Thresholds

I am not a fan of the penultimate. It is my least favourite time, the moment when you are about to cross a threshold but haven’t done so yet. The feeling of being about to step onto a rickety bridge between two cliffs, trying not to look down. Occupying the space between solid ground, except…

Parting gifts – part five/5 – hello

This image is the first in the book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy. This image is the final one in my series of five posts of parting gifts. Notes to myself about what I’ve learnt being a mental health chaplain, and indeed a fellow human. Hello When I…

Parting gifts – part four/5 – weather fronts

Weather fronts Generally you have to pack for all weathers in chaplaincy. You never know what weather front is coming in to the life in front of you. What was a sunny day last week may be a great storm, or what was weeks of bleak grey drizzle, the skies have parted and light streams…

Parting gifts – part three/5 – unuttered words

Words The folk I’ve worked with in general all have too many voices, too many words in their heads. Turns out words can be the most unhelpful thing. Turns out that some space and silence and pause are not only beautiful but necessary. Turns out that chaplains, for me, have been the ones who have…

Parting gifts – part two/5 – dreams

Dreams I had been brought up to dream big and do something significant. Not by my family so much as my earlier faith communities and society at large with all its inspirational quotes and ideals. Like we have to make our lives count. And there is of course something to be said for that. But…

Parting gifts – part one/5 – stories untold

Next week I finish my job as a mental health chaplain. I am about to embark as a chaplain elsewhere and there will be more to say about that. But right now, as I step away, say goodbye, I share with you a few snapshots from where I’ve been. A tale or two I offer…

Ensemble

If you take a good look around, in most people’s lives you will find an ensemble. Some may call it your team, some may call it wherewithal, some may say they are a ‘self made man’ and have no need for such things. I do not think I have met anyone who has attained safety…

This bit of earth and sky

Ever feel like your world has gotten smaller? I have trod the same paths over and over. I have been forced to explore and pay attention close to home. If you ever visit the bit of earth and sky that I’ve inhabited I could tell you so much more about it now than I could…

holidays

In spite of everything we managed a holiday. Family in a van. Changeable weather. Changeable moods. Same sky. I took paper and pencil and wrote a poem a day, by way of capturing them as they passed by. If you wish sit back, read, listen and take a trip with me, see where it takes…

Toast and Tea

There was a time in recent years past, and for you it may have been in recent weeks or months. It may even be right now, where we sink below the level of comfort. Find ourselves in financial dire straights. This horrified me, like I was always skating atop the abyss of shame. Panic like…

Transformation

I don’t know about you, but I have come to be very cautious around the word ‘transformation’. It makes me nervous. It comes loaded with power and assumption and disappointment. To me one of life’s greatest cons is that something can be transformed instantly, like the adverts or slogans or mission statements say. And yet…

Life is dappled

Life is dappled don’t you know Not all bright field Not all pitch black Not all twilight Not all dawn Life is dappled don’t you know Not all sunset Not all dusk Not all half light Not all starlight Life is dappled don’t you know More like puddles of sunbeams strewn across the path More…

Walk out of the photograph

You know how a photograph captures a particular moment? Back in the days of print-only photos this was especially true as photos were fewer and farther between. Nowadays we can take thousands of photos. One of my closest friends has over 20,000 photos on her phone. I mean, really?! The glorious and multi talented author…

This and that

I find myself thinking and writing about this and that. Specifically swimming and running. Of course this is not only about swimming and running, or indeed about any form of exercise. As you read what ‘swimming’ and ‘running’ mean for you, I imagine what you think of and picture will be unique to you. I…

There she goes

Notice the snail, her patterned back, her identity which grows with her. That she cannot take off, for wherever she goes there she is. Her home, her shell is her. All swirls and colours. Little by little she travels far. Feeling her way, unable to see much at all. Retreating into herself at the threat…

Dream a little dream

In the well known book ‘The BFG’ by Roald Dahl, the BFG character, (who creates and delivers dreams), says that ‘dreams is very mystical things’, like they are enshrouded in some kind of mysterious mist. This has been my exact experience. Dreams are different from ideas somehow. A dream is like an idea which is…

Note to self

I am new to writing, to me it is like holding a baby. Tiny and unpredictable, endearing and with lots of needs. But still I remind myself that babies of all species have their part to play. I am used to what I am good at not being seen much at all. Chaplaincy is a…

Cocoons of safety

Tiny nostrils breathing in sweet sweat Bound tightly by bright colours to a warm, capable back Hearing her melodic hum calming anxious cries Held and cradled in a place both soft and strong Perfectly safe in her cocoon of care We have heard the phrase ‘stay safe’ a lot. I don’t remember it being part…

Begin again

Tomorrow we will begin again, New dew will form at the break of dawn on grass that is ever so slightly taller The first light will waken anew, lifting open an awestruck eye to the beauty it beholds And the earth will be new, again Our bodies being healed and restored as we slept, will…

Canopy of kindness

There is this canopy above us all which holds, contains and is lit up by, a multitude of stars. There are many things which may come to mind when gazing at stars in the night sky. I wonder what it makes you think of? Sometimes we might feel like we wish to rewrite the stars.…

The shapes we thought we knew

The shapes we thought we knew cannot hold us anymore The lines too straight angles too pointy squares too boxy We must draw circles instead spheres of endless possibility I wonder what shape is framing this experience for you? It seems to me that straight lines do not always adequately capture or describe the human…

