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 have an inkling though, that you will know for yourself, what is ‘this’ and what is ‘that’.

My whole life I have swum. I have made my way to whatever local pool I lived by as often as I possibly could. Swimming comes naturally, I am well rehearsed, I know the patterns my body and nervous system follow over and over, I have refined techniques for endurance, speed, efficiency. I float, glide and am held by the water. I have missed this. I have missed exchanges with other swimmers and having them alongside, like we all know the greatest secret. COVID 19 meant there was no swimming, for over 3 months. Then, finally I drove nearly an hour for an outdoor swim in a marine lake. It was glorious. It wasn’t even a nice day, grey, wet and windy, the water chilly and not in a refreshing way.  I climbed in and swam and swam and gazed at the sky and breathed deeply and embraced the wonder of swimming ‘out of lane’ in the lake, for as long as possible. I remember being a little nervous before, joking that I might sink because I was out of practice. Though of course this was not the case, rather it was total flow and part of me was restored and healed in the water. I was put back together and emerged more intact and revived than before. A great big part of me had been missing and now it was back. I can live off consolation like that for ages. This swimming lark is a life love, something I can progress in, commit to, challenge myself. I dream of my next swim and long for when I can go again freely. Swimming is my ‘this’ and it confirmed in me what my other ‘this’ is. I know for other folk swimming is definitely a ‘that’ because you have to get all wet and cold, and if they have to swim they would prefer lanes so at least they know where they are and can feel safer.   

Running is like that for me. It is my ‘that’. It is also reminds me of another ‘that’ in my life.

Running for me is unfamiliar and in many ways has been unappealing. Lockdown had other plans. So I’ve learnt how to run, I’ve tried hard. I’ve got better. I can make it round a route and I can see why others love it. Parts are fun, especially on a good-weather-but-not-too-hot day, being in the great outdoors, inhaling passing flies. So running has fulfilled a function for me, I had some transferable fitness (to a degree). But running has different demands on my body and my mental endurance. I do not leap out of bed wanting to go or look forward to when I can next get out there. I have managed a certain distance and I will not be attempting any further. Now lockdown is easing I will keep what I’ve learnt about running, I will keep up my new found skills. But I know I am only part-soothed by it, it is not what makes my heart sing. I can do it, just about, and I applaud those who do it much better and love it. But for me running is a ‘that’. It reminds me of my other ‘that’.

Life is made up of this and that

Give a bit of this

Take a bit of that

In out in out

Shake it all about

You can’t have this

Without some of that

I love this

Not so sure about that

Life is made up of this and that

Give a bit of this

Take a bit of that

In out in out

Shake it all about

You do this

I’ll do that.

Swap.

I’ll do this

You do that

Life is made up of this and that

Give a bit of this

Take a bit of that

In out in out

Shake it all about

I’m very good at this

And not so good at that

I’m drawn to this

I’d rather leave that

Life is made up of this and that

Give a bit of this

Take a bit of that

In out in out

Shake it all about

You love your this

Which might be my that

I’ll bring my this

You drag along your that

That and this

This and that

In out in out

Shake it all about

Seems to me that maybe life needs both, some of this, a little bit of that. There will always be a ‘that’ which demands some time and attention and energy. I expect you know what that is. So may we identify ways to get enough of ‘this’. Times, places and people where we can put down that, take up this and shout out loud ‘Look at this! I love this! I was made for this!’.

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

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 of danger.

Then inching onwards,

carrying all she has become,

unquestionably,

unashamedly,

wherever she may go.

And in the end

we remember her,

by her shiny, meandering trails

and the legacy of her

patterned,

beautiful,

now uninhabited,

shell.

I noticed a snail and it made me think of jobs. Like whatever job you turn up to, you bring yourself. Like a snail cannot travel anywhere without its’ shell.

With jobs come job descriptions. But you read a job description and you don’t get a you.

You get words, tasks, achievements and attitudes.

You are much more than that. You bring all of you, wherever you go.

You make the words alive, give them a face, a voice, a laugh.

