Chilling out with Moondark ( ‘what’s that?!’)

Chill out time....

Chill out time….

As I sit writing this, tucked away quietly in our Quiet Room with some soothing Japanese incense burning, it is approaching the end of Moondark. ‘What on earth is that?’ I hear you say.

Moondark is the last three days of the 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle. At Moondark, the  Moon disappears. Full Moon is the high energy point of the cycle, fourteen days after the New Moon. A few month’s notetaking is sufficient to realise that life is more pressured and charged up at that time. Moondark is the low energy point. It is a time for rest and retreat, not a time to initiate new projects or demand great feats of one’s vitality.

“When I retire, I’m going to burn forty years of work diaries and run my life by the phases of the Moon!”

Yes, I said that, in a period of extreme work stress about twenty years ago. Friends laughed; but now in the post-career phase of my life, I’m working at just that. I find it comforting, helpful and useful to tune into the Moon’s cycle as far as possible in plotting the ebb and flow of my energies these days.

My long 2001-8 retreat  taught me that regular and adequate periods of rest are essential. The bill for rest deprivation cannot be evaded by anyone.We cannot abandon technology which has brought our world community so many advantages, but can – if we choose – begin slowly to step aside from the destructive 24/7 ism which it fosters. People need to stop going to the supermarket at midnight and sending emails at 3 am if they want to have a proper life!

I find now that up to an hour’s retreat time daily, and careful planning to avoid taking on anything very demanding at Moondark, (not always possible!) has provided a rhythm of alternating activity and rest which is stabilising and supportive of well-being. But it is important to be patient, realistic and gradual in any attempts to introduce lifestyle changes. It would be silly to suggest otherwise.

I hardly think the bosses of the land would take kindly to staff’s announcing that all work from now on was going to be run by the phases of the Moon!

You don’t need special tables to work out when Moondark is. Most diaries indicate by a small black circle next to the day and date, when the New Moon falls.

For example, you will find this year (2014)  that  Monday 25 August indicates the day of the New Moon. I am writing this in the last couple of hours of Moondark. Wednesday 24 September is the next New Moon, and so on … Thus Moondark this month is 23,24 and part of 25 August. Next month, it is 21, 22 & 23 September.

It is easy, as I do at the start of a new year and a new diary, to go through the year putting a red line through the days when Moondark falls.

A pattern of  daily rest and retreat time, and observing Moondark as much as I can each month, has given me a sound support structure from which I have now returned to a reconnected life. Observing Moondark is a regular reminder, also, that we belong to Mother Nature.

New Moon

The New Moon in Virgo – in the UK time zone – begins at 15.14 today.Virgo is an earth sign, its energies strongly service oriented, practical, and good at managing detail. It is also extremely hard working, and analytical.So – the Virgo new moon would be an ideal time to start that blitz on your admin system which you’ve been putting off all year, or for putting special effort into re-organising and cleaning up the garden.

I’ve noticed that people with a strong emphasis on Virgo in their horoscopes or birth charts seem to be very fond of stationery shops, and of acquiring stationery. So, why not use this new moon to acquire next year’s diary, go through it and mark off Moondark each month? Or set your smartphone to send you a reminder of when Moondark begins?

Why don’t you try working with this lunar rhythm for a while, trying to chill out and wind down a little at  Moondark ? Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

A psychological approach to the Tarot, Part Two: the clients’ perspective

This two-part article is an attempt to explore the Tarot. The first installment, ‘Introducing the Tarot: a psychological perspective’ should have given the reader some idea of the depth from which the tarot can be approached, of issues raised by its practice, and of how it can be used as a valuable aid to self-development.

Here, the second part presents feedback from two clients, one female – Anya – and one male – Marc. They were chosen for the way in which they brought together, in their respective accounts, elements of most people’s responses to the tarot creatively and responsibly used.

I was also interested to show how Marc wove his experiences of very different symbol systems ie tarot, astrology and the I Ching as well as more conventional psychotherapy, into his long struggle to arrive at a place of reasonable balance in his life again.

