Canoe fundraiser- preparing…

 

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Will and I are working hard to get ready for our canoe trip across Scotland. We will set off to Fort William on Sunday morning, with a plan to paddle the first stretch of the Caledonian canal to our first camp alongside Loch Lochy by nightfall.

 

The canoe has needed a bit of work- rigging it for touring with cargo retainers and also we have had to do some fibreglassing on the skid plates. It has had a hard life and has some hard miles to do yet!

I was reflecting on this, when the canoe and I both almost met our ends together. It seems all the more special that ii is now being used to raise money to give life to others…

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…which takes me to a little reminder that we are still hoping for some donations to Children of Peace via our Justgiving site. After all, if ever the border between Israel and the Palestinian peoples needs people who work for peace, it is now. Perhaps there might yet be hope for the next generation- when Trump and Netanyahu will just be pantomime villains in the ridiculous past…

By gum though, we seem to have  lot of stuff (but no, the guitar is not coming with us!)

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Andy’s wilderness retreat videos…

I always tease him about his technology/photography addiction, but my mate Andy has made some lovely videos capturing both something of his own wilderness journey and also gives a flavour of what these weekends are like. He is a talented chap.

Many years ago, I remember a debate with someone else (Jonny Baker?) about photography and spirituality. I was pontificating about how the digitisation of lived experience is a problem- in that might become a means of detachment rather than connection from place and person. The counter argument however is that photography can also be a way of looking- you see things more vividly, framing and focusing attention. Andy’s video might be a primary example of this;

Trying to love when your teeth are clenched…

I avoided the big wedding yesterday- I am no royalist so find all the sycophantic pomp and ceremony hard to take. But people began talking to me about the words spoken by Bishop Curry to all the millions of people who were watching. I went looking for them and watched this;

For reasons I can not go into here, I need to be reminded again about the call to live a life of love. Even in the face of hate. Even in the face of people unjustly accusing you. Even in the face of bullies. Even when you want to punch faces. Even when you want to build fences.

We live in the shadow of unlove. But the call of Jesus is to love anyway.

Working this out is the problem, because, if you read this, it is pretty much all that matters (from Galatians chapter 5);

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love…

 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.

I know how much I fall short of this, but today I decided again not to make war against those who attack me. Perhaps I will fall short of love, but I will at least take steps in that direction.

By the way, the Bishop crops up again in this wonderful reply to the kind of Christianity that pumps up Trump and all his kind;

Wilderness retreat photos, 2018…

I was away at the weekend, here.

 

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For the first time, we needed two boats, with 17 people coming on the retreat. I worried about the size of the group being a too much, but in the end it worked really well.

The highlights this year for me;

  • The usual experience of a small space expanding and holding me.
  • Spending time with old friends
  • Making new ones.
  • Emily coming for the first time
  • Significant contributions from others in leading things
  • Listening to Mozart’s requiem in a candle lit cave
  • Sharing the journeys of others
  • The stillness we find before an ever moving sea
  • The laughter of naughty boys.

I am back home now, picking off ticks and allowing photographs to wash me in the warm water of recent memory.

I am deeply grateful.

Apart from the aforementioned ticks, one other thing that was less than welcome was the huge amounts of plastic on the island. We filled bag after bag with the stuff to carry away, but it seemed as if we hardly scratched the surface. A powerful reminder of the need for us all to change our ways.

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Where the streams come from, poems 5, 6 and 7…

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There is a place in western sea

All blue-green colours dancing

It holds the heart in palm of ground

And is my soul romancing

And on that place a curlew curls

A song of its belonging

For it is to you my dearest one-

To your island I am coming

 

Part of the remit of this book was to gather some of the poems that Michaela uses in her pottery creations, which form much of the output of our business seatree. 

