Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that last erupted around 340 million years ago, presides over Edinburgh, Scotland’s glorious capital city. It reminds me of an elephant sleeping or meditating on its haunches, and I’m always excited to see it and the city skyline and sea views from its summit, no matter whether I’ve been away for days or months. So I won’t get much sleep tonight – as I’m heading back there tomorrow, already looking forward to seeing how far Spring has sprung, revelling in coastal walks, bookshops, cafés and friends, and possibly a few (more!) photos …
I acquired a mildly tanned visage when reading in my garden earlier this week. Tonight there’s frost in the air and a decidedly chilly few days forecast. But brighter, lighter, warmer days are on the horizon now and I stand ready to welcome every one of them.
without a book I might not look as deeply at others’ witnessing
The light on the page often corresponds with the warming illumination within – you’ll know the feeling.
Where in the world would I be without access to books (and – just as thankfully – to blogs these days) and the observation of, and witnessing to life that I encounter daily in others’ considered words and between lines; in sketched images, photography, and world-class art; in delightful etymological rabbit holes; between a book’s covers and its silent spaces?
In my library I keep close company with an extraordinary community of writers through the ages, some ancient, many modern, all bearing gifts – and I am forever grateful to each and all who introduced me to them …
Stories have a way of bypassing the intellect striving to understand. A story helps a person’s brain relax and intuitively understand how the teachings relate to them from the inside, rather than something coming at them from the outside. Most of the great spiritual teachings have come to us this way for this purpose. There’s no resistance to a story as there is to a directive.
Alex Mill A Shift To Love: Zen Stories And Lessons
Stories matter –
Yours, mine, those of our communities, nations, continents, all the species of life on Earth, and the unfathomable Universe.
Many are the accounts of warring parties coming together, the better to understand each other’s common humanity through the sharing of story in poetry and prose, even in the theatres of war (see Kim Rosen: Saved By A Poem for example) – a means by which we may recognise and honour the heart, soul, mind and body of another.
Story can bring wholeness to the warring elements within our own individual lives too.
Yes, some stories have the power to restore us to our fullest senses: sometimes indeed involving ‘A Shift To Love’ …
Dozens of lambs cheerfully cavorting like mini jump jets – many of them calling ‘mmmaaaaaam’ – have added to the sunshiny beauty of this Mothering Sunday. I’ve been chatting on the phone with my 86 year old mum while out walking this afternoon. Were I still to have her energy, enthusiasm and zest for life at that age I shall be a happy man! Meanwhile ‘happy is how I look / and that is all …’ – be it in Lakeland, in Edinburgh, or in dozens of other wonderful places, all around the world. And happier? – yes, when I think of the peace that must come for Ukraine and other war-torn nations – sooner, rather than later.
To get close-up to Springtime unfolding in nature is to encounter experience of awe and wonder. Every tiny hair and stem and vibrating atom invites me to deep contemplation: why such beauty? Why such variety? Why me, and this capacity that I have, and you have, to experience our environment in such deeply affecting ways? And my sense of gratitude, my awareness and observation, my being here, reaching out and reaching in – is something akin to love …
A year ago today I spent a sunny couple of hours reading an old favourite novel in Edinburgh’s Meadows – with a flask of good coffee, pain au chocolat, and a deep sense of thankfulness for the arrival of warmer days in one of my favourite places. And in a week’s time I’ll be there again – still largely unable to explain what it is about Edinburgh that draws me so much and so inexorably … only knowing that it does, it does …
Caoineadh Cú Chulainn, Bill Whelan Uilleann Pipes, Tara Howley
This is lament and love for an entire culture: a piece about mourning Cú Chulainn, a warrior hero and demigod in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. The underlying ‘drone’ of orchestral harmonies that are gradually heard here, like ‘dawn’ behind and around the lone (in this case, female) Uilleann piper, may bring tears to your eyes. Our lives are surrounded and supported by ‘other’ sounds – the cantus firmus, the enduring melody.
Friends have responded to a musical note at the end of my piece about Riverdance the other day: that it might usefully take up a post in its own right. ‘Lament’ has a place in all our lives as an encourager of reflection, a being present to what is, now, and an invitation to hope for the future, even when ‘the times’ feel bleaker than bleak – immense courage notwithstanding. This morning I heard a young girl, a seven year old soloist, beautifully singing the Ukranian National Anthem in a crowded Polish stadium. I cried. And I cry out, reaching for hope and harmony. Riverdance (and all that the notion of a river’s ‘dance’ might imply) came to mind, in company and in harmony with treasured friends, and again and again I have listened to the depth in this Lament – and invite you today, in the coming days, and months and years, to listen and to lament too – because harmonies do dawn – quietly, courageously, and persistently. And tears carry pain away down-river – to join in the being held, by a vast ocean.
Further to last evening’s post, I’ve been thinking again about some of our perceptions of time: ancient, demanding, dreamy, fast, fussed, future, governed, history, idling, loved – or not, making, meandering, measured, medieval, modern, slow, hassled, hurried, 🎵 never ending or beginning, old, wanting, working, worrying, wasting, young = beautiful, old = decrepit – in the windmills of your mind …
Aches come about when we allow our human experience of time to get out of kilter: when we try too hard or for too long to hammer opposition, push growth, finish faster, win hearts, ‘conquer’ nations, security issues or workloads, pump muscles, grind corn or wheat or gears. And sometimes muscles ache, sometimes hearts ache. Sometimes minds and souls crash to a standstill. Sometimes. Often, even.
But the budding trees and flowers in my garden in still-a-bit-wintry-looking early Spring? What’s their perception of time? Have they been resisting winter? Has the apple told the acer ‘I hate cold! Can’t wait for Spring! Wish I was somewhere else’ ? Well, maybe. I can’t know. But I guess not. Frost, gale, sunshine or snow – the movement I observe in my garden is slow. And year-round miracles occur in its quiet state of simply being.
A hugely rewarding and satisfying day, but every muscle in my body aches tonight after a sunshine-inspired bout of extended Spring cleaning – indoors and out. Tomorrow I shall try to follow Nature’s way. Budding leaves and flowers take things slowly … 🌱☀️☕️
where great art is found joy and hope abound in life’s expressive dancing
Absolutely astonishing! – I’m just back from a 25th Anniversary live screening of Riverdance (link) – ‘as much a phenomenon as a show.’ Thirty-something years ago I was spellbound by the intense connection between Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean dancing on ice at the Birmingham NEC to Ravel’s Bolero. I remember being well-nigh overwhelmed, deeply touched by such communion and trust between two persons.
Riverdance, today, is an extravaganza. A most exquisite, generous and magical celebration of Irish life, love, history, mystery, joy and pain. Hauntingly beautiful Uilleann pipes, accordion, drums, fiddle, harp, song and whistles. Electrifying, foot-tapping, synchronised Irish (and American and Russian) dancing. Utterly gorgeous costume and staging. Wow! the arts can teach us a thing or two about community, connection, and the rewards of discipline: ‘like any athlete, we think of ourselves as striving in our sport to be the very best that we can be.’
I am deeply delighted. And humbled. And – because such art exists among humankind – also profoundly hopeful.
Caoineadh Cú Chulainn, Bill Whelan Uilleann Pipes, Tara Howley
This is lament(link) and love for an entire culture: a piece about mourning Cú Chulainn, a warrior hero and demigod in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. The underlying ‘drone’ of orchestral harmonies that are gradually heard here, like ‘dawn’ behind and around the lone (in this case, female) Uilleann piper, may bring tears to your eyes. Our lives are surrounded and supported by ‘other’ sounds – the cantus firmus, the enduring melody