We’re living in tumultuous times – pretty much wherever we live. All of us do well to spend at least some time each day focusing on things that bring us joy, and that has always been the chief intention of this very personal blog. Autumn in Edinburgh – mist and blown gold today – affords daily opportunity to practice that intention.
more @gardenstudiogram | click to enlarge
Too often, we move through the physical world as if it were a stage set, a mute backdrop for our daily activities. Yet in reality it is alive with opportunities for inspiration, wonder, and joy.
Ingrid Fetell Lee
Joyful: The surprising power of ordinary things to create extraordinary happiness
I’ve been quietly watching clouds set in a blue sky today, and poppies nodding in the breeze, and birds, and bees.
I’ve noticed the scent of the coffee and the granite counter cleaner in my kitchen, and taken time to prepare and trim the beans gifted to me across the garden fence by my neighbour.
I’ve swept the first of fallen autumn leaves, decided I must be patient and allow apples a little longer on the tree, enjoyed a productive hour with Duolingo in the sunshine, read a bit, walked a bit, eaten well, had a nap, and thought a lot about Ingrid Fetell Lee’s proposed opportunities.
I read and watch the News sometimes, of course, but I’m conscious of imbalance in the reporting. Apparently newsrooms, too busy with former presidents and future prime ministers (as though – dubiously – these were the most important ‘news’ in the world), don’t often have time (or perspective) to make decisions about apple trees, or singing, or sweeping up leaves. Never mind. I shall be (and you can be) happily responsible for these.
Writing is a journey of discovery that takes me places that I never expected …
… a friend wrote to me today. And – in the way of such things – I have been taken thereby to places that I never expected, wondering all day about the extraordinary gift of languages in words, and in music, which can sometimes transport our words so exquisitely.
When I was first moved by Les Miserables in the 1990s I remember being sure in my mind that Marius’ grieving in Herbert Kretzmer’s Empty Chairs and Empty Tables was not for one revolution alone, but for every reflection and reconsideration of past, present and potential. A Universal Song.
Hearts are breaking all over the world for innumerable reasons today. Too many empty chairs and empty tables. I find myself awed by the purity of young Cormac Thompson’s rendition here – a clarity that carries an invitation to reflect straight to human hearts.
May our words be quiet, kind and clear; may our music sometimes be hope-filled silence – so that we really hear both, allowing ourselves to be reshaped, that we may the better transform our world. A quiet revolution. Thus may we be taken to unexpected, perhaps joy-filled and hopeful places.
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day
Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss
I’ve been pondering the limitations by which my worldview is sometimes blinkered – and I try a movement test to see if I’m stiff-necked.
Joy of joys I rediscover a high degree of mobility. I can turn to look to left and right, in front, behind, look down and further down, and up into clouds, and an infinity of literally extra-ordinary starlight. I can catch a falling star. What an intricate wonder I am, and you are.
I can choose to be blinkered today. Or – up, down, forwards, backwards, side to side – I can celebrate my place in Universe, bright-shining among the seen and the unseen. Infinite.
Photo by Jacob Mathers at Unsplash
An Underground Rail Strike led to pandemonium in London this drizzly morning. Major bus delays and absolute lock-jam for cars meant that I missed my booked train home to Edinburgh, and – shrugging my shoulders – surrendered to having to buy a new ticket for a later train – which delivered me, four and a half hours after boarding, to sunny Scotland.
But the inconvenience en-route isn’t really the point of my story. That would be Khadija, a young Somalian woman, the driver of my mini-cab-going-nowhere, who is so full of joy-filled sunshine we might have been reliving yesterday’s ABBA Concert. ‘Hellooo,’ she exclaimed several times in the course of a 50 minute crawl, ‘Hellooo: we’re alive! I woke up today and I thought ‘hey! – I’m still here.’’
And I came to learn about Khadija’s family, and about how Covid lockdowns had on the one hand rendered her unable to work (mini-cab driving) and on the other hand, immeasurable joy: she’d volunteered to support neighbours who struggled to shop, or with loneliness. She brought them food and – I don’t doubt for a second – entire summers’ worth of sunshine. But all this was nothing, Khadija told me, compared to the joy that those ‘helped’ gave, and continued to give, her.
Khadija is raising small children – and the well-being of her neighbourhood. ‘Other people reflect back to us all that we decide to be ourselves, each and every day. Smile and be happy then. And what you get back will have you sayin’ ‘Hellooo: we’re alive!’’