The medium of clay lends itself well to using short poems or even one line. It is lovely to watch how poetry is given a new life as it is shaped into clay, fired then glazed…

 

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The winter rains are almost done

The birds now sweetly singing

The woods alive in every limb

Each leaf new life is bringing

The ancient hills are green again

The valleys now are bleating

The forest floor slumbers no more

Bluebells will soon be ringing

 

Arise my love, and come away

Arise my love and come away

 

The days are long those shadows gone

Light here around is falling

The humming hive is now alive

Lark into sky is soaring

The feet of deer will skitter here

On this bright new morning

We’ll climb up high, just you and I

The summer days are calling

 

Arise my love, and come away

Arise my love and come away

 

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From a place high on the upper storeys

Of bird city, he stretches out wings

White, tipped with black

Launches

Shapes the air

Catches the flow in feathers, then

Arrows through the crowded sky

Rides the wild winds blowing out west

Flies away.

 

A few more of M’s pots;

Wilderness retreat- anyone want to come?

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A late shout this, but we have  few places available this year if any intrepid souls want to join us next weekend…

We will be heading out to Eilean Dubh Mor from Easdale on Saturday morning (5th May) @ 10.00, returning on Monday (7th May.)

If you are wondering what these retreats are all about, there are a few accounts of previous trips on this blog, not to mention a video that Andy did a few years ago. We tend to divide our time in half- agreeing to spend time in silence and time in community. We laugh a lot, and there are always campfires and lots of conversation. The weather can be challenging, but this time we are guaranteed a dry cave for two should they be needed.

This year we will be taking two boats, which means we have a bit more room as a couple of people have dropped out. If you are interested, drop me a comment below and I will contact you with some more details.

Cost will be just for the boat by the way- £55 each.

Where the streams come from, poem 4…

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Here is the fourth poem from my new book ‘Where the streams come from’, available here.

I chose to share this one because our newspapers in the UK are full of stories of how our government has established policy and culture within the Home Office that has resulted in terrible injustice being done to immigrants who have lived in this country, in some cases, for decades. The centre of this has been talk of the so-called ‘Windrush Generation’ of black people of Caribbean extraction who were invited over to the UK to fill a labour shortage in the aftermath of WW2. The government seem to have created a deliberately hostile environment to all immigrants in the country in order to placate all those Brexit voices that blamed all sorts of woes on ‘the other’. It is an utterly repugnant policy, playing to the basest of racist fear- stoking it even for political advantage.

I found myself asking how all this started? Where we always like this- tribal, given to fear and loathing of the other, the outsider? Is there really no hope of how things could be different?

The poem below was written for Greenbelt Festival several years ago. The theme of the festival was ‘home’, and the poem explores a story at the beginning of the bible in the book of Genesis describing how Cain and Abel fell out. It perhaps records the point when tribalism and the ‘property’ first began to get us in to trouble.

It is possible to see these early passages of the Bible as a record of the rise of man;

from hunter-gatherer

to farmer

to accumulator

to town dweller

to city builders who raised up Babel-towers

…and eventually onward into the struggle of successive empires who rise and fall, each one with its own winners and losers. Each one making its own refugees as it clears more space for its own avarice. Read this way, the stories at the beginning of the Bible are an ancient warning of how far we might have come from what we were meant to be.

Home becomes defined not only as ‘mine’, but crucially as ‘not yours’. In this way, like Cain, we remain to the East of Eden.

City of London, construction

 

 

A place called wandering

 

There is this story from the beginning of us

Of brothers who started to measure their relative success

It began with small things –

the domestic injustices, the long silences

 

One brother loved the wild places

The freedom of the forest – to hunt the deer and gather the low fruit

He could bear no borders

 

The other was a man of industry

He fenced the land

and turned the earth to fields

And the land was bountiful

His store houses were overflowing

In this he was vulnerable

 

Somehow these things became a wall between them –

Leading to violence

And death.

 

We think we were the first to ever feel

 

The first to dream of higher places

The first to fall

The first to scream at sharp things

The first to feel that indescribable sting

called love

 

The first to make music

The first to feel shame shrinking

our callow souls

The first to seek the promised land

The first to eat from the tree

Called puberty

 

We were not

 

Long before light could be conjured

by a switch

Men and women sat around fires and

dreamed of starflight

They rose high above the flat old earth

Pregnant with new possibilities

Favour rested on their fields

 

But every generation grows and leaves home

We make and break and forge our own magnificence

And these palaces we build need solid doors

To protect what is mine

From what you will never have

And we wander – marked like Cain

East of Eden

 

Sometimes it seems that you and me

Have spent forever

Looking for a way

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