Winds of Change

Saturday thoughts and gratitude for a week of serendipity, many hugs (and many doughnuts!).

Clear blue early spring light this morning and a wind, more insistent than playful, outside my window.

After the stillness brought by last week’s snow, the wind speaks of motion.

It reminds us that even when we are away from it – watching from behind the safety our fortress – glass windows silencing the outside world – it is about change.

Actions don’t always speak louder than words.

Sometimes words are the action.

Words that can set off a train of motion or stop us dead in our tracks.

I was thinking about words, about communication, this week.

In a world of instant imagery, we often accept a picture as being ‘worth a thousand words’ and miss the true meaning of perhaps just a few chosen ones.

In a letter I treasure, sent while still I was still at university, my father gently reminded me that I hadn’t written home for a week or two. 

‘The telephone is a wonderful modern means of communication for the 20th century’ he said, ‘but it doesn’t replace the written word’

Today I am off to see Olly – Allie’s son. 

A thoughtful, perceptive boy with a lively inquiring mind. 

Over the years I have attempted to answer his many questions. 

Today I know there will be more. 

I arrive just before the rain.

Everything’s different but everything’s the same.

I have driven this road dozens of times, but never tire of the view onto the fields. I park the car, as always. 

I walk over to the gate and take a picture, as always.

The ‘always’ will never be the same again.

I know.

And my friend’s absence is palpable at this moment.

The house is subdued, quiet. 

Allie’s desk has been tidied. The coffee table is clear. 

The fireplace is clean and cold.

Some things remain; Olly and I have a movie-going ritual. 

Today is no different. 

For a couple of hours we will lose ourselves in an animated world. 

In the car we talk about music and travel.

Olly wants to hear about my trip to Chile from 2 years ago.

We sing along together to Toto’s ‘Africa’.

‘I want to go to Tanzania and play this song when I’m there’ Olly says.

Later, thanks to the wonderful generosity of so many, Olly, his grandmother and I sit together in his grandmother’s house.

I show them the messages left with the donations we’ve had. 

Messages of love.

The fire is lit and a cat is luxuriating in the warmth.

We talk about the plaque that will be placed on Allie’s memorial bench.

Olly asks that we put Churchill’s words on it ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. 

I hold back emotion. 

It encapsulates so much of his mother’s spirit.

In words.

Not many, just enough.

Enough to remember a spirit and her determination.

Enough to remember the unending motion, not just of the wind, but of us.

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January

January, you’ve been brutal.

A teacher of life lessons.

You’ve set assignments.

And with no warning, tested.

The longest month arrived cloaked in heavily draped darkness and days of unreality.

It brought loss and it brought pain. 

The mind recalls past times but has to re-learn to accept that the heart, the heart with all its imperfections, has forgotten. 

The heart stood forlorn. 

The fog began to lift on that cold clear day of goodbye. A purpose emerged and a plan. We often offer of ourselves in the full knowledge that we won’t be called upon; now was the time to step up to plate. 

Lesson one: if you offer, be prepared to give.

The everyday can take its toll. 

Never ending lists and calendar notes and deadlines. 

We wear worn-out as a badge, a validation of our efforts. 

With your fondness for resolutions, January, you gave us 

lesson two: self-care is permitted. 

Necessity is not indulgence.

Nourish body and soul.

Work out, more.

Eat well, more.

Be kind to yourself, more.

You cannot give of yourself if your self is empty.

You gave gifts as well, January;

You brought new connections and connected us to old.

Recognition isn’t always easy, but you spoke of worth and of value.

Of acceptance and of gratitude.

And you gave us lesson three: let those we care for know that we do.

Slowly, you let light return.

And just then, in your final hours, you reminded us that everything will come to pass. 

You wiped the slate and covered our world in silent white.

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Perception

68F1530A-AE45-450F-B383-1B4D45E425E8Sunday gratitude.

When Anaïs Nin, to whom the adage “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are” is widely attributed, wrote it, she did not take credit for it, but referred to its Talmudic roots, originating from the 3rd Century Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani’s words “A man is shown in a dream only what is suggested by his own thoughts…”

It came to mind yesterday, wandering through an exhibition at the Barbican Centre (Modern Couples Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde) and wondering, as any observer of human interaction might, about the dynamics between the artists/couples and the expression of beauty as translated in the eye of the lover. 

