A little bit of Rilke

Eileen, a fellow writer and a new friend, mentioned Rainer Maria Rilke’s glorious circling leitmotif in one of her shared pieces at our writers’ group yesterday. Some of us were reminded (and moved to be reminded) of the Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast’s exquisitely expressive rendition – all the more glorious because of David’s profound understanding of the universality of The Great Song – the circling that embraces all of us, and everything.

Life school


for MWG – during and after corporate meditation

I used to love to walk to school on sunny Spring mornings. The quieter hours still possessed of the mossy, dewy scents of the night – mildest of breezes softly stirring the trees of the park, and dappled light – already suggesting the new dawns that would awaken the synapses of my ever dawdling, day-dreaming brain.

Yes. I have long thought myself familiar with the colours of the spectrum; that I could name them, that I could assign to each a musical note, that I owned favourite orchestral symphonies of light.

But every new day brings surprises – and the sometimes primal response that mists our sight with tears of yearning, or recognition, or unknowing, or delight, or prayer, or a sense of the most exquisite new openness to the charism, the gift of the Universe offering her provision – the ultimate and eternal grace of Love.

And I was surprised indeed by the glory and the colours I encountered in Barcelona’s great Temple of Light. In La Sagrada Família I mistily knew myself a member of the one great and ‘Holy Family’ the Universe herself. No single one of us ever fully cognisant of the glories of creation’s rainbow – while each of us is graced with ever-changing experience of hues and colours yet unnamed.

Robert’s good counsel

Barcelona – click once / twice (or pinch) to enlarge

‘Sorry, I’m a bit pushed for time today,’ I said to my friend Robert twenty years or so ago. ‘I’ve got to think of something to say to a large assembly of the Women’s Institute tonight. Their invitation asks me to speak on ‘any subject that takes your fancy’ and I’ve come a bit unstuck.’ ‘Nonsense!’ said Robert (and RSC will know exactly who he is!) – ‘just go and tell them about one or two things that really light up your life.’

So for an hour and a half or so I told a large gathering of women my story about what it had been like to live and study for a month on the very edge of Bethlehem, wandering into Jerusalem in the early mornings to buy my daily newspaper, about the colours of the souks, the sounds of the calls to prayer, the scent and the sound of olive groves, of sunrise, and of sunsets over the Judaean desert, of ancient history, and of contemporary youths singing together in groups outside, in late evening warmth, eating ice cream.

Many further such invitations followed. ‘You speak with stars in your eyes and in the telling’ one kind soul told me after an evening during which I’d thought I’d wittered on too much. How often, since, I have thought of Robert’s ‘tell them about one or two things that really light up your life.’ How very often since then I have noticed the things that light up my life. And though aware that tonight you won’t be able to hear me, I can nevertheless show you – as quickly or as slowly as you decide – some such recent lights in Barcelona, Cataluñya, España … with stars – and gratitude – in my heart x


Donde el arte y la pasión se encuentran


click on individual photos to enlarge

Where art and passion meet

My friend Mimi is chief among my encouragers where photo-journalling is concerned. With her usual enthusiasm and generosity of spirit Mimi spoke of enjoying “seeing Barcelona through your eyes.” If my beloved friends and family could only know how often I feel I’m seeing simply allsorts on their behalf as well as my own!

How to describe the extraordinarily vibrant and cosmopolitan city that is Barcelona?

Well: I’ve come to the conclusion that only the presentation of all things colourful comes near to proper description here. From tens of thousands raising their own heartbeats and ours in the Barcelona half marathon this morning, through a breathtaking spectrum of colours throughout the rest of the day, culminating in one of the best flamenco shows I’ve ever seen, heard or felt vibrating in my very bones, Domingo en Barcelona es

Donde el arte y la pasión se encuentran …

And I’m glad to be alive and marvel!

