Song of the sea

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There are times when my life seems out of my control, waiting times, times when my life seems to be stuck on the pause button like a real life Sky plus box, leaving me adrift on the indifferent waves of destiny.

I am living in one of those times now, the reasons do not matter, but it is like floating on a becalmed sea, waiting for something, anything, to happen. There is a moment coming, in the near future, when my life will start to flow again, I know this, but it’s not now, it’s not yet. For now I must continue floating helplessly on the streams of time wondering when and if that time will ever arrive, whist simultaneously dreading it.

The time when I re-enter the flow of life will come, it is inevitable. Time marches on even if at the moment it doesn’t seem like it; meanwhile I do what I always do in these circumstances: visit my guru – the Sea.

My old friend, the Sea, has been my companion through many crises and difficult times in the past. It has also born witness to happier, more confident times. It seems that my body fluids, the blood in my veins, the tears in my eyes, resonate strongly with the mother ship, the ocean from which all life was born, and the sea welcomes me back whenever I find myself emotionally and physically adrift from the mainstream of reality.

The moody sea has born witness to many of my own moods – accepted notices of birth and death, accompanied me on the rocky road to divorce, celebrated with me the successes of education and business, or simply sat vigil with me when nothing else would help.

Wandering alone on an empty beach with dune grasses rustling in concert with the unseen birds twittering amongst them, has calmed or reassured me like nothing else can. The ululating calls of seabirds and the harmonic susurrations of gentle waves can be hypnotic and meditational whilst the wild pounding of heavy storm waves provides a cathartic cleansing that can wipe my soul free of the pollution that builds during a long life of loving and caring.

The sea is my source of solace and wisdom. Sometimes I get answers; sometimes I don’t – but I always come away healed whatever else I was expecting.

Today, the crying of gannets and crazy antics of puffins provide distraction as I sit on the rock-strewn beach. They are so delightfully silly those puffins in their carnival plumage whilst the gannets, squabbling and arguing amongst themselves, are no less ridiculous despite their more sober appearance. They make me laugh, and that cannot be bad.

Wandering along the tideline, I indulge in my favourite activity since childhood – looking for heart stones. Today, when a sign would be so timely, there is nothing remotely heart-shaped. Not a single piece of sea-glass or pebble. I find something else though. Something that catches my eye as it lies partly submerged in a tiny pool at the foot of the shadow-side of the chalk stack that forms the leg of a natural archway: a large spiral whelk shell. Though blindingly white like the surrounding chalk cliffs, this treasure is delicately sculpted and precisely formed. It is immense as whelks go, about ten centimetres long – so probably not a whelk at all, I speculate, more likely something exotic that has been born on strange currents drifting relentlessly around the globe – much like I am drifting now. I stoop to pick it up, dipping it in the small pool and shaking it clean.

The Fibonacci perfection of the shell’s spiral; the smooth yet ridged texture of its calcium coat; the iridescent moonlight glow of the interior cavity with its pointed spines that could be a temptation or a defence structure; all  invoke deep admiration from my artistic temperament. My hands lovingly trace the curves and spiralling pathways that wind around this sublime scrap of nature-crafted artistry. Once an unknown creature made its home inside this beautiful object – the thought makes me smile. Looking skywards I try to imagine the innumerable shells that had been pressed together, over many of Earth’s millennia, to form the cliffs and chalk stacks surrounding and sheltering me now. As if the strands of a net are reaching down, connecting me to the beginning of time, the idea makes me feel more anchored.

Sitting with my back pressed against the sun-warmed side of the chalk stack, I do that which people have been doing for generations untold, and the net-like tendrils of connection pull even tighter. I put the shell to my ear and listen.

The voice of the ocean echoing down through time rewards me with a sea-encrypted message just for me. I can’t quite grasp it and, as ever, feel that if I could only listen just a little bit harder the words would become clear. The tone of the ocean’s voice is soft and compelling like a siren singing, beckoning me to follow I know not where … but I know, equally surely, that one day I will find out. For deep within the cellular pools of my body, at a genetic level, I do understand the message that I am hearing. It is in a different, more primal, language from those of the real world but one that the tides of my own soul still recognise. Just like my favourite elf in Tolkien’s wonderful trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’, it seems the sea is my lodestone.

Galadriel’s warning:

“Legolas, Greenleaf, long under the tree,

In joy thou hast lived, Beware the Sea!

If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,

Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.

