Then and now and will be


for JMT, 1960-2018, on the eve of her birthday

And on the hillside
where we stood
the something that passed
between us
as though it were a
tidal current was already
as old and as new as the
Ancient of Days – in the
retrospect and in the
there and then and now
and in the prospect of
all eternity

That light, that current –
illumination and anticipation
launched a something that
is the everything
Immortal –
Yes, something to be
like a song among the
stars, laughing and crying
held safe and aloft and
flying –
on that hillside
held and holding

you and I encountered a
Divine Love and knew it to be
an Undying
in us, primarily
in those graced moments
but also in whomsoever –
and all are ultimately
capable of simply
letting go, and smiling and
then the final thankful sighing –
oh, little one, yes, you
great one

Elevated, celebrated: I love you


Generative action

The action in a universe of possibility may be
characterised as generative, or giving, in all
senses of that word – producing new life, creating
new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning,
contributing, yielding to the power of contexts. The
relationship between people and environments is
highlighted, not the people and things themselves.
Emotions that are often relegated to the special
category of spirituality are abundant here: joy,
grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion.

Rosamund Stone Zander
Benjamin Zander
The Art of Possibility, page 20

What would “a universe of possibility” look like? There are times when the assorted tumults of this world give rise to some measure of despair in all humane and thinking persons. At such times we do well to afford ourselves some breathing space, some time for imagination’s being given free rein. What would such a universe look like?

Ben and Rosamund Zander dream dreams. I turn to their wonderful book wherever and whenever I need a bit of a lift. What would such a universe look like? … joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion … generative and giving.

The Wind on the Downs

The Wind on the Downs

I like to think of you as brown and tall,
As strong and living as you used to be,
In khaki tunic, Sam Brown belt and all,
And standing there and laughing down at me.
Because they tell me, dear, that you are dead,
Because I can longer see your face,
You have not died, it is not true, instead
You seek adventure in some other place.
That you are round about me, I believe;
I hear you laughing as you used to do,
Yet loving all the things I think of you;
And knowing you are happy, should I grieve?
You follow and are watchful where I go;
How should you leave me; having loved me so?

We walked along the towpath, you and I,
Beside the sluggish-moving, still canal;
It seemed impossible that you should die;
I think of you the same and always shall.
We thought of many things and spoke of few,
And life lay all uncertainly before,
And now I walk alone and think of you,
And wonder what new kingdoms you explore.
Over the railway line, across the grass,
While up above the golden wings are spread,
Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see your khaki figure pass,
And when I leave the meadow, almost wait
That you should open first the wooden gate.

Marian Allen
from The Wind on the Downs,
Humphreys, 1918

Friendships, peace, and freedom of movement in Europe and beyond are of profound importance to me.

I’ve always failed to understand the attraction of too-proud-nationalism – on the battlefield or the sports arena. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of being required to take up arms against another person.

I cannot be persuaded that my political, religious or social beliefs and opinions are the only ones worth having. I have virtually no inclination to set myself in competition with anyone. I’m frequently dumbstruck by the casual violence implicit in the way some people speak of others.

I smiled wryly when I recently read an earnest report about the (relatively benign) effects of light pollution, wishing dearly for higher concentration instead on the thumping noise pollution that blights town and countryside alike. I’m genuinely and generally horrified by the uninvited racket that accompanies such a great deal of cinematic and television output, and even just ordinary social engagement.

And I am frequently beleaguered by the impression that some in our society are absolutely obsessed with gratuitous violence as forms of filmed and televised “entertainment”.

I was touched to the core when I first read Marian Allen’s The Wind on the Downs. I felt I knew her. But more, more even than that, my heart was touched by the millions of other hearts who, for similar reasons, have written poems like this one throughout human history; and by those who are writing similar poetry today, and will be – perhaps with stubby pencil on scraps of paper whilst crammed on board a dangerously overloaded inflatable boat, or perched in the midst of bombed-out dusty concrete dereliction in Syria, tomorrow.

Here still I see your khaki figure pass,
And when I leave the meadow, almost wait
That you should open first the wooden gate.

I want to learn from Marian Allen’s humility, and from the sacrifice of her beloved. And I pray for a personal way of life, and for a humankind, whose first and last priority is – here-and-now – a generously humble, inclusive, quietly reflective and loving heart.