Both names are pseudonyms.

 In preparing this article I asked for, and received, very helpful feedback from various clients. I could have used short extracts from all their contributions, but in the end  chose this longer, thoughtful piece from Anya, a female client in her late thirties.

……This felt like an extremely powerful experience and I could hardly believe the cards which were turned up. A number of the cards made a direct impact on me as I realised their significance. Some of the other cards were more difficult to connect with at the time, but have since shown their relevance. All in all, it was an extremely affirming experience and offered me the support I so badly needed at the time – gave me something positive to hold onto.

Meaning continues to unfold as time has progressed, and I feel (six months on) that I am shifting into another phase, having embraced each of the cards’ messages in turn.

This experience has underlined for me a sense of being part of something much larger and greater than myself.

The Sun

The Sun

This is awesome! I take faith from this. I found the pictures on the cards most evocative and enjoyed looking around ‘within’ the pictures.

The experience remains with me as an affirmation of my life over the last six months. In many ways I can see that I am at the place of ‘final outcome’ in the reading, certainly having lived through and faced that which I most needed and feared.

Without the reading, I feel that I would have gone through the experience in much the same way. However, holding on to the most positive aspects of the reading offered me vital support and helped me make connection with my inner strength. Furthermore, the element of warning and caution in the reading helped me to be extremely aware of my need to protect myself. This helped sustain me during a most harrowing time. I look forward to my next reading very much!’

Marc‘s response is an extract from written feedback he provided:

‘…..The best way I can think of to approach this, is to answer the question ‘why did I go for astrology and tarot readings at all, especially bearing in mind my previous contemptuous rejection of such things?

Well, as you know, only a catastrophe got me there! My previous, very rational, world view having collapsed in some considerable disarray, I had a desperate need for some other source of ‘meaning’ in my life – or rather, some other ‘meaningful’ way of understanding myself and what had been happening to me. I don’t think I was too interested in prediction, only in gaining insight.

As you know, I graduated to the tarot reading from several astrology readings and from participation in your astrology classes. Astrology was powerfully attractive for me – after I had crossed the Rubicon of ‘letting go’ of my previous contempt – because within its own terms it is in fact another vast rational system of understanding the universe. What I mean is, even if you think the whole thing is nonsense, it is nevertheless internally consistent, rational nonsense. Hence it rapidly became acceptable to me.

Moving on to the tarot was perhaps my way of travelling further down the road away from rationality, just to see what it was like. By April last year, my worst times were over and I was feeling the green shoots of recovery – much like Norman Lamont! (note: the then UK chancellor of the exchequer). Psychologically, I think I had come to terms with what had happened to me and was beginning to look to the future. I had sent the divorce papers to my estranged wife, but she hadn’t yet returned them, and I was experiencing pangs of doubt about what I really wanted.

Before, with astrology, I was looking for insight; now, with the tarot, I was looking for a method of choosing – but one that was different from what I had done before, one that involved some kind of surrender on my part. That’s not clear. What I mean is – all my therapy with you brought home to me how much energy I have always devoted to creating a picture of reality inside which I then lived. But it turned out that my reality wasn’t reality after all. By relying so heavily on my rational powers, I had created a faulty picture of how things really were.

Tarot seemed appealing because it involved allowing the universe to show you what reality was. If you made an initial commitment to the ritual, surrendered control, the turn of the cards would show you where you stood. I see the I Ching in essentially the same light, and the notion has a ‘thrilling’ aspect to it precisely because I have been so controlled in my life so far.

What was the experience of the reading like? Given that I was dipping my toe in previously uncharted waters, it felt slightly unreal. I couldn’t ‘believe’ in the tarot as easily as I could in the more ‘systematic’ or ‘rational’ astrology whose terms of reference, unlike the tarot, arise from physical bodies we can actually see in the night sky. But it was thrilling.