Snapshots in time capturing tenderness in photographs, the sensuousness of texture in sculpture, harmony in design collaborations and glimpses of feelings in writings; In an age where love was not hurried, and correspondence allowed an emoji-free flow between lovers.

It made me think about how we evaluate and value others; friends, companions, lovers. 

So often we apply and impose our own interpretation on the expectations of others and in that altered reality see them not as they are, but very much constricting the dream of the possible to being the product of our own thought.

This morning I took a few moments to try and see things ‘as they are’ in the quiet space of Manchester Square Garden. 

I stepped away from the streets – bustling with market-goers – and into the gentle green of the garden.

There are glimpses of spring everywhere; buds on branches, clumps of still-furled daffodils encircling a beautiful old tree, some voluptuously generous blossoms and blooms on camellia bushes. 

Oblivious to all around them and drawing only on the generosity of the soil and abundance of light to sustain them.

The certainty of nature’s renewal gave me a moment to appreciate the sense of acceptance of things as they are regardless of how l [am]…  

On my walk home it became today’s gratitude.

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Every day you play with the light of the universe

‘Every day you play with the light of the universe.’

I first came across this line two years ago on what was a wonderful trip to Pablo Neruda’s home country of Chile, now a temporary home to dear friends, who shared it, and their love with me.

It stayed with me.

Neruda may have written this as the first line to a love poem – a poem that is beautifully expressed, ripe with analogy and charged with emotion – but to me it resonates and reiterates that though the darkest hour is just before the break of dawn, every day is a new day. 

Sometimes this newness is unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unwanted, as we stumble out of slumber and into the reality of routine, chasing dreams away under running water and bittersweet coffee as the first flavour of morning.

Sometimes this newness carries a whisper of joy and reminds us of the choice we hold to play with the light. 

The choice we make to be part of the light. 

The choice to recognise that every day doesn’t have to be weighed down by the monotony of the everyday.

Beautiful in its transitory fragility and full of promise.

Full of the possibility of the 

special.

Every day is a gift. 

A gift within our grasp, within our hearts.

Go. 

Play. 

Every day. 

With the light of the universe.

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I watched the sky cry yesterday

I watched the sky cry yesterday.

Big, heavy, cleansing tears. 

Settling on the ground and glistening as dusk fell outside my window and I was thinking about the tomorrow that became today.

And today came: cold, sharply cold. 

Air that makes its presence known as we inhale.

Air that reminds us of the very fact of life.

Cold and blue.

A canopy of never-ending blue.

So fitting of today. 

So fitting of a day of saying goodbye to the physical and reflecting on the endlessness of the soul, the gift of memory, and love.

There were hugs and hands that reached out and took mine when emotion took hold of me; words that were spoken both out loud and silently. 

In the midst of it all, there was a small moment in time for quietude, for stillness.

There, in a roomful of people brought together by loss, we were able, in our own minds to reflect and remember the presence of the friend we lost.

My yoga teacher, in last night’s class, spoke of the pause.

And in that pause today, I thought about what it actually means to pause, what it means to feel a pause, and what we can take from it. 

Sometimes life imposes a pause; it is that moment when something is said or done that irreversibly changes our world. 

It becomes that nanosecond in which *we* change. 

It can be intense joy, our heart filled to the brim, or pain, so much of it, that we can talk of heartbreak and feel the jagged edges of its fracture. 

Sometimes we create the pause. We are stopped in our tracks for a moment of our own making, a moment that might be generated by anticipation or dread, but one that we will move on from, fortified by having experienced it.

And sometimes we accept the pause with gratitude, embracing the reminder that in our life of ‘doing’ we can and should permit ourselves to ‘be’.

Today was a day to do exactly that. 

Unending thanks and love to my friend Allie for her friendship and love in life and for the memories that remain with me.

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For Alison

For Alison.

My beautiful friend.

Fierce, fearless and a free-spirit.

You walked along my path with me for many years.

Always there. 

Always ready to offer encouragement and support.

Always.

Today my head is full of memories.