Wherever you go, there you are. This is so beneficial to the rest of us, to have you be you, to have you embody these many job descriptions we get over our life time. To bring us life by being your glorious self.

So may you follow your tentative path, be proud of your swirly trail, grow your unique shell and determine to travel ever onwards.

Image by Pitsch from Pixabay

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 just out of reach, something not yet realised, that has yet to become a reality. Because of this dreams are fragile and easily broken. A plus side to this is that dreams are adaptable, malleable, they take surprising twists and turns. I remember watching the film Inception, which is very intense but marvellous, all about inserting an idea within layers of dreams. In my life I can identify what the inception is for me, where my dreams stem from, even though their path may be hidden and unforeseeable. This helps when some dreams never make it. It doesn’t mean the inception wasn’t valid or important. The inception is what draws you on, helps you find a new way, to dream a new dream.

The opposite of this drawing movement, is some kind of external driving force which intends to bend and chisel you and your dreams to meet their need. I recommend avoiding this driving motion at all costs.

Poet David Whyte has some wisdom to offer here. He has this poem called Start Close In. The first lines go like this:

‘Start close in

Don’t take the second step

Or the third

Start close in’

I read this as; start close to the inception of your dream, for there you may find what is the next courageous step you can take.

Like the kid who tells you they want to be an astronaut one day. This is the BIG DREAM. The BIG DREAM that makes a lot of assumptions.

The fulfilment of these assumptions will determine whether they are one of the few kids who manages to attain this BIG DREAM. This will depend partly on them and their ability, but also on their health, and the advantages given or withheld, doors opened or closed.

But we don’t tell them this.

Because the path towards the BIG DREAM is full of smaller dreams which slowly draws the dreamer on and onwards. We somehow, in this pursuit of a BIG DREAM, end up gathering a motely crew, our collection of smaller but necessary dreams which we carry with us. Some of these dreams are intact and shiny. They sit along side a similar number of shattered dreams which rattle about in the bottom our suitcase. Those who manage to reach their BIG DREAM some day, endure a lot of hardships on the way, but perhaps are also the recipients of a dash of serendipity.

Right now I am left wondering what dreams matter at this time? The message from society at large seems to be to dream big and do something significant. Put an inspirational quote on a mug  and crack on. Like we all have to make our lives count. And there is of course something to be said for that. But all this significance can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you find yourself in a place where your dreams appear tiny or simple from the outside, but seem insurmountable to you. And yet this is the only dream that matters.

For it turns out that all dreams matter, no matter what their size. We need to ‘tread softly’ as we walk together, for we tread on one anothers’ dreams, like some kind of sacred ground (W.B. Yeats). Sometimes my kids wake me in the night right out of a dream. The dream is rudely interrupted and I cannot get it back. I would not wish to interrupt anothers’ dream with my misunderstanding and poor judgement of how important that dream is.

The chances are that as we get older we are able to realise, establish and fulfil some dreams. We therefore may find ourselves sitting on the ‘hoped for’ dreams of others. Like we have two or three friends on whom we can depend, or our teenager is at home and free from psychotic episodes. Or our partner is well enough to speak again and hopes to restart work at the local café, or we finally have enough finances to relieve that dead knot in our stomach. May we have sensitive ears to hear the dreams of others which often come like a prayer, as sung by Slow Moving Millie ‘please please please, let me get what I want, Lord knows it would be the first time’.

Any BIG DREAM is only possible on the assumption and maintenance of lots of other dreams. If we take the sporting arena as an example I can imagine there have been athletes we have never heard of because they almost made it. But then their Dad got cancer or their best friend had a breakdown, or their partner lost their job and they could not make ends meet. And so this dream was over. But another one began. The one where they put another first, the one where they followed their heart to its core, to where ‘everything became a you, and nothing was an it’ (W.H. Auden).

