Let the heart create for us…

Michaela bought me a present- a book I had loved in a former life and then lost/loaned.

It is this tiny book by Michael Leunig, written back in 1991;

the prayer tree, leunig

It contains one of the few poems that I can recite by heart- “When the heart is cut or cracked or broken, don’t clutch it, let the wound lie open….” I have quoted this previously here.

Today, with thanks to Mr Leunig, (and my lovely wife) I offer you this;

God help us to live slowly

To move simply

To look softly

To allow emptiness

To let the heart create for us


And for those whose heart is not quite ready to create, perhaps this will help you realise that you are not alone;


Happy birthday Michaela!

Michaela, journey

Today my lovely Michaela is 46.

We are away on the island of Coll with some friends… a few photos are required I think…

Alt worship, old school…



Aoradh met yesterday for our ‘family day’. We have one of these a month at the house of one or other of our members. Everyone brings something to eat and something to contribute to an act of worship- it was lovely.

Yesterday we sang, listened to music, watched a DVD and spoke about starting again, changing things up. Among all the lovely things we did, what stays most in my mind was something that Michaela encouraged us to do using old school technology in the form of acetates.

‘Alternative worship’ (if you have not come across the phrase before) could be understood as a creative democratisation of worship within the Christian tradition. It involves taking old and new rituals and reinventing them, finding renewal and making new community along the way. It might also sometimes veer towards the highly technical- the joke is often made that if the alt. worship scene has a patron saint, then this is likely to be St Jobs of Apple. Contrast this with when the movement started out, when we all dug out our parents slide projectors and borrowed the OHPs from our local schools. Having said all that, our family days have very little in the way of high end technology.

Michaela’s idea was to take a song – an old Vineyard song called Hungry; She took some of the words- the negative ones like hungry, weary, empty, dry, broken and wrote them on a sheet. She then placed an acetate over the original sheet with other words on – satisfy, restore, arms open wide. The words merged, but remained separate.

She then asked us to think of all the things that were weighing us down; all those hard situations, areas of pain and brokenness, and to write them down on a sheet of paper. We then were invited to take a sheet of acetate and write words of hope, with prayers and promises. Then place the acetate over the sheet of paper.

Simple, low tec, but done prayerfully, in the company of friends it was beautiful.

I have my sheers here now. Depression becomes paired with gentleness, with patience, with grace. Awkwardness becomes paired with creativity and love…

Who needs beats and 5 different projections?


Potting on boxing day…


We have had a lovely Christmas day. Just the 4 of us and a slow day listening to music, laughing a lot, eating too much and watching cheesy films. I had some lovely gifts (thanks everyone!) and enjoyed helping Will put together his new bike. Emily has been in great form too, making us all laugh like drains- mostly with her, occasionally at her.

There is only one potter in our family- and this is Michaela. However, she lets me play around with clay from time to time. Usually she gets a bit fidgety whilst looking over my shoulder but that is fine with me.

I enjoy mixing up ceramics with metal and wood to make things that speak of the sea. The glazes we use are mostly sea colours- you never quite know what magic will happen in the kiln though. I have also been using some shapes to impress into the wet clay to make celtic crosses and the like. What better way to spend Boxing day?

Here are a few of the things I have been making;

TFT goes all seasonal…

Last night we had our first proper Christmas celebration- a lovely evening with friends from our old ‘house group’- reading, praying, sharing gifts (a secret santa kind of thing) and even singing the odd carol. Michaela had planned a ritual involving listening to U2’s song ‘Peace on Earth’ (uncharacteristically dark and mournful for her!) and also re-lending some money our group had invested with Kiva.

Earlier we put up Christmas decorations. To prove it, here are some (slightly cheesy) photos!

Patience rewarded… but…

Following on from yesterdays post, here is Michaela’s pebble bowl.



I love it.

But she hates it.

This is the other lesson from potting- what you see in your mind when you are creating something is not necessarily what you end up with. Your input – the skillful hands and the carefully nurtured imagination – has to be tested in the heat of the kiln. And this always has to involve the possibility of disappointment; failure even.

Although I wish my failures were as lovely…

The lady of the lakes…

Michaela, Derwent water


She will not thanks me for this- but here are a few photo’s of my wife. The one above was taken somewhere near where the photo in my previous post was taken.