 

Those same internal tides shift and flow as tears burst through the dam that I have built to protect myself from what will happen in a few weeks’ time. Weeping freely – safely suspended between sand, chalk and sky, and being metaphorically rocked by the ebb and flow of the lacy-edged wavelets a few feet away – I rid my body of the fear and dread that is keeping me adrift. And all the while, the song of the sea is reminding me that one day, I will follow the siren’s call to wherever it might lead. But not yet; for now I have to endure, until I’m free to fly … and then the waiting will be over.

shell and chalk stacks

Sea Mist – my relationship with the East Yorkshire coast

1. In my time I loved to walk beside the sea

And dancing surf, with seagulls, and bobbing crab net buoys.

I loved the old boats, the harbour walls, and feeling free

From city grime, poison fumes and techno-toys.

2. Once, on a cliff top, with crumbling, muddy sides

I spied the comic flash of puffin flight

Streaking past, diving to greet the rolling tide

And rise again with fishy prize held tight.

3. A sandy point with rustling spiky dune grass

Stitching it in place like carpet tape or string,

Is broken by winter wind and wave, till, unable to pass

It remained unreachable till Spring.

4. Sleepy coves with white chalk stacks

Where gannets gossiped on every ledge.

The smell of bird lime and salt dried bladder wrack

Reminded me that life is hard at terra-firma’s edge.

5. Sun-warmed hours hunting crabs in brimming

Rock pools like watery time capsules.

Standing at the waterline skimming

Sea-smooth pebbles, until the hot air cooled

6. And a full moon painted a silver pathway

To where I listened to the beckoning of the Song of the Sea

Echoing down through ages past to bring its siren message

In susurrating sea shell tones to me,

7. If only I could listen hard enough;

Heart-bursting sun-rises blushed the waking sea with gold,

When dawn arrived; or … two mighty elements merged in hazy grey

As storm clouds marbled the ebb and flow in shades of bold.

8. How I loved those moods from mirror calm and still as bliss

To raging anger; and days when I resigned

Myself to sly, insidious sea-fret mist

Drenching every aching inch of skin with freezing brine.

9. Now, as I walk those cliff tops, or feel the sandiness

Between my aging toes, the changing facets of its flood

Echo mine, strangely restless

And surging, in the tides that drive my blood.

Nature’s salvation

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How do you ask your friends and families for help when for most of your life you have been the strong one? The one who has always sorted out everyone else’s problems.

How do you cope when your body betrays you?

How do you keep your body, soul and heart intact when loneliness attacks after seventeen years of living alone?

That is my life in a nutshell. I ask myself these questions every day. No-one answers. Not with real solutions anyway.

It was my choice to live alone, but it wasn’t part of the plan to still be alone nearly two decades later.

I have always kept my body well-nourished and reasonably fit despite a variety of health issues over the years, all dealt with, yet in the end pure happenstance had me falling down a flight of concrete steps and damaging my spine and hip. Perhaps it would have been a lot worse if not for my interest in alternative therapies, good nutrition and yoga. But still – when all is said and done, I am severely limited now in my mobility – no more cycling, no more long distance walks, and worst of all – no more dancing.

And now, in my need and awaiting an operation that might just give me full mobility and might just as easily not, I find it hard to ask for help when, maybe, my family do not understand just how damaged I am.

So, I have to authenticate my life in other ways. I write and paint, meditate and read. My novel is almost finished; I’ve sold a few paintings … but I’m still alone, and fighting just like I have done all my life because I will not give in … to age, to my injuries, to my loneliness. It just doesn’t quite make up for being alone no matter how many afternoon teas and cake I partake of, how many poems or stories I write, how many pictures I paint, or how much meditating I do. And yet, on most days, I am content

Like today, I am sitting at my laptop, writing this to the songs of birds hopping about in my heavenly, flower and herb filled wildlife garden. On sunny evenings it is also full of delicious scents. I meditate there whenever the weather allows and get all the authentication I need through nature. The birds, bats, frogs and toads that inhabit my garden, the fox that flits through it, have become my companions; the bees and other insects my helpmates; even the snails have something to teach me. Nature infiltrates my writing, my painting and my dreams – my tiny urban garden, and the artistry it inspires – has become my salvation. Within this context, the words of the campaigners of the sixties, my era,  are relevant … I will overcome! 

vintage rose

 

 

Henna Roses and the Starry Fairy

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Yesterday, despite a great deal of pain in my back, making standing let alone walking difficult, I was spontaneous – a real challenge for me at the moment – and went along to a nearby community centre to see a demonstration of henna painting by a lovely lady – Laila Hamasilah.

I arrived quite near the end of the session so was at the end of the list for having a motif painted on my hand so Laila only had time for a small one. I asked for roses as I love these beautiful scented flowers – my garden is full of them and rose oil/perfume is my favourite.