I was once given a note which said ‘Do not give up on your dreams because of the time it will take to accomplish them. The time will pass anyway’. I am reminded then to give dreams a bit of room, not to over -control and direct them. Like the grasses in the fields which have been allowed to keep on growing increasingly tall and wild. Growing, not because they had targets to attain, but that when left awhile they grew anyway, so much so that when you lay down, you are lost in them. Perhaps there is occasion to embrace all we are faced with for the fathomless mystery that it is, so time and healing can be unshackled in the mist and our dreams can grow anyway.

And so as we gently tread on each others dreams and try and navigate our own, may we adopt David Whyte’s wisdom and ‘start close in’. May we muster enough courage for our next step towards the inception of the dream that draws us on.

A poem to the kid astronaut

‘You may get to drive a rocket to reach the moon, 

or

You may collect broken fragments of dreams,

like stardust.

You may get to travel great distances,

or

You may be drawn to travel

the most important journey of all,

inwards,

to the inception of dreams

that reside in your heart.

Image by Quang Nguyen vinh from Pixabay

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 very personal encounter. Writing however it is a lot more public. This scares me. But as I have spoken with my spiritual director and done some soul thinking, I able to see how I am enriched and given injection of hope, life, comfort and vitality through the brave expression of someone else’s creativity. I can see how I love to celebrate others who have gifts which they have chosen not to keep hidden, but to share. And so, I took a deep breath and have begun.

And it feels like beginning, like holding something delicate and saying to the person next to me – would you like to hold this a while?  And they might pause and with a sigh say, ‘that feels better’, and they might think of someone to pass it on to, whose hands need to hold something like this. For a bit. For now. And that is all that is asked of me. I wrote this ‘note to self’ to remind me of that.

As I look about me at those who create through music, poetry, painting, dance, sculpture, writing, I see the life of artists who do not know what they will create next. Creating something grounds you in this present moment, this next note, next brush stroke, next phrase. In that moment all else suspends, like time is hovering behind you, and from that vacuum comes life and gift. Expression which is an unstoppable force. G.K. Chesterton talks about this, ‘at the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder’.  In digging for this wonder, before us lie projects and creations we cannot foresee. When I watch the unfolding of anothers’ life it strikes me how one event seemed like the pinnacle, and then later on, there was something else just as wonderful. It is not inconsequential that in between there continue to be tedious tasks and trying relationships to navigate. There will continue to be waste because we cannot create without mess. Artists of all kinds do not opt out of life. Instead, they illuminate, comment on and draw attention to the unseen dimensions of our shared humanity on this good earth. Changing the world with one splash of paint,  or guitar  strum at a time.  

In many ways it does not matter what others think, for reviews and opinions will be both over and under generous. Rudyard Kipling knew this, he reminds us to meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same’.

Poet Wendell Berry spoke about this in a different way:

‘stay away from anything than obscures the place it is in’.

This is wisdom indeed.

For me it helps to remind myself that I am happiest not when words I have written are being read, but when I am absorbed in writing them.  Nature is like this, the tiny delicate flower, the wind, the sun setting. Each are exactly themselves. The sun will be beautiful whether or not I stop to notice it, but when I do, I hope I will be thankful enough to invite others to take a look too.

Creativity seems to be incongruent with control. Control has its place, but I often question what ‘being in control’ actually offers and gives that is of benefit. All we can really do, given that we generally overestimate our powers, is to do the next right thing. I read once in a Celtic Prayer book, a quote from George MacDonald saying, that whatever I am doing now, if I do it as best I can, that is the best possible preparation for what I will be asked to do next.

Creative and artistic expression can only be possible when I am authentic to all of myself. I can’t nip and tuck myself, or photoshop me into a better me than I can attain or maintain. Those who I see who are most glorious, are unashamedly themselves. The causes they fight for, they do so because it is woven into their very being. Their art and their passion unite and so it is no wonder it makes our hearts burn within us to be exposed to this.

