Michaela joins the noughties…

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Whoever would have believed it? My lovely wife has started blogging. Those that know her well will feel a rising sense of disbelief.

Until they realise that her blog is part of the work she has been doing to develop Seatree, our small effort to dominate the international art and craft market. Thanks to the help and support of our mate Andy, whose business Enterprize Web Design and Print helped us towards a functioning website, we can supply all your online retail needs (as long as they are in relation to ceramics and wooden stuff.)

Anyway, well done Michaela for the bloggage- you can take a look at her first post and encourage her to keep going here.

 

 

Becoming what we love…

Key in the door, Kilmory Chapel

What a self indulgent whiny title.

What makes we middle class white westerners think that we have a right to some kind of existential orgasmic fulfillment while others scrabble for the first tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

I loathe all the pop psychology that tells us we can be everything we want to be, if only we believe. If only we follow some formula. Some ritual. Some religion.

As if there is a key to it all and our job is just to buy it. Then locate the right hole in the right door.

locked door

I am reading a book at the moment, one of those books. The books that invite you to be ‘true to yourself’. Whatever the hell that means. It is a Paulo Coelho book called The Witch of Portobello. If you have ever read any Coelho you may share my experience of reading him; you start off thinking ‘what on earth is this about?’, slightly irritated by the apparently simplistic prose, laced with truisms and fairy tale mysticism. But as you read on, you start to get it, or perhaps it starts to get you.

This book tells the story of an extraordinary young woman in her search for peace and fulfillment, or as the book puts it, the blank spaces in a work of art that makes the art possible and the pauses between musical notes that make music beautiful.

And damn it, in spite of all the above, I feel something nagging at my soul. Perhaps it is words like this;

I explained to her that before the word comes the thought. And before the thought, there is the divine spark that placed it there. Everything, absolutely everything on this Earth makes sense, and even the smallest things are worthy of our consideration.

Paulo Coelho

There it is, a piece of mystical truism. That feels like mystical truth.

Perhaps we have to love what we are in order to love what we do.

Perhaps what we do is unimportant, but there has to be love in the way we do it.

Perhaps however, there is also a path of love into something else. Something that frees us to let go…

I hope so.

lift up…

 

sunrise, the clyde,

God be lifting up my head

there is more to be found

than this trodden ground

I stand upon

 

God be lifting up my eyes

for hope might arise,

like the tenderest surprise,

even after defeat

 

God be lifting up my heart

not just to pump blood,

but swelled up by love

make it wide open

 

God be lifting up my feet

For the steps I now take

is the journey I make

towards you

 

God be lifting up my hands

for in their embrace

each small act of grace

becomes yours

 

 

 

 

 

 

The joy of living…

cuilin ridge from Sgur nan Gilean

It is that hole in the middle.

I could be talking about Christmas and  New Year. I am blessed by time off work, and sit waiting for old friends to negotiate the mess that the storms have made of Greenock and join us for our regular NY house gathering. This may well be the last time we meet in this old place- assuming a hoped for sale goes through. Who knows where we will be in a year?

Who knows where any of us will be in a year?

I could also be talking about the hole in the middle of living. We start out with a million possibilities, even achieve a few of them. At the end of the day, no matter how many mountain tops we reach, the best of us remains to be found in family and the love we leave behind stored up in the DNA of our young ones (now perhaps not so young.)

I was beautifully reminded of this by a song on an album called ‘The Joy of Living, a tribute to Ewan McColl‘; a gift from my brother in law. I have always been a little negative towards McColl. Despite his towering folk and radical left wing credentials, he always seemed to be to be a stern and austere figure, who made stern and austere music. This album changed all that for me. It is full of incredible songs; songs of working men, Gypsy persecution, and this one, written after age had prevented him completing a climb up a Suilven. (Not the picture above, that is one of my favourites, taken from high on the Cuillin on Skye.)

If it does not make you weep there is something wrong with your soul.

Farewell you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye
Moorland and stony ridges, crags and peaks goodbye
Glyder Fach farewell, Cul Beag, Scafell, cloud-bearing Suilven
Sun warmed rock and the cold of Bleaklow’s frozen sea
The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk
On the joy of living

Farewell to you my love, my time is almost done
Lie in my arms once more until the darkness comes
You filled all my days, held the night at bay, dearest companion
Years pass by and they’re gone with the speed of birds in flight
Our life like the verse of a song heard in the mountains
Give me your hand then love and join your voice with mine
We’ll sing of the hurt and pain and the joy of living

Farewell to you my chicks, soon you must fly alone
Flesh of my flesh, my future life, bone of my bone
May your wings be strong, may your days be long, safe
be your journey
Each of you bears inside of you the gift of love
May it bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving
Eagerly savour each new day and the taste of its mouth
Never lose sight of the thrill
And the joy of living

Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I will be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I’ll be part of the curlew’s cry and the soaring hawk
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I’ll be riding the gentle wind that blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared
In the joy of living

TFT Christmas card, 2015; Open the sky…

May the journey through and beyond this Christmas be full of simple joys. May you rise again as the days lengthen, and dare to believe that there is more, there is better.