This is what she did. The picture with me standing is with the henna paste applied. The picture of my hand is today, with the paste flaked off and the design beginning to darken with exposure to daylight. I think they are fabulous and have booked her to demonstrate her skills at my happiness Group.

me and henna design

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Today, cashing in on my spontaneous mood, I decided to make a fairy doll for my Yuletide tree. I dress my tree with lots of foliage, red lights and then hide my collection of realistic and fantasy fairies in the foliage and around my tree. My supply of collector fairies has dried up so, with the success of todays creativity, I have decided to make a fairy doll each year to add to my collection. I haven’t yet finished this one as I cannot find something suitable for her hair. If all else fails I will use some silver fluffy wool. When making peg dolls in my childhood we always used wool so I would, at least, be sticking with tradition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the activity even though I had only a vague plan and made most of it up as I went along. I still have some tiny silver stars to add to her hair, when I have found something suitable, and I think she should be holding something – but not sure what yet – maybe I’ll spray an acorn silver or a big silver star sequin or something.

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So – two days of spontaneous creativity – on a grey and rainy weekend – lovely! I feel blessed, and will now practice my meditation using some lovely Arabian meditation oils that arrived in the post yesterday.

A Manifesto for a New Global Consciousness

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I was revisiting Gill Edwards book – Pure Bliss today and discovered her list of aspirations that she hoped (sadly she has moved on from our dimension now) will help make the world a better place. I personally have signed up to it, indeed I have been living it, or aspiring to anyway – I make no claim to perfection –  for many years now. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone followed these simple but beautiful guidelines for living holistically upon the earth and with everyone and everything upon it?

J 16 Sea Song

  1. Healing the split between matter and spirit; bringing the sacred into everyday life; reclaiming the mystical side of religion.
  2. Reclaiming our ‘feminine’ energy as individuals: eg helping people develop their intuition and psychic skills, or to move beyond co-dependency, martyr-hood, fear and struggle, or to see the ‘bigger picture’.
  3. Breaking down the walls of separation and judgement eg tackling racism, ageism, homophobia, nationalism, religious fundamentalism.
  4. Working on women’s issues eg women’s rights, redefining femininity.
  5. Working on behalf of children eg preventing child abuse and exploitation, supporting children’s self-esteem and inner wisdom, campaigning for children’s rights.
  6. Honouring emotions and the ‘inner child’ eg as a therapist or teacher
  7. Honouring the physical body eg health reform, re-spiritualising sexuality.
  8. Bringing Spirit back into business, town planning, architecture, law, education and other social systems
  9. Reclaiming the holistic world view – seeing wholes/systems rather than parts eg as an economist, ecologist, holistic health practitioner, therapist
  10. Working with imagination and creativity – including it within all activities and learning
  11. Supporting cooperation rather than competition, eg divorce mediation, international diplomacy, working cooperatively with angel’s and guides
  12. Honouring the Earth and the natural world, eg ecological activism, shamanic wisdom, working with nature spirits, working with animals, plants, minerals and crystals in respectful ways, organising pilgrimages to sacred places
  13. I AM WILLING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Thank you Gill Edwards, for your inspiring words X

Why do I read?

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Why do I read?

Proviso: added later to prevent people writing comments telling me I’m wrong … these are my views, my thoughts, my ideas, and the answers to my questions, about my reading – Okay?

So back to the question … And what a question! What has prompted it? I joined a book club last night – a case of third time lucky as I’d tried others – one at a local restaurant that enticed you to pay for a meal whilst discussing books – but with 30 or so diners hardly anyone except the ‘head’ table got to speak. A purely commercial venture. The second was an offshoot of a women’s discussion group that I belong. But this turned out to be a gossip fest rather than a genuine attempt to discuss books, and the rest of the group only read crime so I left, disappointed with both groups. Maybe this one would be different. And it was – but …

The group comprised of mainly sweet young things in their twenties and early thirties, at most, so I was at least 3 if not 4 decades older than the majority. And this is where my question starts to be relevant. As it was the first meeting there was no chosen book to discuss. So we spent the evening setting ground rules and structure. The ‘leader’ gave us a choice of two books for next month – one a bloody (in all senses of the word) crime novel whose title and author I’ve already forgotten, and The Catcher in the Rye. Oh! Right … boring then! As I said, I’m several decades older than the rest of the group so have read the second book years ago, with no desire to read it again. And the crime book – full of violence and abuse?

That is what sparked my question. You’ve probably forgotten what it is after my initial preamble. Why do we read? And here I’m talking about fiction, not factual, text books, you understand.