John O Donohue describes it like this, ‘It takes an awful lot of living with the powerless to really understand what it is like to be powerless, to have your voice, thoughts, ideas and concerns count for very little. We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great duty and responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless’. There are lots of unheard voices, many who are powerless. The greatest artists I have come across make their art form count, they create for far beyond themselves. I will need to remind myself of this, because it is highly likely that one day someone will tell me (and it will not be the first time) of how I am inadequate. I must remind myself that words are powerful tools and I have set out with the intention to offer words of consolation. May I never, therefore, respond to desolation with desolation. For writing and life are a creative process which no one understands but, as Susan Howatch puts it, in the end with both writing and life, ‘nothing is wasted, nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me‘ (see Rob Bell’s book/DVD ‘Drops Like Stars’).

Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

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 of everyday greetings or written at the end of emails until this time. It has made me ponder about safety, about the times I have been utterly safe, about what this felt like, what was there, what wasn’t. I wonder too on how to offer safety to others, especially when those who are meant to protect cause harm. True safety is about so much more though, than the absence of harm or prejudice. For us to truly ‘dwell in safety’ means careful attention to what is present, for us and for those we offer safety to.

In cocoons of safety we can heal and grow at the same time, we are reminded of who we really are. Of course we can’t spend our whole lives here because we are built for risk and adventure too. But at some points in our lives, a cocoon of safety is exactly where we need to be. The cocoon is where we return to, to rest in a place both soft and strong, both tender and dependable. We often turn up bruised, damaged, broken, heavy laden. We put down our bags. We take a real and metaphorical drink of cold water, melt into fresh sheets, are fed and tended to. Demands on us are alleviated, even just for a little while. It could be a few hours, or a few days. Sometimes it needs to be even longer. We enter the cocoon one way and we emerge another. As we repeat this pattern again and again in our lives we come to trust it. To venture forth and eventually needing to find a place of recuperation, of tender loving care. And we are changed again by this. The cocoon could be somewhere we know and with people who are familiar. Or it could be a place of retreat where the invitation to all who come is ‘please, dwell here a while’. This idea of dwelling is significant because not only do we need physical safety but psychological safety, emotional safety and spiritual safety as well.  Or else we are not wholly safe. We can only truly dwell where we are wholly safe. Sometimes it becomes the case on our life journey that our safe place or safe person are no longer available and we are lost and unable to settle, we become drained, flitting about until we can move no longer. This is one of the reasons why we need the kindness of strangers, angels who visits us unawares. They visit and gather us to ourselves and surprise us with cocoons of care, in ways which we may not expect, but which tend to us all the same.

Now, we know that for much of our life we are not wholly safe. We encounter physical threat, emotional pain, psychological manipulation, spiritual distress. We may be unable to access a tangible cocoon of care. At times like these may we find ways to visit by imagination an image that comes to mind and feels safe to us, if just for a few moments. To remind ourselves that what truly matters is always held safely, like a lamb gathered and held close to the heart. And so we need not fear, for our lives and souls forever belong and dwell in safety, in the mysterious unseen. Which means we may trust that, when the time comes, we will one day emerge brighter and freer than ever before. And we will fly.

Header image by GLady from Pixabay

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 stir us into wakefulness

We will breathe our first breath

into the opening of the day

And we will be new, again

Our souls will remember

that we are damaged,

precious

and not alone

We may come to accept

that wholeness arrives

not with resolution and fanfare

But with hearts humble enough

to forever begin

And all will be new

again, tomorrow.

In 1999 Poet Brendan Kennelly published a poem called ‘Begin’ he writes ‘something that will not acknowledge conclusion, insists that we forever begin’. In 2012 songwriter Taylor Swift wrote a song called ‘Begin Again’. She sings of the contrast between being repeatedly broken and the joy in finding that despite this, when exposed to love and acceptance you cannot help but begin to live and love again. Both of these artists, different though they may to be one another, have captured something which has taken hold in my heart and I cannot shift. The insight that for life to continue we need to keep on beginning. Over and over.

Tricky this, because in general we do not welcome disruption or interruption, forcing us as they often do onto unchartered territory. At the very least entailing reforming opinions and redressing judgements. It can be hard to begin again, to draw a line between this and that. We knew ‘this’, ‘this’ is familiar. ‘That’, on the other hand, is generally the great unknown.

