A cloud of interests

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There wasn’t
time enough for all the wonderful things
I could think of to do

in a single day. Patience
comes to the bones
before it takes root in the heart

as another good idea.
I say this
as I stand in the woods

and study the patterns
of the moon shadows,
or stroll down into the waters

that now, late summer, have also
caught the fever, and hardly move
from one eternity to another.

Mary Oliver
From ‘Patience’
New and Selected Poems
Volume Two

Happy September! I’m having a quiet evening and feeling peaceful and mellow.

I’ve been thinking, too, about my automatically generated ‘tag cloud’ here, and of how it gives a pretty good account of some of my chief interests … inner life, contemplation, Edinburgh, poetry …

Autumn and winter will be warmed by an array of interests and occupations like these.

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archive – a list of all earlier posts

Time well spent

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I ‘read’ photographs in much the same way I read books: daily and with an eye to every detail. Memory teachers speak of the value in ‘attaching’ images to what we want to remember. I think I’ve always ‘thought’ primarily in pictures and poems but, while they’ve helped recall many things, they’ve been no use whatsoever to my non-existent mathematical skills!

I’ll revisit today’s collection of beach photos perhaps years from now – among hundreds of such collections of the same or similar subjects, and will almost be able to ‘feel’ the flashing of neurons: conversations half heard on the bus, temperature, cloud formation, the first lines of a poem in response to flashing past the familiar outline of Arthur’s Seat, the smell of the sun-warmed salted timbers of the coastal groynes, the extent to which the presence or absence of ‘the haar’ obliterates or magnifies Inchkeith Island set in Blackness Bay, the beach café and what I chose to eat, the evening light, the lines at the bus stop, innumerable details of all that I meet.

Words and imagery are, I suppose, external representations of the inner journals of our lives. While what we think shapes today’s reality and that of our future, that thinking is itself shaped by the ‘photographs’ of every second of our lives lived to date. So I believe that time spent with ‘good’ imagery is time well spent. Perhaps you’d guessed that already? 😉📷

Tidal river – Se souvenir

Four years after your
soul soared our days of baguettes
and paté delight me

💕✨for JMT

“This old fisherman’s house beside a tidal river in Morbihan is a place we visit in our dreams all year round. Rain, hail or shine in the UK, we remember the sights and sounds of the France I’m seeing and hearing now, on a quiet Sunday morning, as we’re summoning up the will to bestir ourselves to cycle down to the boulangerie for coffee, bread, morning pastries and watching the world go by.

There’s a definite hint of autumn in the air here. Conkers fallen to footpaths amongst the earliest shed leaves. Choral birdsong, bright and familiar, just feet away from the wide-open French windows. The exquisitely distinctive sound of the river lapping at its banks and the gentle turning of the boats as the tide changes. Apple trees laden. Poetic lines come to mind but none so fine as the waking to the sights and sounds of a riverside Sunday morning en Bretagne.”

Tidal River, 18 September 2016

The 10th

J and R 💕

Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living Child,
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome Wild.

O’er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

William Wordsworth
The Ballad of Lucy Gray

In sunny Funchal, Madeira, I’m thinking today, of course, of my beloved old Dad on what would have been his 90th birthday; he’d memorised all 16 stanzas of ‘Lucy Gray’ as a young teenager and his reciting the great poem for my late wife and I, word perfect, not long before he (and soon after, she) died, four years ago, is among my dearest memories. My parents’ enthusiasm for sailing oceans is with me now every day as I have followed suit – and it was a great joy to have my mother with me when, during a Mediterranean tour, we visited many of the holiday favourites of their early married years.

Oe’r rough and smooth we all trip along – and though, of course, we’re sometimes singing our ‘solitary’ song, and memory’s tears well in our eyes, still, in our hearts, our loved ones abide 💕

For all that has been, thanks
For all that will be, yes!