I would have to say that I hadn’t fully committed myself to the outcome, but I was much more open to what was going to happen than I could ever have been in my life before. It was an experiment.

It was a valuable experience – it helped me to work out my real feelings about my ongoing divorce and about career choices. But it was the talking stimulated by the cards that did that – they were a mechanism for releasing talk and thus feelings.

My experimentation with both the tarot and astrology has led me to an appreciation that many aspects of our lives are ‘fated’ – but that does not obliterate free will or personal responsibility. On the contrary, it seems that everyone has the responsibility of understanding the purpose of his or her individual life – which will depend on his or her inheritance at the start – and has the freedom to choose to make the effort of understanding, then the freedom to do something with the knowledge – or not.

My response to the pictorial images on the cards? You know, for a Presbyterian Scot, I’ve decided I could go in a surprisingly big way for all kinds of pictorial religious symbolism! The allure of forbidden territory? I got the same reaction recently at the temple at Samye Ling (a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Scottish Borders). My senses were drenched in gold, red, blue, green and in accompanying sounds and smells! Seriously – perhaps a slightly infantile thrill at ‘surrendering’ my destiny to pretty painted pictures with supposedly magical powers.

I am intrigued with the idea of ‘drawing lots’ either via the tarot or the I Ching, and I think it’s something I’ll probably do again. The idea of choosing by some kind of ‘drawing lots’ ritual is powerfully attractive to me because, if done with full commitment, it could of course represent the placing of trust in something outside myself. But it remains an aspiration, not an accomplishment.

My tarot reading suggested that I needed to consolidate choices I had already made in my heart, and move on to new commitments on the basis of the wisdom I had achieved through experience.

The Lovers

The Lovers

I did in fact go ahead with my divorce, not without further emotional upset, and have in fact consolidated my relationship with my girlfriend. My energy level has improved greatly, as predicted, though not  without ups and downs.

Well, there you are! That’s the best I can do to recall my reactions to the experience…..‘.

Tarot Deck

1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Introducing the Tarot: a psychological perspective

 Tarot cards, in the richness and variety of their images and symbols, have exerted a fascination over the human mind and imagination for hundreds of years. Just as the origins of the tarot itself are shadowy and mysterious, so participating in a tarot reading can transport both the reader and client to a level of experience which defies the linear world of the rational mind, yet holds it own validity and wisdom.

People regard tarot cards with feelings ranging from the wary and fearful, to the gullible and accepting, to the angry and dismissive – they are rarely indifferent. A reading, done well, can let us see how our personal journey brings together aspects of the ever-repeating pattern of life, as represented by the seventy-eight cards. This awareness of connection to the timeless human struggle can bring dignity and meaning to our individual experience, especially in times of difficulty and turmoil.

Tarot Deck

 

This two-part article is an attempt to explore the Tarot. The first part should give the reader some idea of the depth from which the tarot can be approached, of issues raised by its practice, and of how it can be used as a valuable aid to self-development.

The second part presents feedback from two clients, one female and one male. They were chosen for the way in which they brought together, in their respective accounts, elements of most people’s experiences of the tarot creatively and responsibly used.

Approach

How, then, should one use the tarot as a reader, or approach it as a client? My overall experience has led me to a holistic perspective. From this standpoint everything in existence – material and spiritual, microcosm and macrocosm, inner and outer – is seen as connected with everything else. Time itself is seen not in terms of separate measurements of days, hours, and minutes, but in terms of unity : thus a moment possesses its own meaning, carrying particular clues regarding its relationship to past, present and future.

This view of time is best expressed via Jung’s concept of synchronicity which conveys the idea that each moment in time possesses unique characteristics expressed on all levels at once.

In applying this concept of time to consulting the tarot, the Greek notion of ‘kairos’ – the right moment – is highly relevant. In order to have a meaningful encounter with the tarot several core conditions need to be present. Firstly, the client should have a strong desire to clarify whatever is the issue of the moment. Secondly, the reader should be open and receptive to the client’s need. And thirdly, they should both respect the medium, ie the tarot cards, which they are about to consult.