We are currently experiencing one big long disruption and interruption. An enormous line engraved in the sand. Making us reset priorities of time and relationships, recalibrating our inner and outer resources. Treating our success syndrome. Hoping our ‘love first’ kindness syndrome may be our prognosis instead.

The phrase ‘begin again’ may make something burn within you, a radical kind of yearning. To begin again, to upcycle something that is already established, or perhaps it is about to be. Beginnings like these are voyages, and so I remind myself of what Mary Poppins says ‘you are about to go on an adventure, don’t ruin it with too many questions’. Beginnings are exactly that, a beginning, it is likely not to look as it has before. We are unable to see very far ahead and certainly not beyond the horizon.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery also knew this. He says,  ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea’. We stand on the shore, about to embark. The sea can be trusted, it knows well the patterns of beginnings, journeys and renewal.

Sometimes we begin again, not because we are forced to, but because we have been stuck somewhere and we have found ourselves utterly misunderstood, underappreciated, misrepresented and underestimated. There comes a time when stating our bottom line and shaking the dust from our feet is exactly the right move. To say enough is enough and being brave enough to begin again, because as hard as it is to do this, to stay is harder still.

Other times we may find ourselves looking at the idea of beginning again as unbearable because of great and searing loss. When we meet this, may our small, tentative, unwelcome beginnings be gentle and saturated with love. May the compassionate heart of nature be inclined towards us as we trust her healing touch, seen in the patterns of the earth, to tenderly renew our souls.

In the light of all this, I wonder if the idea of renewal, that everyday we get the chance to begin again at being us, is more hopeful than dreadful. Our cells renew themselves over and over. The seasons come and renew the earth. This summers flowers will not be last years. They belong to this years’ growth. Next year they will be renewed again. There is a hopefulness about this. The kind of hope I like to think of as Sister Stan describes it, ‘what is left when the bottom falls out of optimism’. A hopefulness that prevails because to begin again, stirs within us the possibility that as the sun rises again tomorrow it may dawn on a brave new world.

Image by LoganArt from Pixabay

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. Like this picture a friend sent me on a postcard, to make dot to dot and create our own constellations. I wonder what constellations we would mark out in our imaginations, in our lives? What images we would draw between the stars? Who might you find next to you, flying their celestial kite along with yours?

Picture from a card gifted to me. Big Bear, Little Bear by Kristiana Parn

Sometimes we have been made to believe that the only star that matters is the ‘star of the show’ or the ‘rising star’. But then the night sky would look a little bereft. A little empty and sparse. Like a lot of things were missing. This is because night sky needs all of us to be here. To, ‘take our place in the family of things’ (thanks Mary Oliver for that glorious phrase), ‘take our place in the family of things’. Occupying our space is easier when we remember that stars are not picky or demanding. They teach us something about being, about kindness. Kindness is not picky or demanding either. Kindness and stars are not exclusive about where their light shines, they are universal givers. Beamed out freely. And so kindness and light fall all over, wherever, whatever, however. They can be stumbled across in the most unlikely of places.

Such kindness can be up close. A bit like the sun, our own star which gives us warmth, as well as light. The sun is a star which teaches us that much of the time, we do not have to look far away for kindness. Sometimes kindness can be given, and found, exactly here, to the left and right of us. Here a fellow star will be. Here a fellow star we will be. Even if it starts with our own reflection in the mirror. A little self-kindness, to reflect a little light back our way.

Other times stars are far away in time, place and space. Stars and people who shine their kindness brightly into the world through their art or music or stories or courageous acts (thank you to the likes of Positive News Magazine, https://www.positive.news/, for examples of this). Their kindness, and ours, are visible in the night sky, even from far away. Kindness and light never know how far they will reach, kindness and light may manage to cover great distances, across space, between hearts. They will likely never receive thanks, in the same way that we can never thank the stars. But we are grateful they are there, like I am here, you are here, shining both near and far, taking our place as part of the canopy of kindness, which covers us all.

