Momentous seasons give way, eventually, to quiet watching and thankfully slowed evening breathing …
While together at the coast the other day, one of my friends gave me this tiny, beautiful piece of lapis lazuli – blue stone – as ‘an offering to the sea.’
Etymologically, by way of Arabic lāzaward, Persian lājevard and Medieval Latin lazulum, we have ‘sky’ or ‘heaven’ : the Spanish and Portuguese azul comes from the root lazulum – so this is ‘a blue stone of or from the sky,’ or ‘stone from heaven’ – which is a rather special gift to receive from a friend.
We all swam – freezing for a while, but there was huge laughter, too. Warming – even before we gathered around a little fire. And in a quiet moment some day I will indeed offer this beauty to the shining ocean in sunlight. But, for a space, this little reminder of the firmament of our loving connections will stay with and close to me – and I will whisper a stream of thanks in every happy remembering.
Build it, and it will come
Empty out a drawer for someone
They will fill it
Share your work every day
People will find it
Walk and your legs will strengthen
Open your hours and your days will fill
Speak as though you’ve arrived
And reality will realign
Spring’s awakening in Edinburgh is wonderfully underway and I’ve been out and about early. Delicious coffee and cake @kates_edinburgh preceded one of my favourite sorts of morning: an amble – in no particular rush and in no particular direction. This is a city that ‘offers itself to your imagination’ (as Mary Oliver might have said of it) – no matter where one roams. Birdsong everywhere speaks today of their having ‘arrived’ (again) and of the energetic building of nests in empty spaces. A beautiful new coffee shop shares its work every day and ‘people will find it.’ My legs do grow stronger, and hours are containers for rich colours and conversations. I speak of my thankfulness and – awakening thereby – the realities of a new season do indeed ‘realign.’
Each season bears unique joys to us. There’s a mellowness about late summer / early autumn here that I’m always grateful for. A softening of the light. A softening succession of reflection at both morning and evening. A softening awareness of the importance of home – wheresoever ‘home’ may be for us at any given time.
Wildflowers have attracted hundreds of bees and butterflies so that the garden is full of the hum of satisfied pollen-seekers quietly going about their business. I’ve revelled for half an hour this morning in recalling a lovely Instagram photo I saw recently – of two replete bees, sleeping in the soft petals of a poppy, two of them together, because apparently they like to hold each other’s knees and feet while they sleep! Who knew? And the butterflies speak silently of the complex metamorphosing journeys they’ve been on. And so do I.
The red squirrels are stocking up supplies and I feel close to them as I stack the log store with sweet smelling kiln-dried ash for the stove. Occasionally split logs are reunited – or at least seen close to each other again – and their rings speak of their story too, and I wonder where the engineered oak boards of my little sitting room once flourished elsewhere, and from whence came this ash, knowing how well it will scent and warm home until it becomes whatever comes next.
The slant of the early sunlight illuminates the promises of the morning – and asks to be remembered should tomorrow be a grey day. And the colours of the garden flowers prompt thoughts of harvest – and especially, this morning, somehow, of the warm scent of harvest bread from a distance, far away …
Evening meals begin to move away from salad-stuffs, turning towards the more substantial – buttered and minted potatoes, greens and steak pie.
And after brisk walks, lungs full of fresh air, and daily reacquaintance with the long backbone of the Pennine Ridge and the Ullswater Fells – sometimes under mist and sometimes mirage, autumnal movement towards books and the piano again. The gentle, slow clip-clopping of horse and rider passing my window suggest that they, too, are inclined less to rush today and more to a quieter, calmer contemplation.
I know these gifts are important, and reasons enough for profound thankfulness in a world which is also beset with fear and wonder, a sense of separateness – between one human and another, and between humankind and other life forms too. I ask myself in late summer to make time to be aware of others – near and far, in peace or fear. I seek to be more aware of the gift of the breath in my body, and in every body. I wonder in awe at the sleeping holding of the bees’ knees, and the instinct that directs a red squirrel’s calendar. I celebrate the ‘I see!’ miracles that unfold into sunlight from the incomprehensible depths of wildflower seeds, and the life-story record written in the rings in trees.
And you and I contemplate the cyclical dying, and the rising of the light … 🌻🍂☀️
life’s great beauty is
discovered in both sunlit
clear and misty days
SRM – MM Haiku 98 Day 128
that there’s many a way to
brighten a grey day
SRM – MM Haiku 83 Day 113
when you go home tell them
of us and say ‘for your
tomorrows we gave our today’
perhaps you did not
see one hundred years ahead
yet Sir you graced each
thank you for singing
love and hope and memory
as you gave your all
you did not know me
but sacrificed anyway and now
live in Love in all
SRM – MM Haiku 51 Day 81
I don’t know how long I’ve got left, I don’t even buy green bananas
J B Priestley on growing old
Quoted in The Times
I’ve smiled whenever I’ve come across this observation down the years. And whilst I’m not yet at the turning down green bananas stage I deliberately call to mind what a great gift life and peace in and around me is, and celebrate each day thankfully.
Part of that thankfulness involves conscious daily awareness of the many who don’t have access to bananas, green or otherwise, or to shelter, food or water – some because they’ve never had it, others newly deprived of it. May there come a time for all humanity when shared awareness of “I don’t know how long I’ve got left” translates the world over to equitable, peaceful co-existence and an end to the daily destruction and profound torments and tragedies of war.
We’re just back from overnighting with a special friend who’d cooked an old favourite supper, baked buns and altogether spoiled us rotten – the evening morphing into one of those entirely relaxed catch-ups – as ABBA would have it – “The Way Old Friends Do”. Heartfelt thanks!
Thanks too to our dentist: poet, philosopher and all-round good fellow whose good dentistry is matched by good conversation, shared passion for books and the sheer privilege of being alive in the twenty-first century, and whose team make all-comers feel like members of their family.
And thanks for friends in Australia, the US (keep warm over there on the East Coast!), and the UK whose abiding encouragement, giftedness and many kindnesses are treasures I’m conscious of each and every day. And there’s been a special kind of magic, too, this week for a grandson who’s newly 4 and a granddaughter who has just found her feet!
Connection. What it means – and what a grace – to be human.
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
to the space in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that makes fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
simply because the space is there,
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.
Back from London by train last evening, having once again loved the buzz of the place, and the concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and the rugby crowds, and the good breakfast in the large shared dining room, the soaring architecture and the busyness … for a day or two.
We’ve harvested plenty of “fuel”. And now, curtains drawn across a cold and foggy night, kneeling before the stove at home to lay the logs and set the evening’s hearth, I am deeply thankful for the balancing space we enjoy in our lives; profoundly grateful for plenty of opportunity to “lay a log lightly”, allowing for space enough for “the flame that knows just how it wants to burn”.
I need to contemplate, to meditate, to pay attention to the Spirit’s flame, to the spaces in between.