The Reading

This being the case, the cards are chosen and laid out at a particular moment in time. What happens? It is impossible to know fully – and mystery is part of the potency of the experience.

But you could look at it this way: a biologist cuts a section through a piece of tissue, lays it flat on a slide, uses staining material to bring up the features, then puts it under a microscope bringing the section into clear focus. If s/he is skilled, a detailed picture of the organism from which the section was taken can be built up. This analogy can be applied to the moment the tarot cards are chosen, laid out in all their glowing colours in a particular order or spread, then interpreted by the joint efforts of reader and client.

This section cut through time, the moment of choosing, in some mysterious way seems to reflect the current life of the client. It also carries, in symbolic form, information regarding how s/he came to be in this situation, and some ideas regarding possible courses of action and future outcomes.

Moirai - the Three Fates

Moirai – the Three Fates

Fate or Free Will?

Nobody knows what the balance is between fate and free will. Observation and experience of the flow of life at an inner and outer, personal and collective level eventually leads most of us to form an opinion of this profound topic. Just as there seems to be a connection between who we are and the kind of life we have, so it may be that fate and free will, past, present and future are all part of the same weave – and cannot be separated.

I think that free will rests in our ability to use self-awareness, slowly and gradually developed as fully as possible, in working with the grain of our own lives. It may be our destiny to face certain unalterable circumstances; but the level of awareness we bring to the challenge profoundly affects the level on which we are able to live with the outcome.

Tarot cards should not be seen as implying a fixed and fated future; in my opinion this approach is crippling to a person’s ability to lead their life creatively, restricting any sense of their own free will. Perspective on this point can be gained by considering the parallels between the modern physicist’s view of probability, and that presented by the symbolic pictures on the faces of the tarot cards.

Briefly, the physicist observes the shifting dance of waves and particles and is only able to suggest future outcomes in terms of statistical probability. The tarot reader can observe and describe core energies, in their symbolic form, at work in past present and future – but can only speculate regarding the range of possibilities which flow from each core.

Modern physics has also demonstrated that the presence of the observer influences, however subtly, the outcome of the experiment. By giving definite predictions in a tarot reading, it is highly possible that the reader’s intervention –in some hidden but powerful way – predisposes the client’s life in the direction of the reader’s suggestion.

The Counselling Dimension

The pictorial symbols of the tarot provide a creative framework within which a person can contemplate their life’s meaning and direction, and gain guidance. But the reader, in being approached for his/her skills, is stepping into the counselling role, whether prepared to acknowledge this fact or not.

The essence of good counselling lies in being able to create a safe and supportive environment in which another person can lay out their hopes and fears, clarifying where they were, are and hope to be – and where the counsellor can help their client to see what the inner meaning and creative potential may be in even the most difficult situations, whilst encouraging her/him to take full responsibility for choices made.

All counsellors have a responsibility to use wisely the power they take on by virtue of their role. This means being prepared to subject their own lives to honest scrutiny via training and/or undertaking their own therapeutic journey. Those who take on arole of power without being prepared either to acknowledge that fact, or examine their own motives, are likely to be a danger to the vulnerable people who seek their help.

This point applies especially to those of us who work within the context of the great arts of tarot reading, astrology or the other symbol systems such as the I Ching or palmistry; these are powerful tools, carrying both healing and destructive aspects. Our job is to empower our clients, not to glorify ourselves, and to help them develop creative solutions to their own challenges, not  to become dependent on us.

The Hermit

Part Two:

http://anne-whitaker.com/2014/08/18/a-psychological-approach-to-the-tarot-part-two-the-clients-perspective/

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1200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep…

We’ve been on a week’s holiday up in the far North-West of Scotland this week. I’ve been getting my old boots on again, feeling the deep joy of walking the land which birthed most of my ancestors.