Let me dwell under a canopy of kindness

haunches on haybales

of straw and compacted comfort

Music strumming

the anticipation of dancing

light flickering

feet tapping on the

criss-crossed mat

While drinks are poured

and glasses raised

to evenings like these

Which come like a cool

gentle breeze

blowing away the stifled air

of my over – constricted life.

Front Image by beate bachmann from Pixabay

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 experience. The grand illusion that things move perpetually along to the next  in a linear fashion, with a clear view back and forth. The difficulty with this image is that it only allows motion forwards and backwards along a track, restricting our movement somewhat.

Perhaps you think of a triangle. A very sturdy and reliable shape, reassuring us that if we build in fixed supportive structures and frameworks, these bolsters will keep us safe and secure. The difficulty with a triangle is all the sharp pointy edges and tight angles involved in maintaining control.

A square might better explain things for you. The reliable square. You know what you are getting with a square. They make excellent boxes, they are highly replicable, fitting together rather well. Everyone belongs if they stay in their box.

And we could talk about prisms which refract light, or stars which are both edgy and bright, or hearts, because when all is said and done love changes everything.

But I’m drawn to the circle.

I’ve been learning about shapes, 2D and 3D with my 5 year old daughter, trying to find various shapes around our house. This got me thinking of all the different types of circle or sphere I could bring to mind. The smallest I got to was a cell, of a plant, animal or a human. Circles hem us in in a particular way, we are enclosed softly, fluidly. Circles in nature tend to have a ‘partially permeable membrane’ which serves to keep in what is beneficial and life giving, and keep out what is detrimental and life draining. In Celtic Spirituality there is a kind of prayer about this called ‘Caim’. You form circle shape around you, and ask for peace to be kept within and fear kept out, or hope kept in and despair kept out. You pray as you desire.

The largest circle I could think of was a planet, let’s say Jupiter, or Saturn with all its’ concentric rings. It seems like a pretty important shape for life. The Slow Travel Movement recommends exploring a new area in gently expanding concentric circles, rather than dashing from here to there, like the highlights were the only thing that mattered on a journey.

We’ve been a little like circles recently, each on our own small island. Marooned. Sending messages in bottles and in advanced Morse code. We may get to travel a little more now. I wonder what shape we will take to do this? The dimension of a circle means we have a lot of surface area available to make connections. A little like the picture featured by the artist Wassily Kandinsky, called Several Circles created in 1926. It shows how circles (and us) move between, across, over, under, around and about, overlapping with one another, through life.

Nature and circles, travel and circles, art and circles, and finally music and circles.  Music which takes you from nothing, to a great arch of sound, all the way round to home again. The circle shaped ‘oooo’ sound. Like the sound you make when you see a rainbow, the half circle, whose beginnings and ends are so mysterious, which only appear when the weather is jumbled and confused. The forming circle, that tells us that what is incomplete, is in fact, completely beautiful.

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

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.

Folk often say ‘thank you’ when receiving some kind of gift. Gifts can be many things, welcome gifts, quirky gifts, spot-on gifts, surprising gifts. Gifts can be anything really, except that to which you feel entitled. That is called something else.

The ‘thank you’ says you thought of me, you noticed I am here. You are here too. Thank you.

‘You are so welcome’ says exactly that,

you

are

welcome.

You are so welcome here on earth, you are welcome to be you, accepted as you.

It feels like we are so ready to have a chance to welcome each other, to extend hospitality. Perhaps we are missing this. There has been so much generosity of spirit, giving and deep felt gratitude, but not many chances to say ‘You’re welcome’.

There is something about hosting another in your home, of being hospitable, an opening up. You trust your guests not to critique the standard of your home or what current state it is in. You may come to my house the day after I’ve cleaned it. You may come when cleaning is overdue. Pot luck really.

It is the same when we meet each other. You may get my top 10%, or the worst 10% of me. If at all possible this is why it is best to withhold judgement of perfect strangers and their behaviour. You may see them at their best and envy them. Or at their worst and scorn them. I don’t imagine any of us wish to be met with either of those things.