Dag Hammarskjöld

Shoreline

butihondo-fuerteventura_4.jpg
playa butihondo photo at hellocanaryislands

Down the dusty slope to the long sweep of
gold sand and the beach café’s garlic gambas
and Pablo’s distinctively rich dark brown
coffee where the chief scent of the morning

is of suncream and warmed skin and quiet
conversation is accompanied by
out-of-control symphonies of wind-blown
wires thrashing the masts of a rainbow of

sailboards – and yes – we come here every year
to tell again of the turquoise and the
turtles and shyly aware faithfulness
to-a-fault to these times and to these hot

prawns and coffee like this and even to
the same sun oil and quieting stilling
soothing murmur of the ocean of love
and abiding in hearts and souls that know

one another so well that the shoreline
paddling and the holding hands and the light
and the deep and the sad and the funny
conversation and affectionate and

glad recollection will carry us both –
after our falling into the deepest
of deep sleeps – unto shoreline and sunshine
of our universal eternity

Then and now and will be

IMG_7149.jpg

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

And on the hillside
where we stood
elevated
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
heard
like a song among the
stars, laughing and crying
held safe and aloft and
flying –
on that hillside
held and holding

Surprised
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

SRM

To sea or not to sea

There’s the usual debate about the sense or otherwise of bank holidays in the UK press today. Millions hoping to head into the stuff of dreams wind up overheated, frustrated and angry in miles long traffic jams on the motorway. When I have the choice between home or away on a bank holiday weekend I’ll pretty much always opt to stay. But dreams are important. I was enormously touched by one of Ruth Bidgood’s poems this evening:

Train to the Sea

When she was old, contented,
I think, with her inland home,
she said ‘One of these mornings
I’m going to get on a train
by myself, and go to the sea.’
It became just something she would say,
repeated with no urgency,
little conviction. No one felt any need
to help her set out on that small adventure.
No one thought she would do it, or even
that she truly wanted to go.

Yet after she died, I found her list
of trains to the sea, crumpled a bit
and thumbed, as if she had often
peered at it, making her plans.
But always in the end it seemed
a formidable, rash and lonely thing,
that little journey, and she calmed
her heart with small domestic things,
or saw rain coming, or heavy heat, and stayed.

Ruth Bidgood
Selected Poems, page 134

There’s life in dreams. They’re of the utmost importance, even, perhaps especially, for stayers.

Velcro or Teflon?

I’m a long-term devotee of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s many books and (enthusiastically recommended) daily meditations. He’s currently writing a series under the banner Alternative Orthodoxy and today’s piece hits a large nail squarely on the head. I hope that this “taster” will encourage readers (of all faith traditions or none) to follow the link to the full piece, and maybe go on to subscribe to the daily emailed Meditations.

Dan O’Grady, a psychologist and Living School student,
told me recently that our negative and critical thoughts
are like Velcro, they stick and hold; whereas our positive
and joyful thoughts are like Teflon, they slide away. We
have to deliberately choose to hold onto positive thoughts
before they “imprint” …

Neuroscience can now demonstrate the brain indeed
has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate
around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. In
fact, when a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing
comes your way, you have to savor it consciously for at
least fifteen seconds before it can harbor and store
itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t
stick. We must indeed savor the good in order to
significantly change our regular attitudes and moods.
And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro”
negative thoughts.

Excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Alternative Orthodoxy: Week 2 – Turning toward the Good
Thursday, February 18, 2016

This is game-changing stuff, I think, if we reflect a bit on the fact that the world’s contemplative and / or praying traditions have long intuited instinctively what sticks – and what doesn’t, what makes human persons feel positive, happy and fully awake – and what doesn’t.

Whilst some undoubtedly continue to think of prayer as ceremonial, or as a shopping list, or “Life” insurance policy, many, many others around the world have recognised, and are recognising the literally immeasurable benefits of savouring something ‘consciously for at least fifteen seconds’ so that ‘it can harbor and store itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t stick.’

What a difference 15 seconds, or 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes-worth of conscious savouring could make to everyone’s daily life. How did humankind manage to get something so fundamental to personal and corporate peace and concord holed up in exclusive religious institutions and complex commandments for so long? Consciousness-capability is an already-present charism or gift, in and for everyone. Let’s teach our children that, early.

It’s truly no wonder that the great teachers – the Prophets, the Buddha, the Eastern mystics and Jesus of Nazareth, together with the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis in our own time, and all the other great bodhisattvas, gurus, natives and sages through the ages – have been a bit suspicious of religiosity. Each, in their own way, has pointed humankind to the obvious fact of our evolving and growing.

Loving “success” in the growing process will involve appreciating (giving worth to or worshipping), considering, contemplating, feeling, hearing, knowing, meditating, praying, remembering, seeing, sensing, smelling, tasting, touching, uniting and velcro-ing-in goodness!

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
trust

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.