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Eccentric and wholly holy

Antoni Gaudi’s Catalan Basilica shocked me today – in the literal sense that I was rendered dumbstruck and tearful. Every time I tried to articulate a response I was overwhelmed. Words refused to take their usual shape on my tongue. My eyes flowed.

This House (which I saw late evening yesterday from the outside) utterly enthralled me on the inside. It ‘restored my soul’ – renewing my faith in humankind. That one person should imagine such a glorious, and eccentric, and wholly holy tribute to the Divine is miracle enough. That the thousands already involved in the project should be able to build such an edifice in this or any other age is quite another.

No other basilica I’ve encountered has a built-in Christmas tree fabricated in stone – sculptured shelter for Doves of Peace – nor giant snails sliding down its exterior walls, nor bunches of grapes, oranges and limes, horses and knights on their courses, and echoing music that appears to own colours as well as notation. This House is soaring, glorious, magisterial, stone crazy, profound, deep, high and utterly proximate. It is unforgettable. It is a covenantal rainbow. It speaks of a Christos, an anointed one, who reaches and teaches inter-faiths as openly and as far as any of us might imagine ‘universe’.

This House is not mean. It’s an abode that doesn’t look for the pecuniary counsel of the average church council. This dwelling-place is above and beyond average! – as all such temples of Life-Spirit (you and me) should be. Like that great artist of Life, Jesus of Nazareth, this earthly home spares no expense. Oil for anointing (yours, mine, or Mary’s) simply costs what it costs, and anticipates – like the Vocation of the Anointed. No cost is too high. The Divine Incomprehensible gives and anoints and lives and dies and lives extravagantly (heavens, look again at those colours), generously, and universally. And makes of every ever-changing shade and hue of humankind, indeed of all creation, a universally present Sagrada Família. Yet the basilica openly asks something of us – including an entrance fee. This tent invites us to make a gift of both our cogniscence and our ignorance, our understanding and our lack of it. And here this seems appropriate and proper.

The exchange and the offertory afford me opportunity to add something, to contribute something to the ongoing art, fabrication, consecration, adoration, admiration and – in the widest possible sense – the conversation, the prayer. And whether from the outside or the inside it invites me to be – perhaps expects me to be – overwhelmed, by a generous, and indescribable, and incomprehensible gift and grace. Yes. Dumbstruck. Overwhelmed. Surprised. Delighted. Shocked. Warmed. Coloured. Inspired. By Love.

a further photo gallery will follow here soon

Mirador de Barcelona

Footsore tonight as, after class, we took the Metro as far as it could take us before the steep climb on foot up to Parks Guell and Carmel for the panoramic mirador of Barcelona – and down again. Every muscle in our bodies, and especially in legs and feet, encountered the city’s surprise of the week. I was dumbstruck by the sight of octogenarians scaling the steep streets without turning a hair. They must have been born here. But oh, was the hike worth it? The early evening light was a photographer’s dream, and the stunning Sagrada Família quite patently Gaudi’s! What a day.

En buena compañía

Photo at Pixabay

Blogging’s a bit like exercise. You can’t always do it every day, even if you really want to! The last couple of days have flown by – even as we ourselves have flown – to the beautiful Barcelona and a curso de español intensivo. 

We’ve found ourselves in good company today with a German electrician, a Jordanian Headteacher, a German surgeon, a Saudi Arabian architect, an English chartered accountant, an English student of politics and international relations, and a Scottish viajero – a world travellerin our class alone, with bags of opportunity for relating to the other 140 international students who, like us, think that studying in Barcelona is ‘the bee’s knees’.

Our professors speak to us only in Spanish, so we’re learning to swim in the deep end fast! But they – and all our fellow students – are possessed of warmth, together with cheerfully energetic good humour, so though I haven’t a clue (yet) as to how this might translate – we think we’re going to have a ball here! Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the fantabulous food on every arty street corner. And the Fitbit? Well, 5 miles already today, despite time in the classroom, and there’ll probably be another 2 or 3 tramped between now and bedtime.