We had a lovely couple of days- walking around Keswick which was at the beginning of the ‘Words by the Water’ festival, so full of poetry and posh people who read it enough to go to a festival about it.

We went to see Arthur Smith do a couple of hours of comedy, inter spaced with anecdotes and poems.

Then we walked round shops selling stuff that we did not need so did not buy, and sat sipping tea and talking of slow things.

On the next day we climbed Cat Bells with the crowds doing the same and stared at the view out over the lake towards Skiddaw and Blencathra.

All made the more lovely I was with Michaela…

Michaela, winter sun

Michaela, Cat Bells

picnic spot

Off to pastures old…

M and I are down to the lakes for a couple of days- a present from the kids for Christmas- they found a deal in a hotel near Cockermouth.

Poor Michaela is riddled with a cold, so I think we will be tea-shopping, lake-side walking and standing arm in arm looking at views.

And perhaps contemplating how things change. It is not so long ago that the mountains of the lakes were like Eden to me- they pulled at me like a much loved but half remembered memory. So trips up there with Michaela were quite rare as I was often off into the hills alone or with friends. The times we did go together – taking boat trips and carrying our little ones in back packs – were special too however.

But how odd to be going without the kids. It is almost like a rehearsal for the next stage of life, which is upon us, like it or not.

Emily received her first offer from a University this week- she has an unconditional offer from Glasgow Caledonian to go and do Psychology there. Not her first choice, as she wants to combine physiology with psychology, but well done her anyway as we wait for the other responses.

Which all seems a long road from this trip to the lakes;

Michaela with Emily, some time in the late nineties, Keswick.

Michaela talks about the Timebank!

I am very proud of Michaela- and so here is a chance to show you some of the things she does in her day job.

Recently she was speaking about a local project she has been working on- a local Timebank. (You can watch her whole presentation here.)

The bloke from the NHS talking on the video seems to have totally missed the point- the emphasis is not on ‘services saving money’, or ‘sick’ people doing something to make them better- rather a Timebank is a level playing field to allow everyone to build community connections- where everyone can contribute.

We joke in our family that the first ‘exchange’ of time in Dunoon was a few years ago when Michaela came home with a rusty Shopper bike and told me that I was to make it work again. And they were off! It has become a really great local programme, with some fantastic stories- including a whole wedding- flowers, photography, cars, catering- all arranged through time exchanges! People have some amazingly diverse skills to offer- translation of a document from Russian? No problem. Fix a computer? Easy. Proof read a document? When do you want it finished? Others have involved an older lady who learnt how to write properly using her handwriting skills on certificates, or another person teaching woodcraft skills. It is great.

Michaela would never agree that a lot of this is down to her- she would point to all the others who have worked so hard to make it a success- but I know different. She is just one of those people who makes other people feel safe and included, and by her own dedication makes other people stick in there.


Our anniversary…

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary.

And I can honestly say that despite the ups and downs of the long walk together (and to be honest, with Michaela there have been very few downs) I love her more now than ever. I am a man blessed.

I know I am biased, but Michaela is a special person. She has the gift (and sometimes the burden) of being a networker, a host, a listener and a safe place for other people. Just recently we have been so very busy and she rarely stops – either working or meeting people or reaching out in some way. Sometimes people seem to want or expect too much of her and I wish I could protect her from some of this but it is simply who she is.

Today though we are going into Glasgow together. Just the two of us. Even though we have stuff to do, it is going to be OUR time.

Autumn is almost upon us;

Bare branches showing
Cold winds come blowing
Stealing this year away
Curlews are calling
The light now is falling
Dark nights are drawing in

There’s a crack in the church bell
There’s ice in the stairwell
Take care my love
Take care.
Close tight the windows
The day is only shadows
Come sit by the fire
With me

The far distant hillside
Is laced up in moonshine
No thoughts of the valley
And maybe tomorrow
We can beg steal or borrow
Some time for just me
And just you

This house is now sleeping
Old floorboards creaking
The warmth’s all but gone
From the fire
So lets climb these stairs love
Dreams waiting a-bove
Let me lie in your arms

Bare branches showing
Cold winds come blowing
Stealing this year away

September 2007