May hope be lubricated by love.

Light from top window, sugar warehouse, Greenock dock

Open the sky

 

Open the sky and let some light in

Let this night be night no longer

Let stars shine down in shafts of love

Illuminating our ordinary things

All dowdy with dirt and common use

Let donkeys laugh out loud

For now the basest things

Are silvered up in grace

Covered all in kindness

For he is coming

 

Not to penthouse or suburban comfort

Nor to plump the cushions of those who have too much

Not to stroke the fragile ego of fame or celebrity

Nor to strengthen the arm of the powerful

Not to expand their empty empires

Nor to defend the borders they made from a scratch in shifting sand

Not to shape a new religious prison from seductive certainties

Nor to doctor out new proscribed doctrine

He is not coming to the exclusive religious few

But to you

 

The mess of you

In all your brokenness

In all your failure

Even in the certain knowledge that

You will fail again

 

Open the sky and let some light in

 

4th Sunday in Advent; the Spirit in everything…

It has been weirdly warm in the UK this last week- up into double figures even up here in Scotland. Last week it was winter, now it is something else and the feeling it brings to me is a quiet unease. Something is out of kilter.

Meanwhile the news channels remain full of anti-Christmas, in stark contrast to the dichotomous forced festivities that surround us. Politicians continue to use fear to manipulate us towards some ill defined goal. Advent indeed.

Sometimes it seems that everything must fall.

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Last weekend we crunched up into the Argyll forest, laced as it was in a crust of ice. It was stunningly beautiful, even in winter stasis. Wild places like this have a way of reminding us that sometimes there is a season to stop; to re-gather; to become rather than just to consume. They remind us that there is an interconnected fabric behind everything and we are just a small part of the whole.

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In the midst of the woods we came across branches wrapped up in something that from a distance looked like cotton wool, but as we came closer it looked like some kind of fungal growth, fluted and fragile like the baleen of a whale.

When I gently placed a finger on the substance, it was revealed to be ice. What might have caused such a thing? Why only here and there? We noticed that the conglomerations were only on branches broken off by storms and hung up in the canopy. Perhaps it was something to do with warming exhale of moist decomposition held like a ghost in the cold air.

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It appealed to the poet in me. It seemed as like the shadow left behind as spirit went free. Almost as if the tall tree was releasing its essence back to unite with the Spirit behind all things.

I realise that this might sound like some kind of reversion to animistic primitive spirituality; the sort that sees our ancestors in every stone and tree (although who am I to question the meaning others make from what is never fully known?) It is just that I have come to believe that God is not locked up in our religious buildings or our cherished and overly defended doctrines.

He is in everything.

The coming of Messiah was not the first time God entered the world- he was always here. Rather it was the first time he became one of us, so that we might finally see that those apparently urgent things we find so pressing are often just passing distractions from the real business of learning the way of love. Certainly I have lots to learn yet.

When the time comes for our own exhalation, may the shape we leave behind be every bit as beautiful.

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3rd Sunday in Advent; Dark grace…

Michaela has been reading Richard Rohr’s daily meditations on her phone. She often gets excited and texts me things she is reading. The other day it was all about something called dark grace. The idea that God is not interested in the bits of us that are shiny and bright- rather he loves the dark shadowy bits; those parts of us that we hide. Those parts that we are shamed by, where we are bruised and broken.

To these areas, God sends dark grace. Grace that rests on our hidden places.

I wrote this poem…

the clyde at night

Dark Grace

 

It was not to show light that light entered this world

For light is never seen in the bright light of day

It can only fall on those bruised and oft-used places

Where darkness lies

Like old oil

In the sump between us

 

For this is no artificial lime light, pointed only

To make even greasepaint appear appropriate

No, it glows in the hollow places

Revealing the rainbow slick

In the ink-black blood

Pumped from subterranean veins

 

This light lights kindly on every ugly corrugation

Lingers on warts and shines from my slick fat flesh

It knows me, not as I would be, but in the sewer I swim in

Perhaps it is not light after all

But a kind of illuminated darkness

A sort of dark grace

 

This light is livid, alive only

When it illuminates the unlovely

There revealed once more

In the dark light of love

Lit up in the indigo darkness

Where we really are