Más noticias más tarde …



Huge waves, white-capped, teal in the
afternoon sunlight, crash onto
sculpted rock beneath me. Neither
rocks nor waves asked for their place or
role on this earth.

Both arrived, compelled by forces
beyond and greater than present
forms. Fashioned by persistence and
rendered lovely gradually
in time and space.

And albeit with our human
ability to contemplate
it, compelled, sculpted, beautified
in time describes you and me too,
shaped, ever new.


Live it

Photo at Pixabay

Each second that passes by is one you’ll never get back

December 1st. Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Warm in the shallows I’m tickled by shoals of small fish. As I revel in the aliveness of the experience, a young man shouts to his partner ‘this is absolutely THE life!’ Laughing, she replies, ‘enjoying every second!’

There’s a life key. Some of my beloved American friends (others too) will remember one of my best-loved Seals and Croft songs – We will never pass this way again. It’s not so much that we may never revisit somewhere. We might. But the song, like this joy-filled couple, invites me to live every passing second to the full, for this is THE life.

La Graciosa

La Graciosa, a column of rain, left of centre

‘The Graceful One.’ We’ve seen every hue and shade over this little island today. Bright sunshine, a column of rain, a rainbow, golden sand, red volcanic rock, the blue and turquoise sea. And at twenty-three degrees today, this is a warm and beautiful place to be.

Déjà vu

Photo at Pixabay

Déjà vu – already seen. But sometimes happy surprise nonetheless when something’s quietly come upon again. Over lunch, we spoke of the pleasantly warm Autumn thus far – cheering because the temperature has plummeted today – and of how poetry can encapsulate moments like this. Minds wander for the umpteenth time to a warm and golden evening.

Orchard dwelling

Let me tell of a scented French apple orchard
set before a house of stone still warmed and
painted gold by setting sun

Better perhaps to tell of it in French? –
but then again right now the language of the
telling really does not matter

For already the picture’s painted clear in you
behind your eyes and in your heart and you
sense without a further word

that you are here

24th September 2016


Mini verger

Deep blue sky and the many heavily laden Vergers de Bretagne come readily enough to mind throughout the year. But last year we set about planting a little orchard of our own – a mini verger! And today our two little apple trees are (relatively) heavy-laden too. Enough, anyway, to have revelled just now in the most delicious baked apple and custard – with a little stock of apples for our store. Baked apples and gorgeous evening-blue sky – chez nous.

The very scent

Photo at 2CRG

Tonight we’ll cross the Channel, setting foot in the UK bright and early Saturday morning. The rituals of the ferry are ranked high in my list of life’s joys – the quayside queue, the oft-imagined supper, the little cabin, and the ‘sailing the seven seas’ (!) imagination of my busy-port watching boyhood. Oh, but the leaving! Leaving the places we love is always so sad. My olfactory memory-mapping goes into overdrive.

Tomorrow, closing my eyes, I will know again in my nostrils this local salted butter, and the slight mustiness of the basement, and apple juice, and oaks and pines, and the planked floor of this bright bedroom, and the bubbling mud of the riverbed, and the warm breakfast baguette, with melon and strawberries and honey and strong coffee, and the armoire. I’ll tell myself convincingly ‘no leavings, no arrivals.’ And ache a bit.

Sunlit comets and stars

Photo at 2CRG

Often the tranquil beauty of this
riverbank house comes upon one
with abrupt sharp blast of shock –
and never more than time’s chimed
close for us to depart

Turquoise green in late afternoon
the river has turned and hosts
myriad sunlit comets and stars –
accentuation, punctuation within
memoirs of the heart

October with four pairs of French
windows and the house door open
wide to supper preparation and
reading in the slight breeze upon
which pine needles dart

A small passing watercraft leaves
familiar lapping sounds in its wake
holding one’s attention light but
keen much as one might felicitate
upon unsurpassed fine art


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