It’s the silence


It’s the silence that’s the really important
thing – three or four times a day if that’s
remotely possible

It’s the silence that’s the really important
thing because the cave-like walls around the
edges of the no-noise afford resounding
echoes of the silent music you really need to
remember, the in-breath, the out-breath, the
heartbeat, the murmur

Not so much THE, actually, but rather hers, or
his, your own dear co-creators who gaze out
lovingly, with attentive eye and ear and scent
and taste and touch, from the very heart and
source of an infinite waterfall that heals and
raises dead things buried deep in damp earth
and irrigates the depths of the soul

It’s the silence that’s the really important
thing – three or four times a day if that’s
remotely possible

because that’s where the deepest encounters
take place, that’s where you meet vivacity
that’s where you know that because She’s still
breathing, singing, laughing, being, weeping,
growing, making – so, too, in all eternity

you are, in I AM


Elements of belonging

Last evening I got lost in a reverie with David Whyte’s poem Working Together: master teacher of the arts of evocation and of invocation, his poems “haunt” me, hovering in and around me, in much the same way Mary Oliver’s do, or May Sarton’s, or William Stafford’s. Poets who become our favourites do so, I guess, because something of their form, heart, precision and soul takes up residency somewhere deep, deep, deep within us.

… may we, in this life

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine

David Whyte
from Working Together
The House of Belonging

Though I knew of the late John O’Donohue’s sublime works (Anam Cara – soul friend; Divine Beauty etc) before I discovered David Whyte, I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised when I learned that the two were the closest of friends. Each, consciously or unconsciously, writes blessing. The poetic voice of each – the sound, the timbre, the vibration – are heard once, never to be forgotten … may we, in this life / trust …

Some lovely video footage of John, writing at home, comfortably seated beside an Irish peat fire, has left me with a burning desire some day to visit The Burren [YouTube], perhaps to encounter the soul of the great man in the vast and ancient open spaces there, and maybe, by some miracle, to bump into his old friend David Whyte who, I like to imagine, still walks and remembers there from time to time … to those elements / we have yet to see …

But the actual going there, to The Burren, will not, I think, be necessary, even if someday achieved and delighted in. For the poetry of life has already done its work, and friendships I delight in – some of whom I’ve set eyes on, and some of whom I haven’t, have already been shown to be gifts and graces of that ultimate Oneness for which we instinctively reach. All that’s necessary each day is for me to meditate, remember or imagine.

A very small tree

A special friend wrote to me very movingly a few days ago about a process of “packing and purging” currently going on in her life. These are the “fire” moments in all our lives aren’t they? – the searing moments – and we’re none of us overly keen to think about them too much, though, deep down, we have memories of many a fiery occasion that turned out to be a quite out-of-the-ordinary grace. We absolutely can’t help but ask “Why?” – and we’ve all said heaven-only-knows-how-many-times: “I don’t ask for it. It just happens …”

Anyway, all my musing and pondering about purging, and searing, and life’s moving we-know-not-quite-where, reminded me of a Psalm Down-Under written, rather hopefully, by someone called Joy! –

The Burning Bush

I am a very small tree in a desert
and I am touched by the breath of God.

I don’t ask for it. It just happens,
a suddenness inside me and then a presence
of wind and flame, burning, burning,
and I cover my eyes with my fears,
knowing that I am too small and too frail
to bear this firestorm of love.

I cry out, ‘God, God, what are you doing?
I have always needed your Sunday warmth
but I can’t cope with this searing
which feels like both heaven and hell.
You leave no part of me untouched.
That’s not what I planned.
Please go away!’

There is no answer in the wind and flower,
but little by little, the blindness of my fear
is dissolved and I see with clear eyes
that the desert round me is no longer a desert.
It has been lit by the strong flame of love,
every bush, every tree transformed beyond itself.
I am not alone in this. I never was.
Every living thing has been summoned
to be on fire with the love of God
and to turn all barren places
into sacred ground.

Joy Cowley
Psalms Down-Under

Where your heart is

I’ve been thankful today for the loving good karma that a dear friend takes such good care to communicate to the world. And I’ve been thinking about her a lot because, with her husband, she’s packing up their long-loved home and preparing to move to pastures new and largely unknown. And that ain’t easy – even when one could write a thousand paragraphs about why it’s a good idea. So I find myself wanting to abide for a moment with some words I heard thirty+ years ago – a snippet from a show-song in a youth-club production:

Home is where your heart is. It’s your resting place …

Not for a moment do I presume to make light of the pain involved in any saying farewell to the old and moving bravely onwards into the new. I only want to say to this particular friend, by way of the good karma that reaches across oceans, that the big-heartedness that built the present home – the loving effects of which reach far, far beyond its walls, and immeasurably further than just her immediate family and friends, will be going with her!

It’s the same big-heartedness that years ago touched many lives – even without her knowing – through the role of camp counselor, and has gone on to touch countless other lives in innumerable staging posts since. This big-heartedness – which is such a blessing precisely because it is happy and sad, brave and fearful, giving and honest and thankful – is going to fill a new home. And the days will come, ‘ere long, when the new has grown familiar whilst there’s deep and thankful recognition that the old heart came along too – having left traces of its presence wheresoever it has thus-far travelled along life’s way.

Friends are thinking of you, Big-Heart, even miles and miles away …