Snapshots in time from Bar School… late nights… a weekend when we went over to your mother’s on the train together… being pupils at the same time and tea cakes at Inner Temple… dancing around in my living room…. Manchester and unwrapping champagne glasses on your 30th birthday… the never ending conversations… endless phone calls when you lived in Manchester and later Lymm.

I would drive up for the weekend and when I had work in Preston I would stay with you.

On one occasion, I was up for a trial that lasted 3 weeks; you had just found out that you were pregnant. I bought you a big soft White Company towelling robe and loved that you kept it for ages… even when it became worn and frayed.

You walked the Moon-walk. Determined and proud. 

I found the photos from that time today. 

You’re on my sofa with giant bowls of salad and pasta I cooked for you and Shirley.

Downstairs in your decorated bra, your laughter infectious.

You had beaten the illness at that time. 

You asked for salad again when you came over last September and again in October.

I can’t quite believe it was only 3 months ago.

I loved the evening we had together and so grateful for it.

My amazing friend.

Intelligent, inquiring, intuitive.

You gave of your knowledge constantly; from essential oils to literature, from nutrition to history. I loved learning from you, and unfailingly, you had more to give. 

We wandered around the British Museum together 6 years ago, you were still in treatment for round 2 with the cancer. At one point 8-year-old Oliver ran back to us scandalised: ‘mummy, mummy, those people (statues) are naked’… You stifled your laugh and I wish I could remember your explanation. 

My wonderful friend.

Oliver has grown from a beautiful little boy into a beautiful young man.

He is so much of you. 

He is so much you can be proud of.

And I know that all you taught him, all you instilled in him, will stay with him and guide him on.

You and I talked about him.

We will all be there for him.

I promise.

I will never know how much of the presence of those of us who came to visit you, you were aware of in the last few days.

I hope  you know how loved you are.

You are with the infinite now.

You are the infinite now.

Your energy is now with the stars.

You are a star.

 

And I know you haven’t really left us –

you’ve just gone to another place.

Allie.

My friend.

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The visit

 

I am, as ever, so grateful to have so many good people around me.

Some of you know of one particular friend whose love and friendship I am privileged to have, whose battle with illness has been on-going and whose strength I have always been in awe of. 

Yesterday was a difficult day of realization and acceptance.

My thoughts are fragmented at the moment, but here are some of them, jotted on my phone variously yesterday –

The visit.

On my way to see my friend.

It’s Sunday morning.

My heart hangs heavy as motorway miles swallow the distance between the fuzzy warmth of waking and the place I am about to arrive at.

A couple of narrow roads, a sudden chorus of birdsong and a discreet sign. 

In the car park, cars have been parked with large gaps left between them. 

Perhaps fellow travelers on the long road of good-byes recognize the importance of those ‘keep your distance’ markings.

We like to think of our cars as a cloak of invisibility and at some point today I was grateful for it, when emotion took over and I retreated for a few moments to seek composure.

There is a stillness in the corridors;

Doors that lead to soft pastel walls enclosing what in this place is the waiting room to the last journey. 

Today, my friend’s physical being is yet smaller than it was in previous days.

I want to tell them that it’s a beautiful day and the morning mist has lifted, but a fog has descended upon them and I walk away. 

The nurses are kind and walk out with me, one tells me that my friend is in their own space just now.  

It is the inbetween space of body and soul. The space that medicine has learnt to numb but not to cure.

The space of being in which both denial and hope have been dealt a blow and are cowered in a corner, blindfolded and rigid with fear. 

Others arrive.

There are hugs and tears and silence that cannot, and need not be filled. 

There are lush grounds surrounding this place. 

We go out onto them for a little while. 

The cold winter air is so full of life that I want to grab it in armfuls and carry it into the room that seeks to recreate it with an oxygen tank. 

It strikes me how the green expanse around us is nourished by teary clouds, bursting with untold tales gathered from unknown rivers.

Rivers are fickle; they can run dry at times, at others burst their banks, then they flow into the sea.

A oneness. A whole.

I think of friendship and I think of my friend. When you’ve known someone for so long, although measurable in years, it isn’t possible to recall how friendship came to be, just that it *is*.

A oneness. A whole.

For now, we leave our loved one asleep. 

As I drive away, the sky is lit with golds and pinks that welcome dusk. 

I follow the sun.

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