As a child (my views, my theories, you understand – not academically proven) I would say initially we read in order to learn to use words, and to stimulate the imagination, with a smidge of entertainment thrown in. As we get older – teens and twenties, I wonder if it is to explore new ideas, and, vicariously, new experiences. Later still, in my opinion and from my experience, it is more a form of escapism from the mundane aspects of life. Of course, all of these reasons cross the boundaries of age, both ways.

But for me, in my sixties, having done many things in my life, having seen and experienced all shades of life from dark to light, from depressing to uplifting, reading has taken on a whole new raison d’etre. Today, I read to expand and stimulate my imagination, and to authenticate and validate my spirituality (and for entertainment, of course). I do not want to read about violence and abuse, about misery and death. Firstly my career was as a social worker so I’ve seen plenty of real life misery and abuse, and do not want to read about it when I can choose other, more life-affirming books. Secondly, as someone on the downward slope towards whatever lies beyond the veil, I really do not want to read about violent and degrading torture and death. Neither, incidentally, do I want to read endless and mindless rom-coms involving thirty-year olds who think life is over if they aren’t in a loving relationship (dressed in designer footwear) by then, and where the older generation is included as comedic diversion, or are shown succumbing to daftness and worse, senility. Life is too short, and there are far too many books, to waste time reading about desolation and wretchedness, no matter how worthy; or pointless and shallow self-indulgence.

I want to read life affirming stories of love and challenge for heroines and heroes of any age, in any world – real or fantasy; stories with a touch of magic that leave me feeling good about this world; stories where the bigger picture demonstrates that we live on a beautiful planet surrounded mostly by lovely people, no matter what is happening in the small detail and dark corners, and that humanity (or its counterpart – elf, hobbit, dragon, vampire, alien) can rise above the darkness. These books don’t have to be great literature, and they don’t have to be adult books. I read children’s and young adult fiction, as well as books aimed at grown-ups. But the books have to be ultimately positive, beautifully written, atmospheric and life-affirming.

If you look at current best seller lists you might think I have a hard job finding books that appeal to me in my current life stage, and according to my strict criteria. Not at all, there are myriads of gems out there that are lyrical, descriptive and with really interesting story lines. Too many in fact, and I will never read all the ones that I want to read, I would need another whole lifetime, but then there would be, oh dear, a whole lot more newly written books as well.

Part of my problem or privilege depending on your perspective (after all I am reading prolifically in order to try to catch up, so maybe it is a good thing), is that I started late as a reader. We had few books in the house when I was a child. It was only with the opening of a library in the neighbourhood when I was about 10 that I discovered story books. Until then I had four books – a Hans Andersen fairy tale book (illustrated by Heath Robinson – not the one who designed weird machines, the other one – his brother, maybe?), a Grimm’s fairy tales (illustrated by Rackham), a book about dinosaurs, and an Enid Blyton Nature book full of environmental activities and stories about a young uncle who took his nephew and niece into the woods and countryside to explore nature (yes really! As a social worker I might have been pretty suspicious but as a young reader it was spell-binding). These books set the course of my life – a life-long love of fairy tales, mythology and fantasy ensued; also an interest in children’s illustrators. I have always had an interest in nature-study and for two decades taught environmental education to children through Wildlife Watch – and repeated many of those activities first discovered in the pages of that battered old green Enid Blyton hardback. And I still am fascinated by dinosaurs, and it was magical to see the first scenes of brachiosaurs in Jurassic Park – still my favourite film after Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (all parts).

As for the afore mentioned Lord of the Rings/Hobbit – ask any of my friends – I am obsessed with the whole concept, and have been since 1966 when I was first introduced to the books by my English teacher after professing a love of reading as opposed to sport, when she found me hiding away in a classroom instead of being on the scary (far scarier than Doctor Who or orcs) hockey field. The books epitomize my criteria: poetic and lyrical language, and great structure, a good balance of action and description, a vast and vivid vision, a good storyline or ten, ultimately positive despite the apparent lack of hope and warfare, great role models (though slightly lacking in females other than Eowyn, Galadriel and Arwen) , and, oh yes, elves … magical! Plus Tolkien gave us a plethora of back-story mythology … bliss. I’m still exploring this underpinning mythology five decades on, and still just as interested. What other book can so inspire one person. And by the way, I’ve read the Silmarillion! Difficult, very difficult, but beautifully poetic and infinitely satisfying if you persevere.

So why do I read? For inspiration, to feed my mind, heart and soul, and to be entertained. Oh, and before you all start writing in comments disagreeing – remember – this is about me, no-one else: my ideas, my thoughts, my reasoning, and my answers.