There’s nothing I love better than being in the middle of nowhere, preferably amongst old trees, with a river nearby, and a track leading up the hillside to reveal magnificent sea views at the top. Wind, rain sometimes (this is Scotland, after all!), hawks, fleeting deer. Absence of people. Presence of silence, broken only by sounds of wind and water.

How I love tramping through woods! Woods especially which have largely been left to Nature’s not so tender mercies…woods which have a slightly scary undertone. Woods where you would not feel entirely safe to be alone, with day’s light fading. Woods where it’s not hard to imagine nymphs and dryads peering out from behind the trees, waiting for humans – who might not believe in them – to go home.

photo 1

Walking with family members and then with husband Ian, I’ve been fortunate to encounter some beautiful old woods in two different areas. I took quite a few photographs, and would like to share them with my readers.

Do you have favourite wood? Do tell…!

 

photo 1

 

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200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Night Sea Journey – and Return

“One does not discover new land without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

It is 530 am: birds are singing their hearts out in the park near our home. I can hear the river running. It’s been a wonderfully warm, sunny summer in Glasgow. Usually the rain capital of Scotland, we are being granted heat and warmth for what promises to be a joyous, welcoming Commonwealth Games here in the city.

 I feel vital, alive, engaged – full of gratitude for my sense of well-being. So my wish is that those of you out there currently going through dark times may take heart from what I write today. Life has its profound rhythms and cycles, which at times clash brutally with how the Ego thinks it should be.

Going through my “night sea journey”, to use Jung’s terminology, took seven long years. I have referred to this 2001-8 period in several different articles on “Writing from the Twelfth House” : check out ‘Just let me get old, ok?’ if you wish to find out more.

At several points I very nearly drowned – symbolically speaking –in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust, but which I cannot name. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another. Every time, the deepest message was  ‘Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right’. And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life , along with a profound sense of gratitude that my good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche.

The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has. I have been back at work now, part-time, for over two years. But I’m still writing!

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700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Places of Healing – returning to the Orkney Isles

The Orkney Isles

The Orkney Isles

(http://mappery.com/Orkney-Islands-Map)

As some of you will have gathered from Facebook posts and pictures in June this year, Ian and I returned again recently to what has become one of our favourite places. I’ve been asked by a number of people to re-publish this post, to remind them of Orkney’s beguiling qualities. I’d also like new Followers of the blog to know about Orkney. So – here it is. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. Better still, go there! (No, I don’t have a retainer from the tourist board…)

History

“ Scratch Orkney, and it bleeds archaeology!”

This vivid phrase – from an energetic, silver-haired Orcadian tourist guide on an enchanting early evening visit to the tiny island of Eynhallow off the Orkney mainland many years ago – has always remained in my mind as summing up a defining feature of the Orkney Isles.

This scattering of 67 lush, fertile green islands lying off the north coast of Caithness in Scotland has a remarkable history whose early traces continue to surface. The world-famous Neolithic Ring of Brodgar, an impressive stone circle, dominates a narrow stretch of land between Stenness and Harray lochs, attracting many thousands of tourists every year.

We found on our recent visit that yet another archaeological dig was in progress – very close to the Ring. This time, it is so extensive that it may yield the most significant evidence of ancient occupation since the stone settlement of Scara Brae was uncovered by a severe storm many years ago.

About fifteen years ago, Ian and I took an evening drive down to the Ring. It was a clear night, the full moon reflecting burnished silver off Harray Loch. We were alone. We have often walked around the Ring: it is one of my personal pilgrimages on the many visits Ian and I have made to Orkney over the years. This time it felt different, a little eerie.

Suddenly we became aware of what I can only describe as an electrical charge, running clockwise round the ancient stones. We heard intermittent crackling, saw little flashes of sporadic light. The atmosphere raised the hairs on the back of our necks. Knowing we had had a definite experience, but not one which could be explained logically, we said nothing to anyone. But the sense of ancient power invoked in that experience remains with us.

