas, and recall the just-awake-doziness of a small camper being summoned by his father to breakfast, and the sound of the orange fishing line whizzing through the reel. I can hear the kettle, the sausages spitting in the frying pan, the songs we sang at the lakeside, and those especially resonant echoes by which all our lives are touched, as we write our unique autobiographical songs …
Happy birthday, Mum. We’ll remember today’s celebration for weeks and months to come – the wonderful meal, the family members gathered in spirit if not in person, the phone calls, the little gifts, the old letters and photographs, the being startled about exceptionally sharp memories of some things, and somewhat foggy ones of others – whilst the important fact of the matter remains our shared enjoyment in reminiscing.
Your birthday, like all birthdays, is special. And birthdays are special because they provide occasion for fond re-membering on the one hand, and also act as a kind of diving board into all the living that’s ahead of us all – saying, with Dag Hammarskjöld, ‘for all that has been, thanks: for all that will be, yes!’ We’re shaped by the passing of each and every year we remember, rooted in family and friendships.
And taking stock of how our years have made us who we are, we take especial note of our having been dearly loved in the course of our journeying. And as we think on being loved we realise that birthdays – and all our days – are still bringing new life to birth – yours and ours. Happy birthday, Mum. Thank you for all that you are. And may your everyday be a happy day.