You’re welcome

When someone says ‘thanks’ to you, what do you say? ‘It’s no bother’ ‘Don’t mention it’ ‘My pleasure’ I think I default to ‘You’re welcome’. In that phrase, when it is genuinely offered, I think I am saying: You are welcome here, to have had this space and place, you are welcome to this time.…

I miss you

Technology holds its own wonderment and I offer gratitude for that all it captures and communicates. We have depended on it for years, especially to connect with those we know who live abroad. We certainly would be in a different place without it. However, although it is marvellous, technology captures and communicates only fraction, a…

Different kinds of quiet

Silence is golden, so they say. It can undoubtedly have a certain shimmer to it. There is this glorious little book called ‘The Quiet Book’, which shows lots of different kinds of quiet. ‘Right before you yell ‘Surprise’ quiet’, or ‘Thinking of a reason you were drawing on the wall, quiet’. Quiet can feel very…

Holes

Martin Luther once said ‘even if I knew that tomorrow the world was going to go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree’. This could be perceived as an act which is foolish, profound, absurd, symbolic, mockable, hopeful and essential. Lots of things are like this, all mixed up and contradictory but still…

We need to talk about home

We need to talk about home. By which I mean not walls, those these are good. Not our stuff, though that is lovely too. I mean more that sense of at -one-ness, the comfort, the safety, of being understood and accepted. The coming home. Being home. You may know folk for whom this is not…

The Rage

There is something that is pulsating through the air. Every so often it feels like it passes right through my heart. I like refer to this as The Rage. The Rage is strong and fierce and it takes me unawares. I wonder if The Rage has found you too? I wish it was socially acceptable…

As yet untrod

There is an art gallery where I live and once I spotted a painting of distant purple hills and trees. It had the caption ‘As yet untrod’. I was so taken by this that I bought a postcard print of this, framed it in an Ikea frame and have it on my bedroom wall. As…

Not all that is good is seen

You may have a job which is a job, and is largely functional. You may have a role which isn’t a job. Your role or job may fulfil sense of vocation for you. Or you may have a vocation which is pursued in any free time you have available. Whatever the case may be, as…

The adjacent possible

There is a theory called the adjacent possible. I am so drawn to this idea. I have carried around a tiny door handle in my purse to remind me of this adjacent possible for nearly two years. It is important to believe in I think because, in my life at least, a lot of good…

Air

There is something about things that are airborne that are quite captivating. Natural things like birds and clouds. And us-made things like kites, hot air balloons and fireworks. The wind is in charge up there. Up there, where we have little power and can only send up voyagers in the shape of balloons and kites…

Bubbles and blessings

We are at home quite a bit at the moment, as I imagine you are too. We have worked our way through Disney re-makes and Aladdin is a family favourite. In this movie the Genie (we heart Will Smith) grants wishes. Wishes are something we often ask for. ‘I wish for…’ ‘I wish it would…

Undiscovered land

You know when you see the Earth from space or watch any David Attenborough or Planet Earth you notice that there are a great many trees and wide open spaces and vastness of oceans. In fact in every Planet Earth episode the narration tells us some statistical fact that two thirds of the world is…

Edges

The periphery One of my chaplain friends says chaplaincy is regarded as either pivotal or peripheral within healthcare. Chaplaincy also sits out there on the edges of what matters to the church. A cousin of mine who runs an Ignatian retreat place in Portugal is a firm believer in permaculture which recognises that the most…

Come what may

I was reminded recently that the movie The Moulin Rouge has a great soundtrack. Listening again, the song which struck me most was ‘Come What May’. Now, it does contain some lyrics about the world seeming such a perfect place, which quite frankly, is presently untrue. Nevertheless it seems to say in song, what we…

Pencil shavings

Sometimes we have to make do with what we have available to us. Sometimes being limited forces out of us an innate guttural creativity that just isn’t possible when we have 1. So much to choose from and 2. The means to have it all. My five year old daughter made a picture today from…

Raining indoors

I remember reading about a teenager with autism who hid under a table during an actual storm at school and found it so hard to come out because he could not fathom how something so real and fierce had actually gone. It can be so hard to trust when most of what holds up and…

Punctuation marks

Let’s imagine life as a book, chapter by chapter, line by line, sometimes we can’t wait to turn the page, sometimes we dread to. We can’t skip ahead like in a book though and read the last pages to see if and how matters might resolve. How we would love to do that right now.…

Unravelled

Let me say for starters that if you can sew or knit then I salute you. I have tried and failed to master these particular life skills. You will understand this image more than me. Life has unravelled around us. The fabric of our families, communities and societies has been torn and we are left…

Yet unseen

There are moments in life when it is all so murky and indistinct and smudged that we wonder if any of it matters anyway. We find ourselves scrabbling around to minimise the impact of a pandemic. As we live out these next few weeks and months we may find ourselves looking at desolation and horror…

Different kinds of light

It is ironic that it is now Spring and there is more natural light and we find ourselves in situations such as self isolation and social distancing and a rising death toll that can make the world seem so very dark. And we may wonder what we can do and ask, as we miss being…

What the poets can teach us

As you read this and you take your next breath you may notice again the palpable disbelief and shock in the air. Society globally has not faced human mortality with such constant force for many years. What do we do in the face of this? It is staring us down. As W.H Auden puts it:…