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar

(http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/brodgar/)

Sea

I love the sea, as does Ian. Growing up in the Outer Hebrides meant that water, either pouring from the heavens, lapping gently against the ever-visible shorelines, or battering the landscape in fierce winter storms, dominated my early years. Being by the sea never fails to soothe my spirit, remind me that we are always held in the Eternal, whether aware of it or not. The sea around Orkney entrances me, literally.

On this visit I walked out from Kirkwall harbour on another of my pilgrimages: the morning walk I used to take of about a mile round the line of coast as far as Craigiefield House, wonderful sea views all the way. The low land in Orkney means high, wide skyscapes whose textures, colours and shapes shift and change like a magician’s palette, reflecting always the moods and shifts of the sea. Today it is misty. I sit on a bench and gaze out.

Then, I would reflect on what my day’s writing might bring, as Ian’s busy working day unfolded through many contacts with Orcadians who had grown to trust his professional expertise over many years. Today, we are on holiday here, visiting old friends, familiar places. I just sit, with no plan, letting the sea’s magic enfold me.

Church

In Kirkwall, Orkney’s main town, St Magnus Cathedral – known as the ‘Light in the North’ – was founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald. It is a wonderful building, nowadays owned by the people of Orkney themselves, lovingly and proudly cared for – still very much an active Church. On early visits I used to marvel to myself that such an impressive building was going up here, at the same time as the great cathedral builders of Europe were embarking on a massive series of projects which would take centuries to complete.

Only later did I find out to my surprise and amazement that the European cathedral builders had actually visited these remote, small islands – to advise the Orcadian stonemasons.

On this visit there was a highlight – a new experience. We joined a tour which took us to the upper reaches of the cathedral, via some vertiginously narrow and twisty stairways opening out onto two levels as we gained height, finally gaining access to the very top of the cathedral and fantastic views over town, sea, and much of the Orcadian landscape. I was glad successfully to have challenged my vertigo!

Of many impressive details which the well-informed and enthusiastic guide offered, my personal highlight probably reveals more about me than I should be prepared to admit….on the first level, lying along the floorboards within the stout cathedral walls, was an unusual ladder. This was used at public executions which were very much a feature of  life in mediaeval times and later. It is a double ladder, with thirteen rungs. Two people, the executioner and the condemned person ascended it. Only one came down. Chilling.

St Magnus Cathedral window

St Magnus Cathedral window

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

There is wonderful stained glass from different eras throughout the cathedral. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to take a photograph from on high of my    personal favourite: a glorious jewel-coloured modern window depicting key scenes from the spiritual and temporal life of Orcadians down the ages.

I could have stood on bare boards, high up in St Magnus Cathedral, gazing over the stone parapet at this magnificent window for the rest of the afternoon, had that been possible. However, I have created an acceptable substitute. That glorious window you see here as a photograph is now my computer screen saver: I can admire my version of it, every day!

People

I had two motivations in going to Orkney for one week in February and July each year for nearly two decades. One was to act as a brake on Ian’s tendency to work all day and evening, as he attempted to cram a huge workload into a short visit. In this I was only partially successful….The other was to get away from my own busy people-focused career, giving my reclusive side time to retreat, be by the sea, and allow the writer in me five days of glorious indulgence.

Because of the latter, I was disinclined to be sociable when in Orkney. My ideal lunch was sitting in Trenabie’s cafe (now Bistro!) in Kirkwall, munching one of their excellent toasties with my nose in a book.

However, despite this I still made a few friends, all through Ian. It was heartwarming to receive the welcome we were given on this visit, with Ian being left in no doubt by his former clients and colleagues of the quality of his contribution and how much that had been missed when he left.

One friend we could not have left without seeing is the irrepressible, redoubtable Gifford Leslie, known to all as “Giffie”. Dear Giffie has never quite recovered from having me as one of his guests when we stayed in the characterful Kirkwall Hotel during his tenure as manager there.