My 7 year old son has this t-shirt which says ‘The Dude’ – he asked about this and after my explanation he said ‘but I’m just a regular guy’. That made me smile, ‘regular guy’ – where did he pick up a phrase like that?! But this is all of us I guess, regular guy, regular gal.

And in the end all we have to offer is our gifts, what we are best and shiny at, as well as our regular selves, (and our lesser selves too). We offer all that into the bit of the world we find ourselves in, to our lives and relationships and interactions and interruptions.

Some might turn to us and say ‘thank you’ for all that.

And we might say

‘You are so welcome’

‘You are welcome’

‘Welcome’

Buttercup and the bee

There is a host and a guest

in each of us

Like the buttercup

and the bee.

Sometimes we’re the host

We get the beers in

Make some brownies

We are gracious,

open,

and generous.

There is security in this.

There is a host and a guest

in each of us

Like the buttercup

and the bee.

Sometimes we’re the guest

We come tentatively,

wonder what kind of welcome

we will receive

Can I be me?

Am I OK to be here?

Am I Ok to be?

Am I ok?

There is a host and a guest

in each of us

Like the buttercup

and the bee.

Being a perpetual guest

is hard

Being a perpetual host

can harden you

There is a host and a guest

in each of us

Like the buttercup

and the bee.

As I meet you

and you meet me

We come as host

We come as guest

In the welcome of each other

Together, may we be.

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 fragment of who we are. This may explain why even when I’ve chatted and laughed with a group of my closest friends online I feel both more, and less, connected with them.

We have so little of each other now. This is a line which has been repeating over and over in my head. I heard it in a poem by Danusha Laméris and it gave words to what I have been feeling, and what I’ve heard others try to express. We have so little of each other now.

This applies almost exclusively, unless you live with others in your home, then, you may have had too much of them!

But, for everyone else, we have so little of each other. We live our roles as sister, brother, auntie, cousin, volunteer, co-worker, friend, from too far away.

Now and again in my work I put on PPE. When dressed like this I feel it again.

We have hands, in plastic gloves. We have smiles, behind masks. We have our eyes, ‘the window to the soul’. So much depends on what we can communicate through our eyes, our so often, tired eyes. Tired soul too perhaps.

We are separated by pixels and screens and visors at checkouts and digital audio and necessary protective equipment. Humans must stay 2 metres apart at all times. For weeks on end.

We have so little of each other now.

So this is just a little note to say, I miss the smell and touch and sound of you. I miss being in the same room with you, I miss your reassuring presence. I miss all you communicate without saying a word. I miss the most of you that technology cannot deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful to have any part of you, 5%, 15%. But I want you to remember there is so much more to you than your typed comments, your digitised voice, your pixelated face. When I see you on my screen I remember wherever you are you are fully there, 100%, all your body, mind and soul. Your facial expressions and mannerisms. Your glorious, spirited, quirky, self. I miss you, all  the pieces and parts of you, that make up the whole of you. So though you can’t have a space on my sofa, I want you to know you take up so much room in my heart.

In my life and work I have been with children, young people and adults who always need to communicate differently, in creative and personalised ways. Those who care for them find endless, innovative, meaningful ways to enable communication, and I don’t mean moving from a powerpoint to zoom. I mean music, or sensory objects, or colourful light, or hearing and touching nature. Deep listening, attentive watching, being alongside, absolutely cherishing the company of one another.

All this reminds me to cherish what we love most about each other, no matter what the limitation and restrictions on how we can communicate. There is a song called Fall On Me sung by the father and son duo of Andrea and Matteo Bocelli. They sing ‘Fall on me, with open arms. Fall on me with all your light’. May this be our song to each other. Because we may feel like we are freefalling through time and space. We may be lacking open arms to catch us. All we are left with is light. From wherever we are, we radiate out beacons of light to those we love. And we rest and are restored, in the rays light which come to fall on us from those who love us.

We have so little of each other now, but may we still fall on each other with all our light.