Summer cleaning

Once upon a time people celebrated an activity called Spring cleaning. So far as I was aware there wasn’t a summer, autumn or winter version. But we’ve got well and truly stuck into Summer cleaning over this bank holiday weekend: dead-heading daisies and a general garden tidy-up, regathering books that had taken walks all over the house, filing papers, tidying the desk, dusting, vacuuming, a bit of reordering here and there. And truth to tell … it has all been deeply satisfying!

Delicate shiftings

Before, he had only really thought of his sense of hearing as something purely practical, to help him detect food and avoid enemies, but during this time it became a conduit through which he was able to receive and understand the delicate shiftings of the world.

Ahn Do-hyeon
The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

How will our troubled humankind find the wherewithal to get back upriver? Only, I believe, when we take the counter-intuitive route, or conduit, of deeply contemplative and compassionate listening. Less condemnation and brutish retaliation. Deeper receiving and understanding.  More delicate shiftings … all the way home.

Not much to report

Not much to report at the end of another day of domestic upheaval – save to say that the interior work is nearly complete. Tomorrow evening the library shelves can be ordered properly again and we’re very delighted that everywhere’s looking wonderfully clean and fresh.

Then again, on that very same domestic front there is some glad news to report. Many years ago we bought an already old marble chiming clock. Suffice to say that it is treasured and that we have been sad that, being much travelled, (an indignity for a venerable clock) it has not functioned beyond the occasional unexplained half-hour’s worth of tick-tocking for the past few years. I know, I know! We ought to have had it round to the horologist’s before now but, well, you know how it is.

Anyway, something about having its environment turned upside down in the name of interior decoration has agreed with our beloved clock. Presently resited, pride of place in our kitchen, I’m contentedly contemplating time’s gentle movement, minute by minute. Of course I can check my wristwatch, my iPhone too. But it’s not the same. I’m an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud dotty about “proper” clocks since childhood. Thirty-six hours restored pendulum-swing to date, and counting. And to celebrate we’ve looked up a friendly home-based horologist to arrange a bit of interior redecoration for the grand old timepiece. About time.

Spruced up white

We’re presently having our home spruced up by a wonderfully efficient and amiable team of painters, from top to bottom, inside and out. And we can see already that it’s absolutely going to be worth it, albeit that our minimalist tendencies (when we’re not talking library!) always stay with same old, same old white!

But one forgets how exhausting it is. Walls can’t be painted unless the furniture’s moved; bookshelves can’t be painted unless row upon row upon row of books are not first boxed and stacked – said boxes stacked neatly enough, but usually right where painter number two needs to be in five minutes.

And all the “stuff” in bathrooms, kitchen, lounge, dining room, study and bedrooms looks just fine when in its usual home neatly placed. But there seems to be more than you ever dreamed you owned when the painter’s brush is itching to get into every nook and cranny, quickly. Oh, and dry cleaning curtains. Did I mention the curtains?

Hey but the understairs cupboard has been bottomed too. Half a dozen good but unused coats were delivered to the charity shop this afternoon, together with a station wagon’s load of other surplus. And we’re seeing the merits of being able to find that which was lost forever in the blink of an eye. This is good. We are going to be soooo pleased with ourselves by the end of next week. And Marie Kondo would be proud of us – and come to think of it, the joys of being spruced up are such that I think I’ll re-read her inspirational book. And then there’ll be some more de-cluttering still!

Oh, and the light. Of the new white 😉 (but we’re not doing it again in a hurry!)

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.

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 …