Spurning the coffee on offer at breakfast, I would turn up with a tiny jar of my favourite quality instant, and ask for a pot of hot water, much to Giffie’s exasperation and my husband’s embarrassment. Then there was the incident when I managed somehow to splash ink from my fountain pen rather visibly onto the “very expensive!” wallpaper in the Kirkwall Hotel’s Writing Room. Giffie was not pleased, and did not hesitate to tell me so.

On this visit, we found him co-managing the newly refurbished, attractive  West End Hotel with his usual style and panache. Needless to say, I was reminded over a pot of tea (on the house) of my former misdemeanors. Giffie and I concluded as we bade one another a fond farewell, that time had not improved either of us. Ian agreed!

We returned home to our city life, feeling rested and warmed in spirit by our trip, the first for several years. I do hope that this pictorial and verbal tribute conveys at least some of the flavour of the special nature of the Orkney Isles, one of my – and our –  personal healing places. We will be back.

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1450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Sick of politics and politicians? Read this poem!

I have got to the stage in life where I am so sick of politics and politicians that I only vote – I always vote – because I know that women fought and died for me to have that vote.

But it does seem these days that in ‘mature’ democracies such as we have in the UK and the USA, power, influence and money are increasingly concentrated in the hands of those who are not much in touch with the needs of our planet or the will of the people.

Sectarian polarisation seems to be growing worse, and not just in the turmoil and bloodshed of the Middle East: look at the stasis existing in the USA between Republicans and Democrats, and the despair which that impasse is generating amongst ‘ordinary’ voters. In Scotland, of course, we have an increasingly strident shouting match as the 18th September Independence Referendum on Scotland’s future – and that of the whole United Kingdom – draws near.

So – when I came across this wonderful poem by Wendel Berry in a recent post by my favourite blogger, Linda Leinen at The Task at Hand, it spoke to me, loud and clear. I hope it speaks to you, wherever you are:

The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union

From the union of power and money,

From the union of power and secrecy,

From the union of government and science,

From the union of government and art,

From the union of science and money,

From the union of genius and war,

From the union of outer space and inner vacuity,

The Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

-

There is only one of him, but he goes.

He returns to the small country he calls home,

His own nation small enough to walk across.

He goes shadowy into the local woods,

And brightly into the local meadows and croplands.

He goes to the care of neighbors,

He goes into the care of neighbors.

He goes to the potluck supper, a dish

From each house for the hunger of every house.

He goes into the quiet of early mornings

Of days when he is not going anywhere.

-

Calling his neighbors together into the sanctity

Of their lives separate and together,

In the one life of the commonwealth and home,

In their own nation small enough for a story

Or song to travel across in an hour, he cries:

-

Come all ye conservatives and liberals

Who want to conserve the good things and be free,

Come away from the merchants of big answers,

Whose hands are metalled with power;

From the union of anywhere and everywhere;

By the purchase of everything from everybody at the lowest price

And the sale of anything to anybody at the highest price;

From the union of work and debt, work and despair;

From the wage-slavery of the helplessly well-employed.

-

From the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation,

Secede into the care for one another

And for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth.

-

Come into the life of the body, the one body

Granted to you in all the history of time.

Come into the body’s economy, its daily work,

And its replenishment at mealtimes and at night.

Come into the body’s thanksgiving, when it knows

And acknowledges itself a living soul.

Come into the dance of the community, joined

In a circle, hand in hand, the dance of the eternal

Love of women and men for one another

And of neighbors and friends for one another.

-

Always disappearing, always returning,

Calling his neighbors to return, to think again

Of the care of flocks and herds, of gardens

And fields, of woodlots and forests and the uncut groves,

Calling them separately and together, calling and calling,

He goes forever toward the long restful evening

And the croak of the night heron over the river at dark.

~ Wendell Berry

(NOTE: I had to put in a small dash to indicate verse breaks, since my WordPress programme for reasons best known to itself, refused to let me create spaces between verses. Purists, please forgive me!)

700 words copyright Wendell Berry/Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page