Missed trains and traffic jams, like clouds, have silver linings. I’ll long remember the ABBA concert and a lovely dinner in Paddington with my brother, his wife, and an old friend. But I won’t be forgetting conversation with Khadija anytime soon either: ‘you know what’s really great about my job? You get to see, every day, that the world is FULL of really beautiful people.’
THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC of your joy, Khadija!
The heart is not like a songbird
singing only one note at a time
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
For When People Ask
(link to poem)
The signs of Spring are all around us and we can’t stop our spirits rising to sunlight, crocuses, cherry blossoms, blue skies and daffodils – even while torn, conflicted, shattered, and full of admiration, too, for Yaroslava, the young Ukranian woman who wrote:
the birds were singing. I felt relieved. Dreamt about how I would be traveling around the world with my peace mission …
Rosemerry’s poetic touching upon the meaning of paradox is a gift that I shall return to often – a psalm of life, a profound reflection, something I know I will share with fellow wondering, wandering pilgrims for years to come, a great grace that has steadied my faltering.
I am astonished by, and profoundly grateful for the two wonderful women cited here – each bearing the weight of unimaginable pain. Each insistently singing more than one note at a time – and effectively inviting me (and all of us) to cry and laugh and love and dream and pray and sing along …
Sometimes I’m surprised by the most vivid memories of people, places, thoughts and treasures – and I’m so thankful for the wonders of the reflective human brain, albeit that as a young schoolboy I was convinced that mine was duller than everyone else’s!
These images, captured in Edinburgh a year ago, make me glad to be alive – and hugely looking forward to my forthcoming return there. I am one of life’s ‘returners.’ I love to retrace my steps in the times and spaces that have brought the joy in the centre of me most fully to life – even whilst occupied, too, with the new.
I am so lost for words when I think of Ukraine today that I hardly dare speak of it at all. But being ‘lost’ is no excuse for forgetting – and I am in awe of the courage, hope and kindness that we’ve seen coming to the fore in many a news bulletin – in the face of truly unspeakable events.
Perhaps we all love to retrace at least some of our steps? Perhaps our human ability to ‘relive’ joy is one of our chief sources of fuel for life – and even for facing up to the reality of (our own) death; for courage in times of darkness, for compassion when we hear another’s crying, for hope when everything we hold dear appears threatened?
Keeping a small personal record of experiences, people, places and things that bring me joy is one of the chief reasons for the existence of this blog. In 2021 the magical city of Edinburgh has been a source of almost unquantifiable delight. It’s a place where it is – quite simply (and yet, of course, profoundly) great to be alive …
how is this joy-filled
joy of a boy a year old
SRM – MM Haiku 86 Day 116
What an enormous privilege it was to be invited to capture some images of a vibrant and wonderfully ‘alive’ book launch for Julie Carter’s Running The Red Line on 21 April at The Skiddaw Hotel, Keswick. There’s nothing quite so wonderful as a room full of inspiring and inspired, encouraged and encouraging, charismatic and articulate friends – gathering to celebrate something profoundly rich – and thereby ‘write in light’, creating living poetry in the electrified air.
Broadband users, please click on the image above for a photobook (pdf) which will download in around 30 seconds. Best viewed full screen.
We walked, still, even
after her energy had
waned far, unreplenished
by the ordinary grace of
food once consumed easily
and by most simply taken
And in the walking saw
and felt again and again
that nourishment may
be drawn for the soul
though the physical frame
tires and slows and evening
memories and warming
hopes long held and yet
aspired to. Yes, we walked
still. And as though they had
been aware of a greater than
on Christmas Day in rain
around mid-afternoon and
a five mile tramp from our
beloved fireside she stooped
to feel snowdrops newly
raised from earth between
Not too late this arrival –
not too late – it was a
and is now a photograph
developed upon the backdrop
of my mind. Souvenir
We have come. We remember
And we walk, still
again and again
I’ve been longing to find a couple of hours to begin to get to grips with Affinity Designer, new software I’m cock-a-hoop about. After adding some super new brushes and absorbing some encouragement and samples by Frankentoon today, I’ve been completely and happily occupied this evening – and blithely thought I’d share the fruit of that delight. Just for the joy of it. Only the beginning of what I hope will be a long friendship with Affinity. But already I love it.